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June 10, 2018

Book: The Dark Tower by Stephen King

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 12:02 am

imageThis is the final chapter in the long Dark Tower saga. The series consists of the following previous books (in the story order not the chronological order of publication :  The GunslingerThe Drawing of the ThreeThe Waste LandsThe Wizard and GlassThe Wind Through the Keyhole, Wolves of The Calla, and Song of Susannah.

 

Takes off right from page 1. Callahan, Jake and Oy enter the den of the evil low men and bird creatures, ready to die and kill, and the excitement goes up right from something like page 2.

 

When Callahan and Jake enter, Callahan mermerizes the low men with the turtle and then with the cross. Oye keeps the bugs in check – they emerged from under the table. Then the Class 1 Vampires with teeth all over their body emerge from the feasting room, where they were dining on human flesh and blood and Jake is ordered to move and leave Callahan in Roland’s voice emanating from Callahan. Callahan finally blows off a couple of them and then makes the ultimate sacrifice before they get him while Jake slips inside.

 

Roland and Eddie are hit by a wave where they witness the birth of Mia from a disembodied state. Then they go witness Callahan dying and Jake running inside the vampires’ den. Mia’s baby turns into a giant spider.

 

Beautiful tie ups. As Jake hears Roland’s voice coming  from Callahan, you hear how that happened after. As Susannah hears a word sent telepathically by Jake, we learn how that happened later. This is vintage Stephen King, beautifully written, tense sequences following one after the other.

 

Jake barely escapes the vampires and runs with Oy to find Susannah, and finds that the tunnel has suddenly turned into a forest. It is a mind trap and interestingly, he escapes by switching his mind into Oy’s body and vice versa. They almost get him before Oy and Jake escape through a door with Susannah’s help on the other side. The mind bending illusions are also great. (The jungle, the dark woods, the dinosaur and the dragon, all are fascinating. )

 

Meanwhile Eddie and Roland meet John Cullum the man they met in the beginning of their visit, again. He hears their story and believes it all.

 

They send him to Deepneau and go to find Susannah. Find her they do, with a treacherous robot very reminiscent of Andy in the previous book. The boy/ spider kills Walter (or Randall Flagg) through a mental string that immobilizes him, drinks his guts and blood and leaving his dessicated corpse, follows the ka-tet of Roland and company.

 

Meanwhile Roland and co walk through a painful (makes them vomit and dizzy) portal and meet Ted (who features in the Hearts on Atlantis book and mistakes Jake for the Garfield boy in that story) with his companions Stanley and Dinky. They explain how the breakers are kidnapped and fed by pills from the brains of the kids, and also explain how the people wasted by radioactivity wander, lost, till they die. Roland asks that one of them be brought to him.

 

Meanwhile Pimliss and his assistant (a half man half rat thing)  are surveying the place to find what the disturbance was about. They are going to investigate the disturbances in the telemetry when the ka tet is brought in by teleportation by Sheemie, the same bar servant that Roland saved in Mejlis in another earlier episode.

 

They go into the compound at the time of change of guards and there is a spectacular, chaotic war that is described brilliantly.

 

When Eddie is shot by a dying Primliss, the group is devastated. He dies and in an attempt to save Stephen King from the accident that would kill him and not let him complete the story, another member of the ka-tet is killed too. It is narrated with feeling and verve, though I still hate King placing himself into the story, however self deprecatingly.

 

Roland, Susanne and Oy go to the Crimson King’s castle where they meet an entity assuming human form (three of them come to Roland as the human Stephen King). They escape the trap, killing two of them and leaving the third to his fate with an infuriated Mordred.

 

They meet an erstwhile stand up comic who is an old man and though they like him Susanna’s antenna buzzes, and she realizes that he is lying to them.

 

More Stephen King intrusions, equally pointless and annoying. The Odd’s Lane and the funny comic and how they overcome his devious hidden plans are well told. They rescue Patrick, kept prisoner.

