Kemper's Reviews > Wizard and Glass

Wizard and Glass by Stephen King
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Sep 01, 2015

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bookshelves: fantasy, alt-universes, western, magic, dark-tower, 2011-r, uncle-stevie

Stephen King ended the third book in the Dark Tower series on a wicked cliffhanger in 1991. By 1994 my patience had grown thin, especially after King had delivered 787 pages of pure crap with Insomnia. Even worse was that he actually had the nerve to tease some of the DT stuff in that overstuffed abomination. I was relatively sure that King was sitting on pile of money somewhere and laughing at me as he wrote page after page that was NOT the fourth DT book.

So in October of ‘94 when I read that King was going to make an appearance in Manhattan, Kansas, as part of a cross-country motorcycle tour he was doing to promote independent bookstores, I scored a ticket and then drove over two hours to confront that rat bastard. However, my plan to demand the next book in a fierce voice of righteous indignation was derailed when one of the first things King* said was that he’d save someone a question, and that he was very close to starting the next Dark Tower. He also told us that it would definitely be a tale of Roland’s past. The crowd cheered. Three years later after suffering through Rose Madder and Desperation, we’d finally get Wizard & Glass.

* King’s appearance in an auditorium on the K-State campus had several hundred people in it, and it took place on a foggy night. When he took the stage, King noted that it was spooky weather, like one of his novels. Then he started speculating that it was the kind of night that a homicidal escapee from a mental asylum might be running around in. The crowd laughed. King continued that the maniac was probably out in the parking lot, checking cars to see if any were unlocked. The crowd loved it. Stephen King was telling us a creepy story on a foggy October night. How cool was that? King kept talking, adding details about the maniac and the knife he picked up somewhere. The crowd grew a bit uneasy but was still chuckling.

Then Uncle Steve started in on asking us if we were sure, REALLY sure, that we had locked our cars. You thought you did, but do you actually remember doing it? By then, the crowd had fallen silent. By the time King described the maniac finding an unlocked car, everyone was on the edge of their seat. Say what you will about the man, he took a brightly lit auditorium full of laughing cheering people and creeped the living shit out of everyone in it in about two minutes. And when I left, I checked my backseat before getting it, and I wasn’t the only one in the parking lot who did.


So I was more than a little anxious to read this when it was finally published in 1997. I was delighted that King delivered a thrilling and satisfying outcome to the cliffhanger that had me on pins and needles for six goddamn years. I was even more thrilled when the gunslingers crossed from Mid-World to Topeka since I’m a Kansan, and we don’t get a lot of fiction set here. The idea that a Dark Tower novel was going to at least partially take place in my neck of the woods had me bouncing in my chair as I read. It was even cooler when the Topeka that Roland and company were in was apparently the Topeka from The Stand, my favorite King novel.

When Roland and his friends headed east on I-70, I remembered the ‘94 tour, and I realized that King had very probably been inspired by his motorcycle ride after that appearance when he had told us that he’d be starting the new book soon. I theorized that I’d seen the man himself the night before he’d taken that drive and probably come up with that scene. It felt like I’d been near the blast zone of his inspiration, and I got a remarkable kick out of that.

And then the whole book went to hell.

This was several years before George Lucas would impart his painful lesson to all of us regarding prequels, and King made some of the same mistakes first. Fifteen year old Roland has been sent out of Gilead to a rural community called Majis by his father along with his friends Cuthbert and Alain after passing his early manhood test. We’d already gotten glimpses of a very young Roland in The Gunslinger so setting a tale shortly after this didn’t really tell us anything new about Roland's history.

Plus, King decided that Roland needed a tragic love story in his background so most of the book is filled with the young passion of the gunslinger and Susan Delgado, a beautiful girl who has agreed to be a kind of concubine to the mayor. Roland and his friends stumble across a conspiracy among the locals to help John Farson, the leader of a the opposition of a civil war that is distracting everyone to the larger problem of how time and space have started going adrift in Roland’s world.

If King wanted to do a flashback novel, I would have much preferred to get more information about any of the many other numerous events that he only touched on or teased in the rest of the books. (Like the Battle of Jericho Hill for example.) Instead, we get a drawn out cat-and-mouse game between Roland and a failed gunslinger as he and Susan sneak around to see each other on the sly.

I probably wouldn’t have been quite so disappointed if King hadn’t gone and done the one thing I can’t forgive: he incorporated The Wizard of Oz into the ending.

