Wizard and Glass by Stephen King
Review by Floresiensis
If books are judged solely by their re-readability value then the Dark Tower books must be up there at the very top. This is my fourth pass and it is a series that just keeps giving and giving.
The first three books, The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three and The Waste Lands I found brilliant but have to be honest and admit that Wizard and Glass, on first read, was not a great experience. There are two reasons that might explain this, the first being that a year had passed since I had finished The Waste Lands and much momentum had been lost, and much that had happened had been forgotten. This is the disadvantage of reading a series as it is published, and if you do not have the time to re-read previous instalments then it may well be that the reading enjoyment is not as high as when you can simply turn the last page on book three and reach over, open, and begin reading book four. Basically, I was found myself no longer submerged in the Dark Tower worlds and found it a little difficult to get back into. The second reason for my lack of enthusiasm first time around may lie in the fact that book four does not drive the story forward very far - its purpose being to further fill out Roland's character and history. This is does by spending a large portion of the book recounting the time when Roland, in his youth, along with his apprentice gunslinger friends, Cuthbert and Alain, visited the town of Mejis on a mission whose main aim is to move them far from Gilead and the danger there.
I am pleased to say that now, although Wizard and Glass is not my favourite book in the Dark Tower series, I am certainly better able to appreciate it for what it is and what it brings to the series. It could almost be read as a stand alone novel and bears much resemblance with the recently released Wind Through The Keyhole. King throws himself into a tale of teenage love with all his heart and this can either be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your viewpoint. We've all been teenagers and we've all thought and behaved in ways that seemed right at the time, perhaps even unavoidable, but with the hindsight that comes with passing years, it can been looked back on as both wonderful and cringe-worthy. And this is how Roland and Susan's love story plays out - they behave as teenagers do and this is brilliantly written by King, whose talent for portraying teens is remarkable, but it can be difficult at times, as reading about self-indulgent, star struck teens can be.
This book is about Roland, who he is and how he has become who has become. It helps to explain why he is so grim, so haunted. It could be argued that you could miss out most of this book as it serves to give little forward momentum to the series but what it does, and what is does very well, is give Roland the fleshing out he deserves. As the book that follows can be looked upon as King's The Seventh Samurai, Wizard and Glass can be almost read as a stand alone book, as King's homage to Romeo and Juliet.
Before Roland's tragic past can be relived the the ka-tet have to battle a psychotic and suicidal train (surely HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey influenced this) in a game of riddles for their lives. They then travel onto a world which Captain Tripps has laid waste to (a section that readers of King's The Stand will enjoy) before they settle down in the breakdown lane on a deserted highway to listen to Roland tell his tale. And throughout King's influences shine through strongly: from 2001: A Space Odyssey to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Lord of the Rings. Although I mentioned above you could possibly miss out this book, don't. I didn't really mean it and it does serve more purpose within the series than I have given it credit for.
Peter Host from France
If you are getting hooked on the Dark Tower series due to the mix of horror, fantasy and decadent western "à la Sergio Leone", then you might think (as I do) that this is the best in the whole series. If you loved the 3-men duel at the end of "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly", just wait. You think knowing a key character's ill fate at the very beginning of the volume hinders it's efficiency, just wait. You think you know what the true meaning of "150 pure bred sons of bitches on horseback!" is? Just wait. You think King can't write a love story? Well, you might really want to read this volume. I won't go into the details, but just to state a few obvious qualities of the 4th volume in the Dark Towers series: the dramatic tension is unbearable, it's placement in the middle of the series, as a definitive turning point for every character of the band, is brilliant; for example, take the Suzannah/Suzanne pair: exposing the archetype of Suzanne, liberates the true potential of her alter ego Suzannah in the following book. Is she just a repetition of Suzanne? Well, just wait... But most of all, this is the book when Roland of Gilead, one of the most interesting characters of epic fantasy ever, becomes truly whole, in his crippled manner.
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