Wizard and Glass by Stephen King (audio)

wizard and glassHow to continue to describe the outrageously imaginative, engrossing masterpiece that is Stephen King’s Dark Tower series? Oh my word.

Wizard and Glass is book 4 and, I think, my favorite so far. We met the gunslinger in book 1; met his three compatriots in book 2; and were reunited with the boy Jake in book 3. As this next installment opens, the ka-tet of Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy find themselves in Kansas; but it is a strange, other-worldly Kansas, perhaps parallel to the one we recognize. Along the road, the group stops for the night and Roland tells a story. This telling will fill the vast bulk of the book, so that as in The Wind Through the Keyhole, it’s a story within a story, with the inner one taking top billing.

Roland’s tale is that of his first love, his first adventure and battles as a gunslinger, and the genesis of his quest for the Dark Tower, which is by this point a quest willingly shared by his companions. It’s a great story, what King does best.

Roland begins by referring to the way he won his guns, and his right to be a gunslinger, in a fight against his teacher, Cort. Roland was 14, and his father was angry, and also worried, and sent Roland away along with his two best friends, Cuthbert and Alain. They travel to the back-country town of Hambry, in the barony of Mejis, where they are given a deceptively simple task that immediately complicates. Roland encounters a young woman named Susan and falls in love; their love is (naturally) thwarted by her unwilling role in the intrigue in which Mejis is entwined. Roland, Cuthbert and Alain, assisted by Susan and a deeply likeable local named Sheemie, will end up doing battle with the forces of “the good man” (who is of course bad) in this outer barony; and Roland’s love is doomed.

This story is endlessly moving, and engrossingly suspenseful. There is something sweepingly large and yet entirely believable about the teenage love story of Roland and Susan; and Cuthbert and Alain, who until now have been referred to only obliquely, become fully-developed great friends to the reader as well as to Roland. The reader is every bit as enthralled as Roland’s contemporary ka-tet (Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy) are; and I loved the slight jolt King inserts when Eddie breaks in to ask how Roland could know the story from all angles: what Susan thought, what the witch did when she was alone… this reminds us just when we’re starting to lose ourselves in Roland’s tale, that we’re actually still on the side of the road in Kansas with the new ka-tet, at the same time.

When Roland finishes talking, the five companions continue on the road towards… the emerald city. Genres, and worlds, mash up again when they come to the emerald castle and encounter the Wizard (of Oz?) – he of the book’s title, and we’ll also see the glass for the first time (which played such a role in Roland’s story). At the finish of the book, relatively little has happened to our main characters; they return to following the path of the Beam in search of the Dark Tower. But the wizard does entreat them to abandon their quest, and each in turn gets to articulate that he or she is by Roland’s side by choice now and from now on. The saga continues.

I am reeling; I never wanted this book to end; I reveled in it and rather tore at my hair when I realized I’m still wait-listed at my local library for the next in the series. (The horror!) My former policy of reading series willy-nilly with no respect for their order is gone; I am a purist. Stephen King has reformed me.

Rating: 9 pulses of pink.

5 Responses

  1. […] Wizard and Glass*, Stephen King (fiction) […]

  2. […] Wizard and Glass*, Stephen King – fiction […]

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