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The Dark Tower 4 - Wizard and Glass
Dark Tower 4: Wizard and Glass - Stephen King
Member Name: ilovemycat
Dark Tower 4: Wizard and Glass - Stephen King
Advantages: Fast paced, some cool characters
Disadvantages: It's very long
Wizard and Glass is part four in Stephen King's epic seven volume Dark Tower series. After the events of part 3, The Waste Lands, Wizard and Glass is mostly back story, as Roland tells his companions a story of his past, bookended by two sections which move the present story onwards.
Without giving the story so far away, Roland of Gilead and his companions, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and the doglike billy bumbler Oy, find themselves in what seems to be an alternative version of Kansas. There is a strange building on the horizon that looks rather familiar, but before they head off to see it Roland sits them all down and tells them a story of his first days as a young gunslinger, and a story of his first love, Susan Delgado. This "campfire story", so to speak, takes up approximately 500 pages of the 700 in this volume (which, by the way, continues the trend of each book being longer than the last, as, incidentally, does part five, which is something in the region of 900...). It is told as a novel within a novel, with multiple viewpoints like a regular story (we find out how Roland knows all about the other characters later in the book).
It is very much a Western-sci-fi story, in the vein of part one, The Gunslinger, except it is much, much longer. Roland, just fourteen, and his friends Cuthbert and Alain have been sent east from Gilead to apparently do a stock check of the town of Hambry in the Barony of Mejis. In actual fact they have been sent away to keep them out of danger, while a rebellion, led by "the Good Man" John Farson, rises against Gilead, and the Affiliation of Baronies, of which it is a part.
While in Hambry, they discover that it is not quite the sleepy out-of-the-way town that it at first seems. Let by three mercenaries known as the Big Coffin Hunters, there is a traitorous plot to aid Farson against the Affiliation. The attempt to foil this, together with the young Roland's love affair with local girl Susan Delgado, is the central thread of the story.
Susan Delgado is a sixteen year old whose father has recently died. She lives with her miserly old aunt, Cordelia, and when we meet her she has recently been promised to the elderly major to provide him with a child his current wife is unable to produce. In the very first chapter she gets on the wrong side of the ugly old witch, Rhea, whose job it is to prove Susan's virginity is intact. At first, Susan is happy to go along with her duty in exchange for land and money, but after she meets Roland, her ideas change.
Okay, that's enough of the plot. If you want to know more you'll have to read it yourself.
This volume of the Dark Tower series gives us more of a view of the failing Mid-World. Hambry is awash with objects of a bygone age, and having the old oil well outside town that still pumps simply because know one knows how to stop it gives it an interesting setting. This is a huge novel, with a massive cast of characters, some loveable, like jokey Cuthbert or cute, earnest Susan, some detestable like Rhea or Cordelia, some just interesting, like failed gunslinger bad guy Eldred Jonas. Roland is the central character, of course, and while good is probably the least convincing, mostly because he is supposed to be fourteen years old but comes across as just a slightly na´ve version of his regular self. With him having a Romeo & Juliet style love affair with a girl who is only sixteen herself, it would have been more realistic if the gunslingers had been in their late teens or early twenties.
That said, I'd heard mixed things about this book. A lot of people have called it long winded and boring, but it really wasn't. It's long, but a lot happens to a lot of characters and the pacing was excellent. I can't imagine what could have been cut to shorten it, but while it wasn't as good as The Waste Lands it moved along at a cracking pace with barely a pause.
In addition, as it is essentially backstory, we know it's going to end bad in some way. It has a very Revenge of the Sith feel about it - the doomed love story (although it is much, much better) and you know it's going to end badly in one way or another (it does). In fact, it would actually be possible to read the backstory section of this volume before reading The Gunslinger, as it is pretty much Roland's past, although there are a few loose ends that aren't tied up, and we still aren't sure by the end just how long he's been searching for the Dark Tower.
Overall, while it's not as good as The Waste Lands, its better than the first two books and I'd recommend it for fans of the series. I've heard the series starts to go downhill from now on, so we'll see...
Summary: The fourth part in Stephen King's epic western-fantasy series