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We're off to see the Wizard and Glass
Dark Tower 4: Wizard and Glass - Stephen King
Member Name: joannavos
Dark Tower 4: Wizard and Glass - Stephen King
Date: 17/07/01, updated on 17/07/01 (281 review reads)
Advantages: Excellent Read, Very thought provoking, Superbly written
Disadvantages: Books five, six and seven aren't written yet
Roland and his ka-tet finally reach Topeka with their lives. I won’t tell you how they beat Blaine the pain, as that would spoil it, but suffice it to say they survive, Blaine doesn’t and they reach their destination. Or do they? After climbing out of the ruined train, just one more casualty of this dying world, they discover that they appear to be in Kansas, America. But who’s ‘when’? Time is strange in Roland’s world. Time and distance can no longer be relied upon as the whole infinite number of universes and the Dark Tower, which governs them, is crumbling and decaying at an alarming rate. At some point during the train ride, time has slipped. They are no longer in Roland’s world and they need to get back so that they can continue on the path of the beam, as this will ultimately lead them to the Tower.
Throughout the course of this book, all 845 pages (paperback) of it, the group of Tower seekers do not travel very far. Indeed, most of the book is spent round a campfire on Interstate 70, amidst the ruined graveyard of motor vehicles, having discovered that in this ‘when’; a devastating plague of some description has wiped out the entire population. Instead, King has opted to go back in time, right back to when Roland was just 14 and had just earned his guns. This book, the fourth in the Dark Tower series, delves into the depths of the driving force behind Roland’s quest for the Dark Tower.
I feel that King has been astonishingly successful in creating the fourteen-year-old version of Roland. If you didn’t know him before, you certainly will by the end of this book. Up until this point King has created the character of a gunslinger as a cold hearted person who is so firmly focused on his destiny and subsequently his quest that it leaves the reader with the feeling that his heart is made of glacial ice. Indeed, on numerous occasions throughout the series so far, he has openly aban
doned friends to certain death rather than fail his mission.
Saying that though, you can always accept his decisions as King has never failed to portray the absolute necessity of his actions and you find yourself sympathising if not empathising with Roland. This book shows him in a different light. Yes, he’s still got the gunslingers coldness and ability to kill when needs must, but he has also captured the essence of a teenager’s first love and you get to know the kinder side of Roland. You can now understand that he is as cold and calculating as he is due to the devastating events he had to endure as a 14 year old and throughout his life.
The irony of this tale is that his father Stephen Deschain, sent him and two friends east, to keep them out of harms way while the Affiliation dealt with Farson and his men who were intent on creating a war and rising against them, using the ancients rusty old weapons. King is very clever at describing tanks and other war machinery in a language that assumes that nobody really knows what they are or how they work, yet still enables you to understand what they are even when he uses completely different words for them. The whole series is in fact riddled with such gems as these and it really adds to the impression that this is a different world to ours although there are plenty of similarities. But the world has moved on and there are many long forgotten items, which on the whole no longer work.
This book is almost like a story within a story. After settling down to the task of telling Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy the billy-bumbler about his younger years we leave the current characters on that highway and travel back to a time long since passed and meet new friends. Or in this case, old friends as very few if any remain in this world and these are the very people who made Roland what he is today to a certain extent.
Firstly, we hear more of Cuthbert and Alain, his childhood pals
and fellow gunslingers, although neither of the pair had actually earned their guns when the three of them went east. They find themselves in a sleepy little fishing community called Hambry in the barony of Mejis. Their cover story is that they have been naughty boys (but not too bad) and they are there as a punishment and must count everything and anything in Hambry that the proclaimed ally of the Affiliation has that would be helpful in defeating Farsons men once and for all.
Under the guise of Will Dearborn (Roland), Richard Stockwell (Alain) and Arthur Heath (Cuthbert), the boys gunslinger instincts are aroused by the overtly friendly, welcoming nature of their hosts and are suspicious that this sleepy little town is not what it seems. Indeed, this would not be much of a tale if this weren’t the case. Of course Roland being a great believer in destiny (ka) is not surprised by this turn of events.
King has written about this town as an old fashioned fishing village where people are slower and more relaxed and set in their country ways. He has brought this across very well and the three boys are sometimes jibbed for their posh ways and their stiff, funny little In-World bows. He has also captured the essence of different accents very well and manages to convince the reader’s imagination that there is a whole different dialect spoken here.
The events, which occurred during that long hot summer, over a period of 3-4 months, are intricately detailed and never fail to surprise. You may think I have told far too much of the story here but in truth, I’ve barely scratched the surface. The story that unfolds of Roland’s chance encounter with Susan Delgado and their subsequent love affair are both tantalising and captivating. King is most commonly known for horror stories but here he has shown that he can be equally at home with romance although he admits in the after word that he was uncomfortable with this and sought
help from various people to ensure he had the feelings of first teenage love in context. I believe he succeeded admirably.
But don’t be put off by this for this is not just a love story hidden amongst horror, and King has not gone soft. During that summer, many psychological games were played out and the events were likened to a game of castles. This game is portrayed as a game of chess crossed with draughts, commonly played throughout Roland’s world. Many times events are referred to in this manner and the whole summer seems to become a game where neither Roland’s ka-tet nor the bad guys want to storm around the hillock and be caught short.
The boys feign stupidity and slowness and take an excessively long time counting fishing nets and such before moving onto the horses on the drop. They are aware very quickly that there are far more horses than they’d been told and this is where their suspicions are confirmed. They have even counted the ‘thinny’ out at eyebolt canyon. This is a natural (or unnatural depending on your way of thinking) phenomenon, which seems to be a breakdown of the very fabric of existence. This is why the Tower is so important. Roland believes that here he will be able to prevent further decline and possibly repair the seemingly irreparable damage done to his world.
You may wonder where the name of this particular book comes from – Wizard and Glass. Mostly from Rhea of the Coos, the old hag of a witch who thrives on nastiness and evil. She is entrusted with a glass ball (wizard glass), referred to by Roland's father as the pink grapefruit. This is an enchanted ball, one of thirteen. These are from the old days, before the world moved on and there are only a few believed to still be in existence. The ball also thrives on evil in essence and is almost like a crystal ball but it tends to be mischievous and generally only shows things that would be cruel, painful or upsettin
g to the beholder. The ball drains your strength until you are emaciated and almost skeletal. Eating and sleeping become annoyances, and Rhea has fallen under the ‘glam’s’ spell. Rhea acquires this at the very start of this story and uses it to her own devious devices throughout.
This book is full of love, pain, sorrow, loss, death, courage and hope. There are no dodgy loopholes or irrelevance, this book, from start to finish is brimming with action and fine detail, everything intricately woven together and not just within this book, but throughout the whole series. There are no loose ends to leave you feeling let down and cheated. This is just pure brilliance from start to finish. This truly is Stephen King at his very, very best. You must know by now what I think of this series so I am obviously going to tell you to read this book and this series at all cost. Even if I still haven’t convinced you, at least borrow it from the library and give it a go. You’ll regret it if you don’t!
Update on part five: No confirmed release date as yet, but check out the Stephen King Website www.stephenking.com for further updates. The following information was found there.
The Crawling Shadow (tentative title for Volume V of The Dark Tower series)