By Stephen King, Illustrated By Ned Dameron
Published by Plume January 1992 (first published August 1991)
The Waste Lands is an epic fantasy horror science fiction story with bad-ass gunslingers and sociopathic bad guys brought to you by Stephen King. King begins The Waste Lands novel with an “argument”, providing a quick summary of the first two books, along with some intriguing insights. The story then picks up “some months” after the ending of The Drawing of the Three, over 60 miles from the Western Sea in Mid-World. Roland Deschain of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger, has drawn two companions into his world, Eddie and Susannah Dean, who have agreed to help him find the Dark Tower. Eddie was once the Prisoner. Susannah, the Lady of the Shadows, was once Odetta Holmes and Detta Walker. While Roland is training Susannah how to shoot she confesses that she knows there has been something wrong with him since the conflict on the beach. He claims that there is nothing wrong. While they are talking, Eddie is leaning against a tree whittling away at a piece of wood when they all hear an enormous crash in the woods.
Mir, parasite-infested, largest and oldest creature in the Great West Woods charges toward Eddie, who manages to scramble up the highest tree nearby.
On Roland’s shoulders Susannah successfully shoots the spinning rusty radar-dish on Mir’s head, which “kills” him. Roland tells them this enormous bear is one of the twelve Guardians. It is 2,000-3,000 years old and its real name is Shardik. The Great Old Ones created the twelve cyborg Guardians to stand watch at the twelve portals. The Thirteenth Portal, which rules all the worlds, is found at the Dark Tower. Roland explains that if they can find the portal Shardik was protecting they would be able to follow a straight line to the Dark Tower. As they journey to the portal Roland is slowly going more insane. He finally tells them the tale of his journey through the desert, under the mountains, and how he sacrificed Jake in order to catch up with the Man in Black. Roland has two memories of what happened at the Waystation – one where he met Jake, and one where he didn’t. Time travel is a bitch ain’t it? Roland throws the Man in Black’s jaw bone into the fire and Eddie watches it change and become a key. Eddie is convinced that he has to remember the exact shape of the key. After finding Shardik’s portal Roland, Eddie, and Susannah begin their journey traveling along one of the magnetic-type Beams which help to bind and hold this world together. Eddie is overwhelmed by an urge to cut a piece of tree next to them. He has no idea why, but he believes he is meant to carve this piece of wood, replicating the key he saw in the fire.
We then flip to Jake’s perspective. It’s May 31st, 1977. We get to learn more about Jake’s childhood, family, and school. Jake thinks he’s going mad. He hears voices in his head who insist Jake was hit and killed by a car on May 9. During the last ten days Jake has become fascinated by doors. He’s going about his days, attempting to pretend that he’s okay.
While in class he glances at the title of the final paper he has no memory writing, “My Understanding of Truth”. He continues searching for the door that will take him back to Roland’s world.
My Understanding of Truth
The gunslinger is the truth.
Roland is the truth.
The Prisoner is the truth.
The Lady of Shadows is the truth.
The Prisoner and the Lady are married. That is the truth.
The way station is the truth.
The Speaking Demon is the truth.
Roland let me die. That is the truth.
I still love him.
That is the truth.
When is a door not a door? When it’s a jar, and that is the truth.
Blaine is the truth.
Blaine is the truth.
You have to watch Blaine all the time, Blaine is a pain, and that is the truth.
I’m pretty sure that Blaine is dangerous, and that is the truth.
I want to go back and that is the truth.
I have to go back and that is the truth.
Choo-choo, and that is the truth.
It took me a long time to read The Waste Lands, but that was not because I wasn’t enjoying it. It’s definitely the most exciting book in the Dark Tower series so far. My favorite character is Oy, a billy-bumbler that Roland and his crew meet during their journey. Oy has black and gray striped fur and gold-ringed eyes. He’s intelligent and can mimic what he hears. I mean, it’s the perfect pet! I really want a billy-bumbler for Christmas. Maybe I could dye my cat’s fur to make him look like one.
King has an amazing ability to create characters who are unbelievable and yet they feel completely real. I don’t want to spoil the story, so I’ll just say Roland’s crew meet some pretty interesting characters: a Demon, a group of old folks at the river crossing, Gasher, the Tick-Tock Man, and Blaine the Mono Rail. There are many beautiful illustrations throughout the book, but they aren’t located in the right spots during the story. I don’t know why this bothered me so much, but it did. The pace was extremely slow in between extremely intense moments. I find the romance between Eddie and Susannah slightly annoying at times and feel like it could have been left out. Maybe there IS a reason for their relationship, I guess I’ll find out as I keep reading the series. There are a lot of unanswered plot points in the first three books, and I’m really needing answers for at least a few. FYI – The Waste Lands ends on a BIG cliff hanger. It took King six years to publish the next book and I’m extremely grateful that I don’t have to wait six years before reading Wizard and Glass.
I recommend this one to anyone 16 years and older (sex, violence, swearing) who likes to leave their troubles behind and enter fantastical worlds, perhaps via Blaine the talking train 😉