 

They discover the unique gift Patrick has and the clues that the author drops are brilliant, and the slow exposition of his true powers is exhilarating, in the best of King’s style. More yucky intrusions from the author himself again jars, as they meet the stand up comic and foil his evil plans. The slow break up of the ka-tet is heartbreaking but the killing of the two villains, Mordred and the Red King seems a little bit forced, in order to get the book to end. In fact, once you think about it at the end, Mordred was killed with painful effort when they had an easier way (which they employed against the main villain the Crimson King) to get rid of him as well.

 

However, after the epilog, there is another section of the book (Coda or in my parlance, epi-epilog) that surprises and stuns you.

 

All in all, you are sorry to have the series end and part with a lot of characters you have grown to love.

 

Due to the numerous and painful Stephen King intrusions into his own story, I give it a 7/10

 

–  – Krishna

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March 31, 2018

Book: Song of Susannah by Stephen King

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 10:18 pm

imageThis book is the Sixth (and penultimate) book in the series of Seven books (Eight, if you include a later introduction into the middle of the series. We have seen the previous ones here, which are : The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three, The Waste Lands, The Wizard and Glass, The Wind Through the Keyhole and Wolves of The Calla. Only the final volume is left after this.

 

I must say that the stories are getting better and better as you go along. In complete contrast to the first book, The Gunslinger, which was abominable, this one is very, very good.   Let us jump into the story, assuming you have read the earlier books at least enough to know the characters by now.

 

Realizing Susannah has disappeared with the Black Ball, Eddy is desperate to go after her, but the townsfolk caution him to wait until the morning.

 

They feel a Beam break and are anxious to save the Dark Tower before vital Beams break and make it collapse.

The next morning they go after Susannah/ Mia and find her wheelchair abandoned.

 

Meanwhile Trudy gets to see Susannah/ Mia materialize out of thin air and gets her shoes stolen as well. She is never the same. She hears the “Black Tower” a building of black glass being constructed in the vacant lot sing.

 

Meanwhile Susannah reaches out to Eddie in her mind and he gives her a sign from the past, asking her to look for hidden pockets in the bag containing the evil ball. She gets a small turtle which seems to have magical powers and mesmerises a Swedish businessman who offers cash and a hotel room and the receptionist is mesmerised not to ask for identification.

 

When they have a talk on a mental desolate range, Susannah understands that Mia is the aspect of the demon whom Roland and she faced and also that to save the child, they have let Eddie and Roland walk into the trap set by Jack Andolini and his men.

 

Roland and Eddie escape, though Eddie was shot on the leg, on a boat helped by an old man they accidentally met. Roland roasts the pursuers with diesel and a fire bomb and they escape by boat to the man’s cottage by the pier. They go meet Alan Dipeneau and Calvin Tower who has been stupid in advertising their whereabouts while hiding.  Finally they persuade him to sell the plot to the ka-tet.

 

Susannah delays Mia till night when she knows that Jake and Callahan will arrive to save her. The episodes of the fight at the gas station, the rage of Eddie about Calvin’s stupidity, Calvin’s obstreperous denial of the danger, and Mia’s confusion about modern gadgets in the hotel are all told extremely well and are classic King. What jars is his inserting himself into the story (Remember Wilbur Smith doing it much more disastrously in The Seventh Scroll?). It is annoying when authors want to be part of the story (even as themselves). Having started the plan, King plays with the idea, even making Eddie wonder if he, Eddie, is a part of some story.

 

They go after King. (I feel stupid at this point for reading on). King does a comic portrayal unlike Wilbur glorifying himself as a ‘historian’ in the other book, but still it is kind of stupid, discussing characters created by the author with the author himself.

 

Callahan, Jake and Oy land in New York. They follow the trail and are ready to die until they find the scrimshaw turtle left there by Susannah. Then they go into the den of the Crimson King’s “low men”, a bar called the Dixie Pig. The low men are those who figure in the short story so well (Hearts in Atlantis). Incidentally, the low men are those that have red dots on their forehead. (Thank God that they are not women with red dots! But wait, yes, there are also women with red dots).  The dots slosh blood within but they do not spill.