I HATE the goddamn Wizard of Oz.

It’s a Kansas thing. When you’re from here and particularly when you had a job where you traveled a lot and every single freaking person you meet has to say things like, “Oh, I guess you’re not in Kansas anymore! Yuk yuk!” or “Where’s Toto? Yuk yuk!” and then you spend a couple of nights in jail for punching some of those fucktards in the throat…. Well, let’s just say you tend to flip through the movie when you see it on TV.

So my Wizard and Glass experience went kind of like this:

- “It’s finally here!

- Wow, that was awesome!

-Holy shit! It’s Topeka!

- Holy shit! It’s Topeka from The Stand! Even better!

-Oh, flashback time. We’re going to see younger Roland whip some ass and get some answers.

- Love story?

-Well, I guess those guys are kind of evil.

-Love story??

- They’re just going to sit around waiting?

- Love story???

- Why do they all talk so stupid?

- Love st.ZZZZZZZZZZ

-Urk.. What’s going on? Oh, finally! Shooting! Battle! Killing!

- Back to I-70 outside of Topeka. Maybe this is getting back on track.

- Wait…. No… Seriously. The Wizard of Oz??…. Really? I mean, I know it’s Kansas, but that’s all you could come up with….For fuck’s sake you aren’t really going to have the goddamn dog put on ruby shoes too are you? Oh, you are. Suck my….”

And then I had to wait another six goddamn years for the next book.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 54) (54 new)


Stephen Outstanding review!! Laughed out loud.

Of course, this is my single favorite book in the whole series so I will need to respond when I update my review in the next week or so.


Kemper Stephen wrote: "Outstanding review!! Laughed out loud.

Of course, this is my single favorite book in the whole series so I will need to respond when I update my review in the next week or so."


Thanks! As Dan has pointed out to me, I may have a few biases regarding this one. I can't imagine what he's talking about...


Stephen Funny, I didn't notice any undue animosity from your review. ;)

Seriously though, when I think about the entire series, the first scene that comes to mind is the scene in the saloon when Roland and the boys take on the Big Coffin Hunters. My single favorite scene. But the Wizard of Oz...completely agree on that horrific tie in choice.


Stephanie Oh, Kemper, very funny. I thought the same thing about Oy putting on the shoes. Only evil dog owners put shoes on their dogs. I forgive the ones that are search and rescue and need to protect the paws.

But I still really like the book.

Stephen that is my favorite scene as well. Can't wait to see that on film...fingers crossed.


Stephen Stephanie wrote: "Stephen that is my favorite scene as well. Can't wait to see that on film..."

I have played that scene in my head so many times I am worried that the film adaptation won't measure up....of course if it does, WOW!!


message 6: by Dan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan Schwent We're not in Nebraska anymore.


Kemper Stephen wrote: "Seriously though, when I think about the entire series, the first scene that comes to mind is the scene in the saloon when Roland and the boys take on the Big Coffin Hunters."

Yeah, that was pretty good. And I liked the resolution of the cliffhanger with Blaine, them crossing over into Stand-style Topeka, the big battle at the end, and I liked Cuthbert a lot. But I just couldn't get over waiting years for the book, then having everything come to a screeching halt to tell the story of Roland & Susan, which was way down on my list of untold stories of Mid-World.


Kemper Stephanie wrote: "Oh, Kemper, very funny. I thought the same thing about Oy putting on the shoes. Only evil dog owners put shoes on their dogs.

When they put the shoes on Oy and had to click his goddamn heels, I nearly puked. I was screaming at the book, "Just have Jake carry the damn dog, King!"


Kemper Dan wrote: "We're not in Nebraska anymore."

Take that, Cornhuskers!


message 10: by Bill (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bill Great review!


Kemper Bill wrote: "Great review!"

Thanks!


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Good review.

However....Insomnia is NOT pure crap! Man, I think that's one of King's very best. Such a wicked and wild ride of the imagination with an interesting main character and with some awesome ties to the DT.


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

BTW, WaG is my least favorite of the DT series. I love the very beginning and the end. However, the entire flashback is a waste of time.


Kemper D_Davis wrote: "However....Insomnia is NOT pure crap! Man, I think that's one of King's very best.

