The Dark Tower – Part III

February 3, 2011 at 11:24 pm (Dark Tower, Literature, Stephen King)

At the end of Wizard & Glass, the ka-tet has somehow escaped Randall Flagg and is ready to move on. Next stop: Calla Bryn Sturgis, a small village on the outskirts of Mid-World – probably closer to End-World, in fact. Here we meet another familiar character. Say hello to Father Callahan, he who has faltered when facing the vampire Kurt Barlow in “Salem’s Lot”. Wolves of the Calla, being the fifth volume in the series, tells the story of the Calla and the Wolves that terrorize the land every 23, 24 years to take the children – well, not all of the children. Only one of each twins. For, you see, in the Calla, only twins are born. And every once in a while, the Wolves will take away one of each pair of twins and carry them off to Thunderclap to feed the Breakers. Of course, the ka-tet steps in to prevent this from happening again. This is the main story. Another storyline focuses on Callahan and tells what happened to him after he has fled from Salem’s Lot. More flashbacks. Yay. But this time, King did it right. He dedicates one chapter at at time to Callahan’s story, with the next chapter focussing on the main plot. In short, it’s not one awfully long flashback we have to endure but several small ones. Some readers found this dull and didn’t care much for Callahan’s story. I liked it, in fact, even though it wasn’t essential to the main plot.

One thing I really liked about Volume V was Roland’s progress. He becomes even more human, attached to the other people in his ka-tet. And, as it turns out, the guy can also sing, dance, and stagedive. That was a bit strange, probably, but it also showed a different side of Roland that hadn’t been there before. Ever since Volume II, Roland has started to care more and more for the people who accompany him. Even more so: He has come to love them. This is a different Roland. He’s no longer the lonely wolf focused solely on his goal though he never lets go of the Tower. But he also realises that there are people who depend on him, who need his help and friendship. Very nicely executed, and I cannot understand how readers cannot like this book – but hey, I didn’t like Wizard & Glass and other readers did. De gustibus non est disputandum, right?

Wolves of the Calla features a battle – not epic, but a battle. We encounter Black Thirteen, the most powerful of the glass balls in the Wizard’s Rainbow, able to send people todash – which means, they enter a dream-like state of being, seeing things and getting an idea of what to do next – very simply put, I’ll give you that. We also encounter a new character – Mia, who seems to be yet another part of Susannah’s divided personality and who’s pregnant with “the chap”. Now there’s a surprise. Ever since Jake had been drawn to Mid-World, King had made allusions as to Susannah being pregnant. As it turns out, she is. And she develops strange cravings – or rather, Mia does. Roland is the first to notice which is yet another sign of him taking care of the people surrounding him (and of his sharp senses, of course).¬† Wolves of the Calla, thus, is a good book – not the best in the series, mind you. After I have read all of it, The Waste Lands still is my favourite. Wolves of the Calla could have been equally great but King decided to ruin it. First, he introduced a peculiar language the Calla folken speak – and after a while, this became really, really annoying. “Say thankya” is ok, and I definitely can live with “Thankee-sai”. But “We say thankya big-big” was too much. Way too much. I appreciate King’s effort to develop a language of his own. I really do. But as I’ve said above, after a while this peculiar dialect became annoying.

Even more annoying was the twist King decided to put in at the end. After defeating the wolves (who turned out to be robots equipped with light-sabers – yes, those from Star Wars! – and sneetches King “borrowed” from Harry Potter), Susannah disappears through the Unfound Door – not of her own free will but because Mia takes over. Mia feels that her time is drawing near and that the baby will soon be delivered so she kidnaps Susannah and takes her off to – yes, that’s right: New York. In the cave that houses the Unfound Door, our heroes find some books (that have been pushed through the door by one Calvin Tower who owns a deserted piece of land in New York, the land housing a rose that is connected to the Tower and needs to be saved by our heroes). Tower was saved by Eddie from certain death in the other world but had insisted that Eddie saved his most precious books – which end up in the cave. And guess what Roland, Eddie, Jake, and Callahan find among these books? A copy of “Salem’s Lot” by one Stephen King. As I’ve said before, it’s quite amusing to have allusions to other books in the series. But this one set the path for a development that I still cannot stomach. Callahan goes all “Oh no, I’m a fictional character” while the others figure that Stephen King must somehow be crucial when it comes to saving the Tower. Because, you see, it has turned out that the Beams holding up the Tower are crumbling (this is where the Breakers come in). Only two Beams remain, and if one of them collapses, so will the Tower. In order to prevent that, the ka-tet figures that they must seek out Stephen King because he seems to be the counterpart of the rose. Yeah, right. When I read the final pages of Wolves of the Calla, I feared for the worst. And it turned out I was right.

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