 

The scene where Mia realizes how much she relied on false promises is well told, as is the reception that Susannah Mia get among the low men, vampires and some insectile beings. The characters are pure fantasy, Stephen King style.

 

The ending is a cliff-hanger and serve as a gateway to the next book. Which, I believe, is the last in the series.

 

7/10

– – Krishna

January 26, 2018

Book: Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 9:39 pm

imageThis is the fifth book in the Dark Tower Series, after the abominable first one,  The Gunslinger, and the much better The Drawing of the Three, The Wastelands and Wizard And Glass. And it seems to get better and better as the story goes. This one is an exception in that the story is really nice but a couple of weird things mar the otherwise excellent story. More of it later. First, let us see the story.

Tian Jefford is trying to plough his fallow and hard land called Son of a Bitch. His sister Tia is mentally deficient and Andy is a robot messenger who brings news that the Wolves will come in a month – on horseback. They typically carry off the twins of which Tian has two sets; his “singleton” son is safe. He decides to call a town meeting to explorer resistance to save the babies in town. There is a tense hold-off in the town meeting with two opposing factions until the Old Man steps in and tells them about the gunslingers coming into town who can help the villagers against the Wolves. The Wolves are “more than men” under the command of an even more evil and strong masters.

 

Then there is a tangent where the group, after eating mushroom balls, they go into a dream where Eddie, Jack and Oy go to the past New York and watch old Jack enter the bookstore on his way to the black rose. And Balazzar of Eddie’s life turns up at the bookstore. I know that this is meant to create a web of interconnectedness with the Roland’s group (ka-tet as he calls it) but seems a bit excessive, combined with the fact that the same person was trying to kill both Susanne and Jake.

 

Then there is an ever weirder dream where Mia or Detta Walker or any of the other dozen souls inside Susanna eat an invisible buffet with Roland watching her. It is explained in the book. However, going back and forth in time recalls Book Two of the series The Drawing of the Three.

 

The Old Man finally comes for a talk with the ka-tet quartet. When they meet the rest of the people, he senses that Overholsler, a rich farmer, is against the idea of going against the Wolves. There is a long series of nineteens that crop up until Eddie learns about the Directive Nineteen. Andy seems to have been shut up about the Wolves and asks for a password.

 

That night they all see the rose again in a fugue state and also see vagabond spirits or “vags”.

 

They then are received by the townspeople. Meanwhile, we learn that what grows in Susannah’s body is not Eddie’s child but probably some demon seed.

 

The priest Callahan (“the Old Man”) turns out to have a tie in with the earlier book of King, Salem’s Lot. He is a drunk, reforms, kills vampires and takes to drink again. The Low Men (Men in Yellow Jackets with the pet posters and all) figure in this story as well. So a neat tie to not only Salem’s Lot but also to Hearts in Atlantis too! (Though, to be fair, the latter story deliberately borrows from the Tower series material and thus is a kind of a branch story)

 

Roland gets a quick glimpse of the evil black ball.He rallies the town and gets to see the Titanium plate that can be thrown as a weapon. Eisenhower, a sceptic on the wisdom of resisting the Wolves has a wife Margaret who was the thrower and came from the enemy Manni tribe, forsaking everyone for her love of her husband.

Old Pere (Tian’s grandpa?) remembers how a throwing plate killed a Wolf a long time ago.

 

Eddie goes back in time to save Tower from getting a savage beating. When he is back, Jake decides to uncover the treachery of Slightman the Elder, despite his close friendship with the latter’s son. Andy the robot is the Trojan Horse.

 

Jake follows them and exposes their treachery to Roland. Then Roland learns the truth about who the wolves really are and what their vulnerability is. There is an exhilerating sequence where Andy is neutralized, Ben Slightman is exposed privately and warned, and then the entire village’s fight with the wolves with Roland first deceiving them about the location of the kids and then getting rid of them with the help of the ka tet quartet as well as several villages. Two of the townsfolks die in the battle. Beautiful.

