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4.7 out of 5 stars
Waste Lands
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Yes, I know. . .

I'm late for this party. But as I mentioned in my reviews for The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three, though I've had Stephen King's The Dark Tower installments patiently awaiting my attention for years, I wanted to wait till the series was done before starting to read The Gunslinger.

The first two volumes were more or less set-up books for what would come after. Hence, I was quite curious to discover what would transpire in The Waste Lands. Most fans seem to agree that the third and fourth volumes are the best of the series, so I was looking forward to finding out where King would take us.

Here's the blurb:

Roland continues his quest for the Dark Tower, but he is no longer alone. He has trained Eddie and Susannah—who entered Mid-World from their separate whens in New York City in The Drawing of the Three—in the old ways of the gunslingers. But their ka-tet is not yet complete. Another must be drawn from New York into Mid-World, someone who has been there before, a boy who has died not once but twice, and yet still lives. The ka-tet, four who are bound together by fate, must travel far in this novel encountering not only the poisonous waste lands and the ravaged city of Lud that lies beyond, but also the rage of a train that might be their only means of escape.

Up until this point, the worldbuilding had not been a factor in the Dark Tower series. This universe reminiscent of America's Wild West had captivated me in The Gunslinger. Sadly, Stephen King had played his cards pretty close to his chest, and readers had learned next to nothing about the series' universe. In terms of worldbuilding, The Waste Lands is a world away from its two predecessors. To begin with, the novel finally establishes the physics by which the world operates. Six beams run between twelve portals which mark the edges of Mid-World. Standing at the point where the beams cross at the center of the universe lies the Dark Tower. Hints seem to indicate that the Dark Tower might lie at the center of all worlds. We also learn more about the twelve Guardians set to guard the twelve Portals. Each Guardian matches up with a Guardian at the Portal on the other end of the Beam. Roland, Eddie, and Susannah face one of the Guardians in the early part of the novel. They encounter a gigantic cyborg bear known as Shardik. The beast was created by North Central Positronics Ltd. As Roland and his party make their way along the Path of the Beam, passing through River Crossing on their way to the city of Lud, readers learn more and more details. These discoveries raise a panoply of additional questions, yet they demonstrate that the Dark Tower universe resounds with an incredible wealth of depth.

The first portion of the book is dedicated to the drawing of the true third in their ka-tet, Jake Chambers. But in order for this drawing to become a reality, Roland and Jake must first battle their own fraying psyches and achieve some sort of reconciliation between their doubled memories concerning the paradoxical events which led to Jake's death. The second portion chronicles the events that lead the ka-tet toward the city of Lud, searching for a train known as Blaine the Mono. This is the sole means of transportation which can take them to Topeka, where Mid-World ends and End-World begins.

As a no-nonsense kind of Gunslinger, Roland of Gilead immediately became a fan favorite. Though both The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three featured an interesting supporting cast, the books' main focus more or less remained on Roland. What differentiates The Waste Lands from its predecessors is that the secondary characters really come into their own and take their rightful place in the narrative. Although the series continues to be about Roland's quest for the Dark Tower, it is now evident that Eddie, Susannah, and Jake will play important roles in what is to come.

It is also in The Waste Lands that a number of connections with Stephen King's other novels are unveiled. References to The Stand and It are hidden within the narrative.

Unlike the second volume in the series, The Waste Lands doesn't suffer from an uneven rhythm. The pace keeps you turning those pages, eager to discover what happens next. The plot keeps moving forward, revealing layer after layer regarding those convoluted storylines.

Onward to the Dark Tower. . .

