I re-read the Dark Tower series JUST SO I could read this book and have it make sense (my plot-retention capabilities are almost nil) but it turns out that I didn’t have to, because all you need to know is that Roland.
And I am READING this (and presumably King is WRITING it) because the series is over and I’m not ready to let it go and I want more Jake, more Susannah, and obviously more Oy. And, ok, you get 31 pages of the original ka-tet, but much of that is spent re-establishing stuff that you already know if you’ve read the books (Blah blah Eddie makes a smart comment blah Susannah retorts but it’s really her inner-alter-ego Detta Walker, you can tell by all the ghetto slang blah blah Oy blah), and stuff that you don’t care about if you haven’t. And then they hunker down and Roland spins a tale that lasts all night and holds them all in its spell and didn’t we just do this in Book Four? I’m sure we did.
And it’s about Young Roland, who I love (Wizard and Glass is maybe my favorite of the series) but it’s told BY Roland, which is dumb. I don’t want to be inside Young Roland’s head, I want to be peering in at those blue bombardier’s eyes and trying to figure out what’s going on. And it’s jarring, because Roland’s reticence is so fundamentally a part of who he is, and W&G manages to retain that by sliding into third-person so that while you KNOW Roland is being uncharacteristically chatty, you don’t FEEL it. In Keyhole he keeps being like ‘me this’ and ‘I that’ and ‘let’s talk about my feelings at this juncture’ and you are like GO HOME, ROLAND, YOU ARE DRUNK.
ANY ro’, so Roland tells them about the time he and Jamie DeCurry (not even Cuthbert or Alain! Fuck Jamie DeCurry) go off to deal with a skin-changer who is terrorizing (and also eating) a small village. And there’s a boy who saw something and so Roland locks him up to keep him safe and tells him a tale to amuse him and this sort of nested tale-within-a-tale is koiiiind of my favorite (see: Cloud Atlas; The Orphan’s Tales) but their connections to each other and to the grander Tower arc are tenuous at best.
And both stories are FINE, but there are two of them wedged into one smallish novel so they’re both so SHORT and I don’t need them to be 1005 pages *hem* but they aren’t deep and delightful and they add nothing to the overall story arc. THEY DON’T EVEN INVOLVE THE SAME PLAYERS. The story Young Roland tells is about some kid whose dad gets eaten by dragons only he doesn’t. I DO NOT CARE ABOUT THIS SOME KID OR HIS DAD. Dragons I can get behind.
But it’s very Stephen King, especially in the Treating As A Thing Something That has Never Before Been Referred To sense, like ok in this book, ‘short’ is shortened to ‘shor’ (as in ‘shor’-legged woman’) as though it were part of the local dialect but only in this one book and billy-bumblers are called ‘throcken’ sometimes (which is to say, they never are in any other books and ALWAYS are in this one). But, I mean, it isn’t until Book Five that Roland picks up his habitual finger-twirling gesture that THEN BECOMES HABITUAL FOREVER. So, way to be consistent, Stephen.
In sum, I am contractually obligated to like anything connected to this series now, but this is superfluous and not even that good and NOT EVEN THAT MUCH CONNECTED TO THE SERIES.
Seven caterpillars, I guess.