 

The story has a second climax when Susannah’s alter ego takes her todash and the rest of the ka tet tries to follow her to save her from herself, which is really the start of the next one, as this one ends abruptly there

 

A pity that Stephen King, rather like Wilbur Smith in the Seventh Scroll, could not resist putting himself (and a book of his) inside the story. Though this is mercifully brief, it is still annoying.

 

7/10

 

–  – Krishna

 

July 16, 2017

Book: The Wind Through The Keyhole by Stephen King

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 9:52 pm

imageWritten later than when the whole series was finished as an e book, the story is supposed to come between Volumes 4 & 5. This happens after Wizard And Glass in the story sequence. That book and some earlier books have been reviewed here before. 

Let me tell you right upfront. This is actually a collection of stories masquerading as a story in the series. Let me also tell you something else. This is one of the best if not the best books in the series!

Jake, Oye, Susannah, Eddie and Roland, following the path of the Beam and meet Bix, who agrees to take them on his raft along the river partway. They find that there is a starkburst (storm) brewing and take shelter. How to pass time? They tell stories to each other. So this is, rather like a couple of stories set in the Tower World. In addition, these are told as stories within stories, so that you come back to the outer story when the inner story is complete.

The first one is about Roland himself, after his mother’s death. He cares for Cort who is an invalid and is berated by Roland’s father for that.

He sends him to Debaria, where a supposed skin-man, who is a shape changer, is terrorizing the city. He gives as Roland’s companion Jamie DeCurrie. Both he and the coach attendant on his way warn them of Serenity, where young women pretty and deadly as the Sirens of  Homer’s Iliad reside. But he finds the Everxxx very cordial and she even knows his mom, Roland discovers.

 

He then travels to Debaria and meets the sheriff there, an old colleague of his dad, Steven Deschain. He learns that the skin changer, who, in the form of a massive bear, massacres a whole family has a tattoo on his leg in his human form, by a boy who survived by hiding in the stable.

 

The gunslinger, on the request of the surviving boy Bill, starts a story. This is a story (Roland and co) telling a story of himself, telling an imaginary story…

 

The new story called Wind through the Keyhole is about Tim, his mother Nell and father Big Ross (Jack Ross, really). Big Ross is killed by a dragon in the Ironwood forest, leaving Nell and Tim destitute, unable to pay taxes. Nell’s childhood friend Bern Kells who loved her and lost her to Ross without rancour, offers to take her in and marry her.

 

Kells turns out to be abusive, evil. He makes Tim work in the saw mill factory.  When Kell vacates his own home to move in with Nell and Tim, he brings a trunk that is always kept locked.

 

When the Covenant man comes for taxes, he quakes and gives away Nell’s money as taxes. They lost everything and Kells continually abuses both Tim and Nell and leaves. The Covenant man, before going away, gives Tim a magic key and asks Tim to meet him in the Ironwood Forest if he dares. After a particularly brutal beating by Kell of Nell and when he is gone on his drinking binges (which makes him even more violent), Tim opens the trunk and discovers his father’s chain and the lucky coin. The dragon fire should have singed it. Why has it not?

 

He decides to find out and goes to the Covenant Man, who shows Tim that Kell had murdered his father and even shows him the body under a stream. (With nice twists like flesh eating bugs in another part of the water and a very scary pooky – which is a large snake – waiting to sink its fangs into anyone who dares come that way). And to add to the intrigue, Nell tells Tim (earlier) that the Covenant Man has never aged in all the time she saw him.

 

When Tim discovers that Kell has come back, discovered the trunk open (Tim cannot lock it as the magic dies when the key is used once), he flows into a rage and brutalizes Nell who, in a trauma to her head, has lost the sight and is near death. He flies to her assistance but not before receiving his father’s special Axe from the Covenant Man. Tim’s teacher Widow Smack, who is always veiled due to disfigurement and is a close friend of Nell, warns Tim against Covenant Man and begs Tim not to believe in that man’s lies.  When he refuses to turn back from what he set out to do, she gives him a gun for his own protection.