Check out Pat's Fantasy Hotlist!
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on January 12, 2004
Though this may have been much better than the frist of the Dark Tower books, I put books 2 and 4 above this. It seemed to be much more surreal than the other books in the series. Though I won't say that it was necessarily a bad thing given the genre, but it is why I put it below the others.
Some of the settings in this were very intriguing, however I have a small complaint about them. We went from a society that had hardly any developement to a futuristic city without travelling from one world to another. It made little sense to me go from where people are living out in the desert, to a large city. If King had made more of a conversion from one world to another, it could have fit much better.
One thing that I did truly enjoy within this story was that it showed how Roland did care about the others in his ka-tet. This truly helped me to see him as more of a protagonist that I could care about than I had in the previous books.
In the end, though this book had some disappointments, it is a great book to place at this point in the series given how it can make us more anxious to find out what happens. This one will probably be where you start to get into the series as a whole.
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on August 8, 2002
Book Three of the Dark Tower Series continues where the second book left off, more than just the plot. Roland's mythical world continues to grow and become real. King develops his characters, giving them more depth and reality. What really seperates this work from other fantasy series that I have read, is the direct connections between our world and Rolands. This series is no longer out of reach, there are people from our world there. Additionally, King shows the pains and results of a world that has moved on. My favorite parts of the novel concern Jake; both his coming to Roland's world and his chase in Lud.
What happens. Susan begins the novel by shooting one of the twelve guardians. Roland then finds the path of the beam and follows it two Lud. Before they reach it, Jake and Roland begin going insane. Since Mort died before he pushed Jake, Jake was never killed, and never went to Roland's world, but he did. Jake is brought into Roland's world and the problem is gone. Jake is kidnapped on the bridge leading to Lud, Roland finds him. Susan and Eddie find Blaine. Blaine is train they must travel on past the wastelands, but he is a suicidal train. The book ends with the a contest for their lives. A riddling contest.
King's novels are fast paced and do not waste time on pointless details.
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on July 9, 2002
I should preface this by saying that I gave the Gunslinger 4 stars and the Drawling of Three 5 stars, and I truly love the series. I have read the first 3 books in 5 days. I am glad that I didn't read them when they came out because I just started the fourth one and I am already sad that there isn't another one (yet) that I can just run out and buy.
That being said, and that I will not recap the story just give you my opinion, I loved this book but I felt a bit unsatisfied. The book definitely moved very quick, and had lots of action, but for me it moved too quickly. Like King would be punished if the paperback version went over 600 pages. I would have liked it if he stayed in the two towns, especially Lud, for a longer period of time. It took 500 pages to get to Lud and less that fifty to get out, not including the train part. For me this was not enough, and I would have appreciated some time in those towns. Again, to me, I feel like since King pumps out so many books that this one got short shrift. What was written was excellent and I enjoyed myself thoroughly, but I didn't feel the way I felt at the end of The Drawling of Three where I NEEDED to continue, I still want to, but it is not as complete a feeling. On the plus side, Jake coming back was just what the story needed and his character is really a breath of fresh air to the story, and without him this installment would not be nearly as exciting or rich in its delivery. The action was rushed but well presented and made for some good reading. Some more time was deserved on Roland's attempts to find Jake in Lud, that part felt woefully incomplete, but other than that it was a good action story.
All an all this is a very good series, and I am having a great reading experience, but this book just needed some more to it and I would have been much more satisfied.
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on December 15, 2001
I devoured this book in like a day when I finally got my hands on it. Stephen King's Dark Tower series is really a jewel - I love it, I love the characters, I love the premise, it's all great.
First of all, Roland the Gunslinger has to be one of my favorites of all time. The Gunslinger(#1)is exceptionally original. The Drawing of The Three takes a little getting used to, but once you get sucked in, there's no turning back! Eddie Dean is unfailingly funny, making me crack up at otherwise utterly melodramatic times(not that I don't LOVE that melodrama...) Odetta/Detta is a little weird at first, but you get to love her. Jake is great, too, especially in the Wastelands.
The book opens with Roland and his two friends recuperating in a Mid-World forest. Right from the beginning, there's nothing but action. Roland's world becomes more and more intriguing - and then come some long awaited glimpses of the boy Jake. The ensuing journey reveals so much about Rolands world...It's really well-done, I think, and entertaining.
I had two problems with this book, however. First, the ending. I won't give it away to those who have yet to discover it, but really, who does Stephen King think he is, ending it there? Grumble, grumble. My second problem, which really matures after Wizard and Glass(#4), is how many more? I see no end in sight. Nothing bothers me more than a string of books that are wonderful, but end in these terrible cliffhangers and then I have to wait five years for the sequel. Puts me in mind of the noted fantasy author Robert Jordan, but I think the Dark Tower is better than his books anyway, just so long as there aren't 12!
All in all, The Wastelands is another great journey with Roland and the gang. Read it! Be sure to read the other two first, though...
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on October 5, 2001
Book III of the Dark Tower series continues the quest defined in the first book (The Gunslinger) with the traveling companions introduced in the second book (The Drawing of the Three).
