When talking about the best books in the Dark Tower series, I’m surprised that more people don’t bring up this entry. A lot of people are quick to grant the title to Wizard and Glass, but I think that this is a strong contender for the title. It’s a great read. Whereas the first book had some obvious flaws, this one managed to succeed on all levels.
It picks up where the last book left off, with Roland waking up on a beach long after his palaver with the man in black. His quest is hindered when he is besieged by strange lobster like creatures that not only manage to bite two fingers off of his right hand, as well as a toe, but manage to poison him as well. Roland now has to make his way up the beach to draw new compatriots for his quest.
The people ka has selected are not the likeliest of heroes. The first is a drug addict and junkie named Eddie Dean, the second is a paralyzed woman with Dissociative Identity Disorder. One of the personalities, Odetta is nice enough; but the other, Detta is rather mean spirited (to say the least) and aims to kill the both of them. So yeah, it’s not exactly the Avengers Assembling or the Titans coming together.
The parts where Roland ventures into our world, by traveling through mystical doors that allow him to inhabit the body of those he means to draw, are some of the best parts about the book. His interactions (both external and internal) allow Roland to develop a much fuller personality compared to what we saw in the last book. He’s still distant and obsessed with the tower, but we see other layers to his personality that not only make him more complex, but far more interesting to read about.
These also lead to many of the book’s crowning moments of awesome. There are obvious ones like the shootout at Balazar’s, but you also have bits like the sequence at the gun store as well as the holdup at the local pharmacy. Even though I knew how it all played out (having read the book), I still had a blast seeing Eddie and Roland working together on the plane after Eddie draws too much attention to himself while attempting to traffic drugs.
The book also adds a healthy dose of comedy to the proceedings. Again, this comes from Roland’s interactions with our world. He and Eddie, in particular, play well off each other and it adds to the entertainment factor. I couldn’t help but smirk when Roland started flipping out over tuna fish and Pepsi. I found it odd that he liked the tuna more than a hot dog, but I guess that could be more related to the quality of the vendor.
This book does what any sequel (though technically it’s a subsequent chapter in a longer story, but you know what I mean) should do. It provides more insight to the characters and effectively expands the scope of the story. Even though the characters spend most of their time in Roland’s world essentially walking up a beach, we still get a sense of how things were through Roland’s thoughts about things like our state of paper and medicine.
Most importantly, I simply enjoyed reading it. It was a blast and I was still eager to find out what happened next even though I already knew. Though the book is longer than the previous one, I found myself moving through this much faster.
I liked the quick nod to Eyes of the Dragon. It’s a shame that King wasn’t able to build on that particular tie in any great detail, but the mention of Flagg as well as Dennis and Thomas was an admittedly nice touch. It also acts as a nice bit of foreshadowing.
I heartily recommend this book. If you gave the series a shot, but found you couldn’t get into it based on the first book, I would encourage you to stick it out because this is so much better.