 

There is a Tinkerbell like glowing sighe (“fairy”) who is in the employ of the Covenant Man. She leads him into the Ironwood Forest this time. She is evil and lands him on the head of a sleeping dragon. Tim manages to jump off but only to a small island and the dragon faces him, preparing to fry him. He also realizes that he was always in danger of being eaten by flesh eating fish which always followed him.

 

When he recognizes the treachery and is faced with certain death by carrion eating strange fish, he uses the gun and gains the admiration of the swamp people. What follows is fabulous. He is looking for Maerlyn and greatest wizard, who was in the court of Arthur Eld (sound familiar?) and instead meets a life threatening situation again – a castle whose doors are locked and the key and a keycard tied to the neck of a tiger, pacing in a cage and looking very hungry. In addition, the starkblast (a freezing storm that suddenly comes and kills everything in sight) approaches.

 

How he manages from there is a pure delightful narration until the very end of the story. Then the story focuses back to the skin changer. How they identify him and how they kill him is told wonderfully as well. All in all, a very satisfying book.

 

9/10

– – Krishna

 

August 6, 2016

Book: Wizard and Glass by Stephen King

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 3:41 pm

imageThis is the fourth  book in the Dark Tower series.

 

This continues the story of the Black Tower or the Gunslinger series. The earlier books are The Gulslinger and  The Drawing of the Three, which have been reviewed here earlier and The Wastelands.

 

The story continues where the previous book left off, and starts with a riddling contest between Blaine the evil train and the quartet of travellers (Roland, Eddie, Susanne and Jake) plus Oy. They seem to be losing badly as Blaine’s memory banks seem invincible. In between they are treated to a desolate view outside (Blaine can make the carriage they are sitting in transparent) with the weird animals and even weirder natural wonders – a huge waterfall. Blaine recharges himself on the Beam’s force fields. When everything almost seems lost, Eddie comes into his own and flummoxes Blaine in a spectacular fashion.

 

They move on and find USA destroyed by a contagious superflu that has wiped out the entire population. Walk on in a lonely path and hear “thinnies”, which contain a warble that can drive your mind insane unless you stuff the old Roland world’s bullets in your ears.

 

Roland tells his past story which starts with Susan Delgado being betrothed to an old rich man who will lift her family out of poverty and she is checked out for ‘purity’ by an old evil witch. On the way back she meets Roland, who is young and introduces himself with a false name of Will Dearborn.

 

She falls hopelessly in love with him and the witch sees it in a crystal ball.

 

In the meanwhile Roland, Cuthbert and Alain stop the town bullies with coffins tattooed on their arms and win the enmity and suspicion of the whole town. An underdog finds that one of them is really the son of a gunslinger.

 

Susan has been promised to Mayor Thorin as his gilly in return for money, land, and riches for her family. Falling in love with Roland was not supposed to be part of the plan. She helps him discover massive hoard of oil to be given to the enemies of his land.

 

They succumb to temptation and do the beast with two backs and they cannot seem to stop. In the meanwhile, the thugs with the coffin tattoo get very suspicious about them and are surprised at their facility with weaponry.

 

The witch tries to spoil their plot and send a note through Seemus to Cordelia but Cuthbert intercepts him. He and Roland come to blows before Roland realizes his error.

 

They plan to blow up the oil tanks and lead the entire village into the thinny and they learn of the Wizard’s pink crystal ball with the witch, buried under her bed.

 

But Jonas catches the boys unawares, and Susan and Seemie, a dull witted but loyal friend of the boys, plan to rescue them, realizing that they may die in the attempt. They get the boys out killing Dave the deputy and the fat Sheriff Avery who were guiding them and then blow up the oil rigs as planned.

 

The boys ambush the party of Jonas and get them all, and unhurt too. But Susan is captured, with Jonas warned by the witch Rhea through the Pink Ball (which is one of the Wizard’s rainbow crystals) as to where she is. Sheemie was out relieving himself but doggedly follows Reynolds and Susan to the Mayor’s house and seems to find help in Olive Thorin, the Mayor’s long suffering wife. But they are captured. While Roland kills Jonas, recovers the ball and destroys all the party by leading them into the thinny, Rhea gets Susan and kills her.

