In September, I suggested a reading order for the extended universe of Stephen King's The Dark Tower, a series I loved, but hadn't read any of since Volume 7: The Dark Tower came out in 2004. I realized that I missed the characters from the series, and wondered if the reading order I suggested would really hold someone's interest all the way through. I scoured some local bookstores, and then the internet for the hardcovers of the books, and prepared for my quest to read a Super Long series of books.
As I get closer to the tower in my reading, I've become focused on King's constantly shifting styles. Not just from book to book, but often within his books. Wizard And Glass is definitely two books. The main storyline, where Roland and his ka-tet continue their journey where we left them in The Waste Lands and a five hundred page flashback story about Roland's youth that sets up the events of the end of this book, as well as some recurring themes and stories in the upcoming books. Sometimes the difference in style and tone takes you completely out of the book. While the contrast between the way King writes the Kansas section and the section in Mejis is stark, it's also kind of welcome.
A little over a decade ago, I started a book exchange program with a long term coworker. We exchanged books one at a time. We both consistently gave the other a book that they wouldn't have otherwise read, and we each had moderate success at not giving each other any books that clunked when they passed from eyes to brain to heart.
After a few complete successes, I gave this person my copy of American Gods by Neil Gaiman. They made a face, said something along the lines of "I suppose this will do." and gave me a copy of Chris Adrian's Children's Hospital, which I immediately loved.
When it was time to return the books, my coworker said "It ended up being perfect, as I read it on a road trip with my dad, and this book is ideal for road trips, though maybe nothing else."
The beginning and end of Wizard & Glass is a road trip book. Hopefully, you already love the ka-tet characters, you're completely engrossed by the train journey that started during the last book, and Need To See How It Resolves. And it resolves. And then the ka-tet find themselves in the world of another Stephen King book, and it's funnish and a pretty good That's So Cool moment, but it's not a great feat of literature, and it won't really change the way you read the series.
My next post will be A Masochist's Journey To The Dark Tower, Part 16: Glass, and it will deal with the heart of this book, which happens to be the middle section, which takes up about 4/5ths of the page length of the book. It's aces.
But when we return from the heart of the book our characters move from a Stephen King world to an L Frank Baum world, and it's...fan fictiony. All the characters continnue to be well-written but the situation is more than just an homage or pastiche, it's a retelling of one of the climactic scenes of The Wizard of Oz but starring the ka-tet.
It's a major letdown compared to the middle chunk of the book. There are some important backstory revelations that help keep it somewhat interesting, but overall it's just kind of okay. But the kind of okay that's perfect if you're reading it in a plane, or between rest stops on a long road trip. You don't have to think about it too much because it's So Familiar.
I realize this makes it sound like I didn't enjoy the book. I Very Much Did. But mainly because of the five star section that makes up the next post, the bookend portions, sadly, are about 2 1/2 stars.
-- Blane really is a pain, and I haven't been as happy to see a character disappear from this chronology since I closed The Eyes Of The Dragon for what, I hope, will be the last time in my life.
--There are enough product placements used to explain the connection to our universe that I hope Stephen King received some sort of check. And that he donated those proceeds to the charity of L Frank Baum's ancestors' choice.
--I'm actually posting this about two and a half months after I finished reading it, which is not helpful for remembering my Stray Observations.
--I'm not putting a page count update on this post because it's about the beginning and end of the book, and I don't have it in front of me to subtract out the middle section, soo...just click your heels together and say There's No Place Like The End Of This Chronology three times.