The Waste Lands: What Kind of Knights Are These?

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Stephen King The Dark Tower 3. The Waste LandsThe Waste Lands by Stephen King

The Gunslinger introduces us to Roland Deschain, the last cowboy-knight of a world that has moved on. In The Drawing of the Three, King gives Roland partners. The Waste Lands, the third novel of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower novels, focuses on fleshing out the details of Roland’s quest.

But not too many details.

It turns out that a Crimson King is doing everything in his power to destroy the universe from atop the Dark Tower. After centuries of searching, Roland has begun to make real progress in his quest to find the Dark Tower because he and his heroes have come across one of the beams that control the world. Like most of King’s creations, it reads better in the book than in summary.

King forces a healthy dose of the bizarre upon his heroes, including a scene where Susannah has sex with a demon to distract him from stopping Roland. Her sacrifice is important because Roland is using a jawbone and a whittled key to enter another universe in order to rescue Jake Chambers. Some readers may be turned off by these moments, but they are probably already not Stephen King fans.

A more significant complaint may be that The Waste Lands does not showcase King’s talent with villains. Roland and his gang face off against a deranged train obsessed with riddles and a tick-tock man behind a curtain. If these sound like rather obvious allusions, they’re meant to be. Still, a good villain often serves as an anchor for the plot, and The Waste Lands could use a stronger antagonist to help define its place in the road to The Dark Tower.

For the time being, readers will have to make do with the villainous shades of our heroes, particularly relentless Roland. What kind of knights are these?

Ultimately, The Waste Lands is as essential for Stephen King fans as any of the other novels associated with The Dark Tower. However, its crafting is comparatively loose, leaving it one of the weaker novels in this series.

In 1978, Stephen King introduced the world to the last gunslinger, Roland of Gilead.  Nothing has been the same since. More than twenty years later, the quest for the Dark Tower continues to take readers on a wildly epic ride. Through parallel worlds and across time, Roland must brave desolate wastelands and endless deserts, drifting into the unimaginable and the familiar. A classic tale of colossal scope—crossing over terrain from The Stand, The Eyes of the Dragon, Insomnia, The Talisman, Black House, Hearts in Atlantis, ’Salem’s Lot, and other familiar King haunts—the adventure takes hold with the turn of each page. And the tower awaits…. Roland, The Last Gunslinger, moves ever closer to The Dark Tower of his dreams and nightmares—as he crosses a desert of damnation in a macabre world that is a twisted image of our own. With him are those he has drawn to this world: street-smart Eddie Dean and courageous wheelchair-bound Susannah. Ahead of him are mind-rending revelations about who and what is driving him. Against him is arrayed a swelling legion of foes—both more and less than human….

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RYAN SKARDAL, on our staff from September 2010 to November 2018, is an English teacher who reads widely but always makes time for SFF.

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