 

When an unconscious Roland is taken back to Gilead, Rhea uses her magic to have Roland kill his own mother. This stuff is better than the previous story of the four people so far.

At the end they revert back to their world where Roland tells the story and there is a piece where he goes back and finishes the ending. All in all, a very good read.

 

7/10

– – Krishna

 

January 25, 2015

Book: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 5:18 pm

imagesMany people have sworn off the Dark Towers series written by Stephen King. For the most part, it is due to the first book in the series The Gunslinger.

Written when Stephen King was just 19, in part inspired by the Lord of the Rings trilogy by his own admission, this book is one of the most boring books written by the author. Stephen King is a phenomenal writer and many of his books have been reviewed here before.  Most of his work is top class but then he has sometimes slipped, and the story does not appeal. Tommyknockers  is a prime example that comes to mind and even though most people may find this close to Stephen-King-blasphemy, I did not enjoy The Stand either. But mostly he writes very well, even when there is not much of a story to tell. (Read the review of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon for a great example).

This book is worse than even some of his worst examples from before. At the end of it, I almost decided, like many people I know, not to bother with the series. But if you, like me, try the second book in the series, you will find that it gets a lot better right away, from the start of the second book itself. (More of this in a later entry).

.This book is about the Gunslinger called Roland, a young man in a futuristic world which has turned Wild West where a man lives and dies by his gun and hunts evil. He goes chasing “the man in black”, guided only by the ashes of the campfires left for him. Instinct guides him. He meets strange people along the way.

This book feels like a voyage written as a story. The man in black comes into a bar and wakes up a dead man.

Weird narration and a very  boring story start.

Roland  stays in the inn because of The Lady, who fancies him. Then he watches a priestess in a church. Pointless so far. Seems disjointed without even a common thread between events. Unusual for Stephen King, really.

He goes and meets a boy Jake, who seems to be alive in modern New York, which nobody knows, and seems to have died in the old New York. Then he overcomes a demon and goes on with Jake. Confusing flashbacks ensue.

He takes Jake along, saves him from a demon lurking in a kind of pentagon in a clearing. Faces the demon alone.  Then meets the man in black briefly. The story wanders too much.

The story is excruciatingly boring. The nineteen year old King is not impressive in this book for sure. His coming of age where he confronts his mentor Cort or Cuthbert is also boring.  They seem to go on an interminable, rotting railway line over a great big chasm and for no reason the boy is lost.

Apparently he had to be sacrificed. OK, whatever. Then the story gets even more bizarre. The man in black casually waits for him, they light a fire together and the evil guy reads the future of gunslinger on tarot cards. Wait, I thought that the gunslinger wanted to kill the man in black on sight? Maybe after a little food and some harmless entertainment with tarot cards? Stephen King goes way off the line here.

Then there is a little blather about universe being large, the scientific discoveries of man landing them into trouble and destroying the world, and a juvenile speculation about this universe being a part of the atom on a blade of grass of some other universe.

All in polite conversation between the man in black and Roland. Also the man in black reads the gunslinger’s future with Tarot cards. This is not the weirdest it gets, it gets worse from here on.

Then Roland discovers that the man in black is his childhood friend Marten who he believed had run away and then discovers that there are layers of evil lords above the man in black. Height of ridiculousness? After voluntarily appearing before the gunslinger (remember the tarot and the stories?) the man in black says “You caught me. I did not think you would, but you did.”

Was this really written by King? (Even a nineteen year old King?).  Even it is lame for crap like ‘you sacrificed the boy and that power pulled me helplessly to you’, though mercifully the author does not say it.

Then the man in black, after all this bonhomie, conveniently dies, all by himself. Oh well, gunslinger slept nonstop for ten years and aged, but well, it is a small price to pay to kill the man in black, right? On to the next adventure, gunslinger! If all your adventures are this easy, you are very lucky!

There are flashes of interest, like when the whole village comes after gunslinger as he tries to leave. But alas, they are few and rare.

Overall, a very boring, puzzling book, and a bad start to a series that is famous.

1/10

  • – Krishna

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