We'll have to agree to disagree about that. I think it and Rose Madder are his two worst books. He wrote somewhere (In his On Writing maybe?) that those two books were the only ones he ever did from outlines and he seemed less than pleased with the results. I'm sure he still cashed the checks though.


message 15: by j (new) - rated it 3 stars

j "And then I had to wait another nine goddamn years for the next book."

nine? why didn't you just read it when it came out, in 2003?

just needling you. great, appropriately angry review. i ahte the flashback. i was so excited for the book, and then i got halfway through it and stalled. for six years.


Kemper Joel wrote:
nine? why didn't you just read it when it came out, in 2003?


Aw, hell. You see what King did to me? He angried up my blood and then I can't do the maths no more... I have corrected it now.


message 17: by Cassy (new)

Cassy Great review! I love the bit about King scaring the audience.

I didn't like when Hyperion ended on the Wizard of Oz note. I vaguely remember The Postman had allusions to the movie as well. I'm not from Kansas, but it brothered me both times nonetheless.


Kemper Cassy wrote: "I didn't like when Hyperion ended on the Wizard of Oz note. I vaguely remember The Postman had allusions to the movie as well. ..."

Yeah, I wasn't too thrilled with the Hyperion thing but it wasn't so big that it got to me like the W&G thing did. I don't remember it in The Postman, but it's been a while since I read it.


Kemper A Joker clap! This is my proudest moment.


Erin (Paperbackstash) *Proud Book Hoarder* lol just read the book last night. I just started reading the series a few weeks ago so clearly didnt have to wait that long in between, friend loaned me the entire series at once. Sorry you were dissappointed with the story, I found the back story intriguing but probably since I enjoyed the characters so much.


Stephanie I liked the back story too.


Kemper Stephanie wrote: "I liked the back story too."

I don't even know you any more.....


Kemper Erin wrote: "lol just read the book last night. I just started reading the series a few weeks ago so clearly didnt have to wait that long in between, friend loaned me the entire series at once. Sorry you were d..."

See, I think if you waited a few years between #3 and this one, you could share in my anger.


Stephanie "I don't even know you any more..... "

Oh come on Kemper, cut me some slack.....No matter how cynical I may seem, a girl does like a love story now and again. Besides, I'm still with you on the Wizard of Oz crap.


Kemper Stephanie wrote: "Besides, I'm still with you on the W..."

I guess I can let it slide then...


Erin (Paperbackstash) *Proud Book Hoarder* Kemper wrote: "Erin wrote: "lol just read the book last night. I just started reading the series a few weeks ago so clearly didnt have to wait that long in between, friend loaned me the entire series at once. Sor..."


You could be right, could make a difference


Trudi LOL! Awesome :)


Kemper Trudi wrote: "LOL! Awesome :)"

Thanks!


Skyemberr I understand your patience wearing thin, but I actually LOVED insomnia, and again it has a touchstone into the tower series.


message 31: by Jaime (new)

Jaime Lee Best review ever.


message 32: by Jon (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jon Bauer I appreciate it when folks put serious effort into a review. Especially on a series like Dark Tower. I disagree (for reasons that are irrelevant) but still loved the review. Cheers!


Kemper Thanks all.


message 34: by Kate (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kate Just waded my way through this and I have to agree 100%.
I loved the current day stuff (Topeka etc) but the flashback section was like wading through syrup. And yeah 'OZ' was a WTF moment from me too.
And I *hated* Susan. Absolutely hated her.


message 35: by L. (new) - rated it 4 stars

L. Lawson Awesome review. I loved Insomnia though...so.... You didn't like The Tommyknockers, did you?


message 36: by Kemper (last edited Apr 18, 2013 06:27AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kemper Kate wrote: "Just waded my way through this and I have to agree 100%.
I loved the current day stuff (Topeka etc) but the flashback section was like wading through syrup. And yeah 'OZ' was a WTF moment from me ..."


I might have liked the flashback stuff more if it had been Roland in his prime and not focused on the love story. I didn't hate Susan, just didn't need a tragic love story in the middle of a western/fantasy/sci-fi/horror/action-adventure series.


Kemper L. wrote: "Awesome review. I loved Insomnia though...so.... You didn't like The Tommyknockers, did you?"

Thanks. Tommyknockers is way down my King reading list but not at the bottom like Insomnia, Rose Madder or Desperation.


message 38: by F.R. (new) - rated it 3 stars

F.R. I actually didn't mind the idea of a flashback (although it's not as successful as I would have liked it to be), after all we've heard a lot about Cuthbert and Gilead so it makes sense to go visit. I wouldn't use The Phantom Menace principal to rail against the whole notion.
If I'm honest I'm still more disturbed by the doorway to our world. It's like George R Martin set up a magical doorway which took Jon Snow to Western Super Mare.


