If someone would have told me back in the ‘90s that the way to get Stephen King to finish up the Dark Tower series quickly was to hit him with a minivIf someone would have told me back in the ‘90s that the way to get Stephen King to finish up the Dark Tower series quickly was to hit him with a minivan, I would have been on my way to Maine to rent a Dodge Caravan before you could say ’Bango Skank was here.’
I would have mown him down with no more regret than running down a pedestrian in a Grand Theft Auto video game. This is a man who has done me no physical harm and provided me with countless hours of entertainment over the years, and yet I would have flown to Maine, rented a van, sat outside his house, waited until he went out walking and then run him over with a smile on my face. In fact, I probably would have backed up and used him as a speed bump again and then yelled at his bloody broken body as I drove away, “That’s for putting that Wizard of Oz bullshit into Wizard & Glass! Now get to work!”
I confess this not to do more complaining about the long suffering years waiting on some advancement in the Dark Tower books, but to illustrate how utterly obsessed and frustrated I was with this goddamn series. Then King nearly came to the clearing at the end of the path but instead recovered and cranked out three books like they came off an assembly line to finish the whole thing. Before that, I had pretty much given up hope on ever getting another book, never mind seeing an end to it, and King wasn’t doing much to make me change my mind with no news about him even working on another DT book.
And then came the minivan.
Ka works in mysterious ways….
Wolves of the Calla had a lot of things to accomplish. It needed to get the story rolling again after years of it laying fallow. It needed to set up the end run of the series. It needed to be a satisfying book aside from moving the overall arc forward. And most importantly, it needed to answer the burning question all Dark Tower fans had: Whatever happened to Father Callahan from ‘Salem’s Lot? Oh, wait. I had never asked that question. Oh, well. I found out anyhow and it turned out to be a pretty good part of the story.
Roland and his crew have been moving along the path of the Beam towards the Tower, but they seem to have been in a kind of timeless funk. (One of the things I love about the series is that the decay of the Tower has caused both time and space in Roland’s world to become soft and drift. It’s also a nice metaphor for the limbo that characters are in between books.) Just before entering the nastiness of End-World, they find Calla Bryn Sturgis, a farming town with a big problem.
Almost all the children born in the Calla are twins. Every twenty years or so, dozens of creatures the townsfolk call Wolves come on horseback and steal one from each set of twins. They take those kids back to Thunderclap, a place the gunslingers have already been warned about, and eventually return them as almost mindless husks who grow to jumbo sizes before dying young. Try to fight or hide your kids, and the Wolves kill everyone who resists instead of just taking half the kids. The Wolves will arrive in a month, but some in the Calla want to fight back this time if the gunslingers will help.
Roland's group has other problems too. They’ve been making dream-like excursions to New York in the 1970s and found that the special rose growing in a vacant lot there is in terrible danger. The rose is a key manifestation of the Tower in that world. Roland is convinced that if the rose is destroyed, the Tower falls in his world, too, and there goes your ballgame for all of existence. They have to find a way to get to New York in person and save the rose from those threatening it by protecting the owner of the lot.
The gunslingers also meet Callahan, a former Catholic priest last seen in the King-verse fighting vampires in ’Salem’s Lot. Callahan has an incredible tale to tell of years spent traveling between worlds and being chased by vampires and other nasty agents of the Crimson King before he wound up in Calla Bryn Sturgis.* Callahan has been hiding an evil object that terrifies him, and he wants Roland to get rid of it by taking it with him when they leave.
*(Anyone reading the series who wants some more info about who was chasing Callahan and other bits that come into play here should check out King’s ‘Low Men in Yellow Coats’ story in his ‘Hearts in Atlantis’ collection.)
If they didn’t have enough on their plate, Susannah’s previous encounter with a demon has left her a little bit pregnant, and her personality is being taken over by the baby’s ‘mother’, Mia. Pregnant women are known for strange food cravings, but let’s just say that Mia’s are even worse than usual.
I love this book partly because it’s the one that got the Dark Tower story back on track and set up everything for the end run to the last book. I also love it just because this is Dark Tower at its best for me. It’s a mash-up of westerns, fantasy, horror and sci-fi. It’s like The Magnificent Seven if Yul Brenner and Steve McQueen had to make multi-dimensional trips and deal with robots and vampires as well as protect the town with their six-guns.
Another thing I like about this one is that Eddie, Susannah and Jake are now full-fledged gunslingers and not just apprentices. And King expands on exactly what a gunslinger is. They’re not just killers, although they do that pretty damn well. They’re also diplomats and protectors of the defenseless. It was fun to see Roland’s manipulative political side come out when dealing with the Calla folk. The pregnancy storyline didn’t do much for me in this, but it becomes a key driver of the plot of the next book.
All in all, this is one of my favorite of the DT books, and it was King’s clear statement that he was done screwing around and ready to finish this mother. Too bad it took him nearly getting killed to get it done. ...more
“Would’ee speak a word of prayer first, Roland? To whatever God thee holds?”