This book is basically a group of adventure episodes: an encounter with a 70 foot high bio-mechanical bear (Shardik), relic of a past age, a strange fight with a demon, a visit to a dying suburban village, an abduction and running battle in a ghost town city, and finally a fantastic trip on a suicidal mono-rail train. Each episode provides a little more insight into Roland's fantastical world, both past and present. By the end of this book, a fairly coherent picture of this world emerges, from its obvious high technology past, to its current sadly deteriorated state, to some of the rationale behind why certain things work the way they do in this world. The book is very action oriented; there is very little reflection on grander philosophical themes here, and continuing character development of the main characters is fairly minimal.
There is a nice variant on the old time-travel paradox. In The Gunslinger, the boy Jake is sacrificed to Roland's determination to catch the 'man in black'. In this story, we find Jake alive and well and still living in (our) New York, due to an action by Roland in The Drawing of the Three that caused the previous history to never occur. But both Roland and Jake have memories of the 'other' past, and this duality is slowly driving both to the edge of insanity. The resolution of this problem requires that Jake be brought back to Roland's world, and how this is accomplished forms the major portion of one of the 'episodes'.
At various points throughout this book, King makes allusions to other famous science-fiction and fantasy authors and their creations (and some of his own), from Richard Adams (Shardik and Watership Down) to Isaac Asimov's 'positronic' brains of his robot stories, to J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit with its riddling games. For those who have read these works, these allusions provide an enhanced view of this world and how it works, but I am not sure how well some of this plays with readers who haven't read these other works.
Overall, this book is a page-turner, and does a good job of holding the reader's interest in the fate of the major characters and the overall resolution of the quest. The ending of this book is a cliff-hanger, like the movie serials of old, and for this reason I don't recommend you start this book unless you have a copy of book IV, Wizard & Glass, handy, as you will definitely want to immediately find out the resolution to the end situation here.
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on May 30, 2000
This is the third installment of Steven King's fantasy series, The Dark Tower, which follows the story of the Gunslinger Roland, the equivalent of an Arthurian knight in the world King has created, and his quest to reach the Dark Tower in order to make the world right again. In previous books, Roland met three people from our world, two of whom accompanied him on his quest.
This installment includes three important separate stories: (1) the "drawing" of one more person from Earth, the child Jake whom we first met in the introductory book in this series; (2) the companions' travails in the city that lies in the path of their quest; and (3) the beginning of the companions' encounter with the mad monorail. Each of these stories is compelling in its own right, although I do not suggest reading this book before reading the previous two because, although you would be entertained and intrigued by King's alternate world, you would be missing the full story.
Along with the interesting plots, we also learn much more about Roland's world. Part of this new knowledge comes from the tales Roland tells his companions, but much more is a by-product of the plot. We learn more about how the world has changed from Roland's youth, and we are treated to an imaginative post-apocalyptic vision of a city ruled by gangs whose original rivalry was rooted in a generation gap. King treats us as visitors to this world in much the same way that Roland's companions are. Rather than explain every little detail as it comes up, he prefers to let us discover the world as if we were really visiting it.
Finally, King makes even more explicit the fact to which he alluded in earlier volumes that the villains in Roland's world are the same villains patrolling our world in Steven King books. In his other works, King usually drops a reference to other books he has written--e.g., several of his books allude to the dog who ran amok in Cujo. In the Dark Tower series, however, rather than making oblique references to other books, King has made it clear that the boogie men from other books inhabit this world as well. Fans of King's horror works should, therefore, also read this series in order to learn more about what King thinks of his villains.
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on February 7, 2001
Yes, Stephen King's epic Dark Tower series is worth continuing, although The Wasteland isn't without shortcomings! King gives us a distinctly different style with each book, and has succeeded thusfar with the exception of the first half of this book. After the cryptic and mysterious Gunslinger and the rip-roaring Drawing of the Three, King hits a little bit of a rut trying to reintroduce Jake, the boy you should recognize from The Gunslinger. The first half is a bit of a drag, plodding through a lot of half-baked, formulaic filler before returning to the real meat of the story - Roland's quest. Fortunately, King makes up for it with a memorable and exciting second half, wherein the weary travelers brave a Mad-Max like post-apocolyptic city with some VERY unfriendly inhabitants. A worthy, if flawed read.
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on May 15, 2004
The third installment of the Dark Tower saga features strong characterization and some well-staged horror/action set pieces. Without a doubt, the characters are the stong point of this novel. Eddie Dean's wisecracks may be somewhat annoying, but the rest of the characters, especially Jake and Roland, are some of the most in depth people that King has ever written. One drawback is the plot does not move as swiftly as the previous installments, and most of the book focuses mostly on side quests instead of on the Tower itself. The last third of the book is very strong, though, and it will leave King fans hungry for the next book, Wizards and Glass. Recommend to King, Dark Tower and fiction fans alike.
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on September 7, 2001
This one is long and a bit drawn out. But it's good overall. The wayfarers make it out of the beach and into the forest where they confront a huge bear that is the guardian of the beam, which is one of several paths to the dark tower. They go through adventure after adventure and end up on an insane train named Blaine who engages them in a riddling game to save their lives. This story ends with a huge cliffhanger that if I had read this novel when it was printed, would really have angered me. But thankfully, I had a copy of DT 4 to come right afterwards. This one isn't a must read, but it's a should read.
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