Kemper F.R. wrote: "I actually didn't mind the idea of a flashback (although it's not as successful as I would have liked it to be), after all we've heard a lot about Cuthbert and Gilead so it makes sense to go visit...."

I wouldn't have minded a flashback if it would have had some purpose other than just showing us Roland's first mission and his falling for Susan. I think King made the same mistake that Lucas did by taking the whole thing back too far. I feel the same way about see the adventures of young Roland the same way about seeing Darth Vader as a little kid. I don't want to see them as kids or teenagers, I want to see them when they were doing stuff that has a direct bearing on the larger story.

Plus, we got some glimpses of young Roland in The Gunslinger so I would have preferred getting more of the story when Roland was in his prime. And the love story didn't help either.

And I haven't read the George RR Martin books mainly because Dark Tower gave me a permanent aversion for diving into a fantasy series with a dawdling author who always seems to find other things to do.


message 40: by L. (new) - rated it 4 stars

L. Lawson Kemper wrote: "F.R. wrote: "I actually didn't mind the idea of a flashback (although it's not as successful as I would have liked it to be), after all we've heard a lot about Cuthbert and Gilead so it makes sense..."

You're missing out, imho.


message 41: by F.R. (new) - rated it 3 stars

F.R. Ha! I've also not started The Game of Thrones books (preferring the TV series instead) for much the sane reasons. Possibly the reason I've now opened the door to The Dark Tower is that I know there's an ending.


Kemper F.R. wrote: "Ha! I've also not started The Game of Thrones books (preferring the TV series instead) for much the sane reasons. Possibly the reason I've now opened the door to The Dark Tower is that I know there..."

I'm also content to watch the HBO show while enjoying the wails and cries of those reading the books.


message 43: by Dan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dan Schwent Kemper wrote: "I'm also content to watch the HBO show while enjoying the wails and cries of those reading the books. "

I think the show is more enjoyable. It prunes away a lot of the nonessential crap and tightens things up.


Kemper Dan wrote: "Kemper wrote: "I'm also content to watch the HBO show while enjoying the wails and cries of those reading the books. "

I think the show is more enjoyable. It prunes away a lot of the nonessential..."


Plus, even if GRRM drops dead tomorrow, the HBO people will have to come up with an ending of some kind eventually. So I don't have to worry about being left hanging on the books.


message 45: by Teki (new) - rated it 2 stars

Teki Bell I laughed)) It's funny, that I felt the same way about "love" and "Oz" thing. But it was particularly the fault of "Oz", that I disliked the book in the end (for some reason I never liked the story, though I'm not from Kanzas). I have read this book twice and I really liked all the romance when I was twenty or less years old naive young girl *^^*. But now that I'm thirty, the story and main characters appeared to be lame and pathetic and too real to be interesting.
After this book I started to think that Roland is just a common pathetic old man, I hate this feeling : /


message 46: by Jennifer (new) - added it

Jennifer Ashton-Smith thanks for the spoiler. ...azz


Kemper Jennifer wrote: "thanks for the spoiler. ...azz"

I would take your complaint more seriously if there actually were any spoilers and if you knew how to spell the word 'ass'.


Stephanie Maybe she was going for 'Oz'


message 49: by Jack (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jack Thomas Oh my gosh, I just finished this one and I think you're spot on. This was one of the most long, drawn-out, everyone just sits around and nothing happens stories I've ever read. Loves scenes without end. Characters' thoughts going around in circles. Everyone just sitting around. And sitting around. And love scenes. And sitting around.

And then that ending. I didn't hate the tie to Wizard of Oz because I have anything against the movie, but because it was just a monumentally stupid thing to put in a book. When Oy was on his back and they were shoving his legs together to make his dog shoes click, I couldn't help but think back to the magnificence of the first novel, where the world seemed so rich and the plot so interesting. I couldn't help but remember that book, and I think a little whimper probably escaped my lips.

My wife and I were enjoying reading at the same time for a while, but after Wizard and Glass she's quit. And I'm not even sure I want to go on either. I don't know what this crap is, but it's not a good fantasy story, that's for sure. I don't understand the love everyone has for it. I did a couple books ago, but certainly not now.


Logan Good We'll put. I was completely disappointed with this next installment of the dark tower. The plot is so boring and we learn next to nothing about Roland except for the fact that he loved Susan Delgado.


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