“I hold to no God,” Roland said. “I hold to the Tower and won’t pray to th“Would’ee speak a word of prayer first, Roland? To whatever God thee holds?”
“I hold to no God,” Roland said. “I hold to the Tower and won’t pray to that.”
Damn, I love that line. It so perfectly sums up Roland, his quest to find the Tower, what it’s cost him, and how he knows he isn’t done paying yet.
For years, it seemed like Dark Tower had been walking in aimless circles during the long breaks between the third, fourth and fifth books. We knew that King had finished the final three volumes after losing a game of chicken with a minivan, and he’d gotten the story back up and striding briskly in the right direction with Wolves of the Calla including ending that one on a pretty wicked cliffhanger.
Still the pace of this one took me by surprise. It’s like King suddenly pulled out a whip and started cracking it over the heads of the DT fans while screaming, “Run, you bastards! You gotta run if you want to find out what happens! BWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA!”
And he didn’t even let us stretch properly first. That’s how you end up with a pulled hamstring.
Susannah’s demon pregnancy led to her being taken over by the personality of Mia, and she fled Mid-World to New York in 1999 via the Doorway Cave. As Susannah wrestles Mia for control of her own body and learns more about the Crimson King, Roland and Eddie plan to follow and save her while Jake and Callahan also come to our world to protect the rose growing in a vacant lot which is actually a critical incarnation of the Tower. But when things go off the rails, all of the gunslingers will have to scramble to try and save not only Susannah, but their own lives.
This is essentially a set-up book that preps the way for the conclusion in the last one, and it doesn’t resolve a helluva lot on it’s own. Still, I like it for its breakneck pace and the sense of urgency that King worked into this one. The breaking of a beam in Mid-World before the action moves to New York was a great reminder of the stakes here. The lines of force holding reality together are being subverted by the Crimson King’s breakers, and the so-called beamquake when one snaps is a stark warning to Roland and company that they are quickly running out of time.
Unfortunately, while the Susannah pregnancy story makes for a pretty good hook to drive the urgency of the story, it ends up being kind of unsatisfying overall once you know how the whole series ends. Plus, the conflict between Susannah and Mia reminded me a lot of a very similar plot that King had done in Dreamcatcher shortly before this book was released. So it didn’t feel all that fresh.
Overall, there’s a feel of desperation in this one that takes us nicely into the final volume, and the cliffhangers here had me on the edge of my seat the first time I read this.
There’s one controversial piece to this part of the DT story. (view spoiler)[ A lot of fans don’t like that King wrote himself into this, and I was hesitant about it myself the first time through this when I wasn’t sure how the story would end. At the end of Wolves of the Calla and into this one, I was worried that it was going to turn out that the Dark Tower was Stephen King himself and that its fall was his ‘death’ due to the minivan accident.
Knowing the ending now and rereading this, writing himself into the story doesn’t bother me as much. If he’d portrayed himself as some kind of all-knowing creator, I might have hated it too, but he didn‘t. He’s a pawn with a role to play. A role he kind of screws up by not getting off his ass and finishing this series sooner.
I like that the power behind the Tower is the force of creation itself, and that the Crimson King and the other baddies are agents of chaos and destruction. I think of it as the Tower was saving itself by creating a story of a hero on a quest, and it needed someone to write that story. Enter King, who actually made himself look kind of crappy in the process.
It’s not my favorite part of the series, but it didn’t ruin it for me either. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This is the story of a small town hell raiser named Buster ’Rant’ Casey who did some slightly unusual things when he was growing up like collecting buThis is the story of a small town hell raiser named Buster ’Rant’ Casey who did some slightly unusual things when he was growing up like collecting bucketfuls of his classmate’s teeth. Young Rant also angers more animals than Steve Irwin so that they’ll bite him and infect him with rabies which he deliberately spreads to his class mates. After he grows up and moves to the city, Rant joins a disenfranchised part of society forced by law to stay in their homes during the day and who get their kicks by crashing cars into each other. After his spectacular fiery death, the government labels him a bio-terrorist who unleashed a deadly outbreak of rabies while others claim that Rant may have had a larger destiny than anyone can imagine.
And that’s not even the weirdest or most twisted part of the story…
This is my second favorite Chuck Palahniuk novel after Fight Club. Rant’s story is told as an oral history by a variety of friends and enemies. The mishmash of weird anecdotes about a guy who seems to be completely fucked in the head eventually coalesce into a wild narrative that almost makes an audible click as the story starts locking together.
Like all of Chuck P.’s books, it’s disturbing and gory and gross and funny and definitely not for the faint of heart or easily offended. As soon as I finished it the first time a few years ago, I knew I’d come back to it again because this is one of those story where knowing the ending gives you a whole different spin on things your second time through. ...more