First published back in August of 1991, ‘The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands’ formed the third instalment into US bestselling author Stephen King’s epic ‘Dark Tower’ series. The limited first edition hardcover included thirteen full-colour illustrations by Ned Dameron and has since become a highly sort after book. The novel continues on from where the second instalment ‘The Dark Tower II: The Drawing Of The Three’ (1987) left off.
A full five weeks have passed since Roland formed his ka-tet by bringing back Eddie Dean and Susannah (the new single-personality of Odetta Holmes and Detta Walker). The trio now move eastwards into the woods of the Out-World. Along the journey Roland of Gilead has begun training his companions to become gunslingers. Their natural ability and flair for the role becoming instantly recognisable to Roland.
However, to continue with their journey into Mid-World and ultimately on to the Dark Tower, the ka-tet must first reach one of the Beams which marks the edge of the Out-World. But where the nearest of the six colossal Beams is located, lies ‘The Portal Of The Bear’. Guarded by the ferocious cyborg bear, Shardik, the trio must overcome the colossal beast in order to follow the ‘Path Of The Beam’ towards the centre of Mid-World.
But the ka-tet’s leader can’t shake the feeling of being split in two. Since the death of the young Jake Chambers in the mountain’s underground tunnels, Roland has been experiencing an immense strain on his mind. The paradox of saving the boy’s life, after having sacrificed him in a different parallel running time, has split his psychological self, driving the gunslinger to the brink of insanity.
At the same time, Jake Chambers is in fact still alive and living his day-to-day life in New York. For Jake it’s 1977 and he too has been suffering the tremendous mental strain of this divide in existence. And as a result of this terrible mental anguish, Chambers’ studies have been suffering, and sure enough his life has shifted onto a steep downward course.
Aware that he can no longer carry on under this mental strain, Roland begins to desperately search for a way out of his deteriorating mental health. Meanwhile, back in New York and Jake has walked away from his old life, and is quickly drawn to purchasing a particular secondhand children’s book. Further still, the young lad feels a profound connection to a single red rose located within a vacant rubble-strewn lot. What Jake and Roland don’t realise is that their movements are working alongside each other. And soon enough, as a direct result of their dramatic actions, the two will once again be reconciled.
Then, and only then, can the ka-tet once again carry on with their quest for the Dark Tower. A journey that will take them along the Path of the Beam, and on to war torn city of Lud where perilous danger awaits...
For this third instalment into the Dark Tower series, King has gotten well and truly stuck into the progression of the quest. Not only are large distances travelled, but the reader is now given a sizeable chunk of understanding surrounding the construction and fabrication of the very world in which the gunslingers currently reside.
Action and excitement is very much at the forefront of the novel. The pace is swift, with plenty of elaborate twists and turns around every corner to keep the storyline packed with interest and unpredictability. Indeed, the complexity of ideas brought to the table for this instalment are one of the principal aspects that really makes the Dark Tower series stand out from the crowd. The sheer imagination on show is quite breathtaking. There’s an absolute wealth of utterly inspired literary magic in the story and its telling. It’s as engaging and compelling as it is entertaining and downright exciting.
Within this taut storyline is another good helping of beautifully developed characters as well as further (and very important) exploration of our already well-established principal characters – those of the ka-tet. The re-introduction of Jake Chambers is as heart-warming as it is enveloping of the whole ‘Dark Tower’ themed-plot. The reader can now see first-hand the sheer strength that the characters bring to the plot as a whole. How their individual roles play such a vital part to the direction of the tale – and ultimately to the success of Roland’s quest.
Along with a colourful array of other-worldly backdrops, King has envisaged a magnificently grand near-post-apocalyptic cityscape, where the danger and the action are once again cranked up another notch. The veritable thrills and spills that the members of Roland’s ka-tet must endure in order to come out the other end alive is one of the highlights to the series. And indeed, the high-adrenaline race towards the end on this third instalment leaves the reader on an absolute cliff-hanger to end all cliff-hangers.
Another remarkably imaginative and highly elaborate addition to the series.
The novel runs for a total of 512 pages.
© DLS Reviews