Top critical review
The Worst So Far
on September 26, 2003
The Gunslinger was wonderfully evocative, and I think most of this was due to the fact that the book was laced with gleanings of Roland's past, which apeared to be very long and very interesting. I love a character with a deep past, and I think Roland of Gilead tops them all, at least out of the books I've read. I think what made The Gunslinger such a good book were the character insights. The most interesting part of The Gunslinger was Roland's genocide of Tull. First, it showed the gunslinger in his element, doing what he was trained to do, and it showed just how deadly he really was. Second, it shows the conflict within him, how he is doubting his actions, as he reflects that "Cort had known black from white." I'm still waiting to come across something that powerful again.
The Drawing of the Three didn't have any of the character insights, but it did have a fast-paced plot, a good deal of action, and lots of tension, so it was equally good in its own way. So, The Gunslinger had lots of character insights, TDotT had intensity. But The Waste Lands had neither, and that's the main reason for the 3.5 stars: it simply didn't have enough to put it on the same level with the first two books. I guess one thing that it did have that the other books didn't have was forward movement to the Dark Tower, where TG was the beginning's end and TDotT was simply getting ready to go to the Dark Tower. But there wasn't much action to go with this book, and it fell short. The story starts some 2 months after the end of TDotT, with Roland and co. moving through the forest, traveling what-they-think-is-north-but-is-actually-south.(did anyone else notice this?) Roland is slowly going mad. The first half of this book is really a continuation of TDotT; you'll understand when you get there. The second half focuses on Lud, a city under anarchy that Roland and co. must go through. This book did have some high points. First, while it didn't have any insights into Roland's character, it did have insights into the history of his world, what happened to it, and why The Dark Tower is so important. Yes, we get some more pieces to the puzzle. Second, King's characterization is as good as ever, and that's always a plus. Thirdly, things get pretty interesting when they get to Lud, though that doesn't happen until about the last 150 pages or so. (Also, the title can be deceiving; they don't get to the Waste Lands until the very end.) And last, I was very interested when King briefly introduced the Ageless Stranger for the first time towards the end of the book, a character who appears will have some import in the books to come. Things get really interesting at the end when the quintet reaches a computerized train called Blaine the Mono. They get into the Waste Lands, and then BOOM - Cliffhanger ending! If I had read these books when they first came out I would have been genuinely pissed, as I'm sure many people were. I mean, it was, what- 7 years or so before he wrote the next book? That's terrible. If the conflict set up by the cliffhanger takes up the majority of the next book then it makes sense. But I've already read a little into Wizard and Glass and I can tell you that the conflict is resolved in the first three chapters. This book didn't end; it stopped. The ending of The Waste Lands can be found in the first three chapters of Wizard and Glass. Stephen King just dived into this series without knowing the end. I suppose that works out all right with his regular novels, but it doesn't in a multi-volume story, and I think this book shows that.
All in all, this book is OK. It definately has some flaws, but, in the end, it's still Stephen King, and it's still The Dark Tower. Somehow I get the feeling that mediocrisy is a one-time deal when questing for the Tower.