Jessica's Reviews > The Waste Lands

The Waste Lands by Stephen King
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's review
May 29, 2007

really liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2007
Read in January, 2007

"You didn't let me fall this time."

Third time’s a charm. At least with the Dark Tower series, it is. The Waste Lands really picks up the pace and starts us on our true journey with the characters. Whereas Books I and II felt like exposition setting us up for the real story to begin, Book III jumps right in and gets going. And, to be cliché for a moment, it’s a wild ride.

With two books behind us, we’re already aware that bizarre things happen and exist in Roland’s world. Remember the lobstrosities from the beach? They were only the beginning. Early into The Waste Lands, our gunslingers – Eddie, Susannah, and Roland – encounter monsters equally as disturbing. First up is Shardik, a diseased bear-like machine who acts as a guardian of the Beam – one of six “roads” leading to the Tower. Curious how a machine seems to have gotten sick (it actually sneezes). Yes, curious indeed.

The theme of “ghosts in the machines” carries throughout the novel, as our band of travelers (which increases by two unexpected characters, young Jake and his loyal dog-like companion) meet many other examples of technology gone awry. They travel to the ruined town of Lud, which faintly resembles the New York City we are familiar with, but not quite. Lud seems to have been an ancient, yet highly technologically advanced city. This raised many questions for me as to what and when Roland’s alternate (or parallel) world really is. We know from the previous two books that time and space work very differently here, as the world moves on.

King creates an almost cyber punk setting in Lud – a post-apocalyptic land where computers and machines are regarded (or feared) as gods (or ghosts). Here again is where King really shines as a horror writer. His gory descriptions of Lud’s inhabitants are enough to make your stomach churn. But he also succeeds at tugging at the heart strings, surprisingly. It’s impossible not to feel protective of 11-year-old Jake, and the father-son bond he has with Roland is really endearing. I’ll admit that Eddie and Susannah still aren’t my favorite characters of all time, but they are growing on me. I think the fact that they are sort of…well…losers makes the story more interesting. Not every character can be Roland of Gilead, the Clint Eastwood of the series.

We learn more about the history behind this odd world, and the mythology of the series is slowly revealing itself, but there are still many mysteries yet unsolved. Like the previous books, The Waste Lands is definitely not a stand-alone book, as it ends on a cliffhanger that rivals those of the season finales of Lost.

With such a twisted, creative tale already in place, I’m not sure what to expect from the next book in the series. I suspect there will be a continuing focus on the breakdown of technology, and more emphasis on dark magic as the Wizard comes into play. I do hope more mythology is explained and some questions are answered. But, as I’ve come to expect from Lost (which allegedly draws some inspiration from this series), I’ll be prepared for the slow-reveal.

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