This review is syndicated from my website. Please check back regularly for more!
I must admit that this series has taken a while to grow on me. The chaThis review is syndicated from my website. Please check back regularly for more!
I must admit that this series has taken a while to grow on me. The character of Roland has been intriguing from the start, but the story, the quest, seemed far too vague and the world seemed off. It seemed bland and uninteresting. The RULES of this world seemed inconsistent. The characters, other than Roland seemed transient and not worth the investment of attention or emotion. And while the “big bad” seemed mysterious, there didn’t seem to be much antagonism from the Man In Black. In short, there was little that wanted me to keep reading, but being familiar with the lengthy character development of stories of this type, I kept at it.
And I’m glad I did.
With this third installment, my opinion has changed. The pieces truly began to fall into place. Mid-World began to come alive. The Ka-Tet began to take shape. I felt drawn to these characters as they have been drawn to their quest. Perhaps it was the way that the mystery of Mid-World’s eerie similarity to our world began to rise to the surface, but Mid-World really began to take shape in my mind. I found it incredibly interesting and vaguely familiar. The kind of familiar that plays with the edge of your consciousness. It is almost as though Mid-World exists at the edge of our imagination, something that disappears as we try to find it and becomes more elusive the harder it is sought. It leaves us with questions that don’t seem to have clear answers.
How did a plane from World War II end up there?
How do remnants of our culture pop up?
Is Mid-World a reflection of our world?
How do the doors work?
These questions, and their elusive answers, make Mid-World seem as much a character as any of the companions and easily as mysterious as Roland, especially with the profound connections of the lives of characters from our world and implications of Blaine and Jake’s Final Essay, amongst other thematic and cultural crossovers.
I particularly found the dual time-lines experienced by both Roland and Jake intriguing. Not only did this play to my particular interest in parallel time frames, but it also served as a very human way to integrate story lines. The idea of comparable and parallel realities is a fascinating topic regardless of the circumstances and I believe King handled this with a mastery of wonder that left the reader both satisfied and intrigued, for what is the purpose of a good story if it doesn't generate some reflective questions?
I also found that I began to care more for Eddie and Susannah than I had in the previous book. They began to transform from victims into actual protagonists as it seemed they finally accepted their role. The addition of Jake, and especially of Oy, truly made me feel invested not only in the success of this ka-tet, but also in the individual characters.
One of the elements that is a source of confusion is the somewhat disjointed way in which some of the scenes are written. While on the one hand, I found myself frequently rereading scenes, I also realized that the writing style of these scenes did exactly what they were meant to do: leave the reader with a sense of vague understanding and disjointed wonder, often times not sure of what has just transpired. This technique serves its purpose but often leaves the reader unclear as to what has happened.
The character of Roland is especially masterful in this novel. At once a character like Obi-Wan in Episode IV and Gandalf (although seemingly younger), he not only can handle things himself but senses his changing role. He effectively guides the companions and really comes alive for the reader. Maybe it is because we are not trapped inside his mind alone, but also begin to see him from the vantage points of the other characters.
Regardless, it does seem as though there is much more to him than had been revealed throughout the story so far. It is heavily implied that he knows more about this entire journey than he has let on and it is very clear that he has a storied past, which has yet to be told. But just how much he knows and what his role will continue to be a mystery. I, for one, am excited to discover it. Either way, the enigma of Roland is more than enough to keep the reader wanting more. Roland’s increase in power and presence in the story is best summed up in his challenge to Blaine:
“Kill if you will, but command me nothing! You have forgotten the faces of those who made you! Now either kill us or be silent and listen to me, Roland of Gilead, son of Steven, gunslinger, and lord of the ancient lands! I have not come across all the miles and all the years to listen to your childish prating! Do you understand? Now you will listen to ME!”
The struggle of the ka-tet also begins to take shape as the Man in Black again appears, very much alive. This is a much needed step as this story has really not had much tension other than that which has been internally wrought by Roland and the basic struggles of surviving in an uncaring environment. There hasn't really been much working against the companions except harsh surroundings and circumstantial pressure. The Man in Black’s recruitment of Tick Tock puts a face to an otherwise elusive evil force and brings the story to a new level.
The role of technology (Blaine, the gas, the Beam, the Bear) is a very intriguing element of not only Mid-World, but of the story in general. Whether or not it is intentional on King’s part, the foreboding nature of tech in Mid-World comes across as a very vivid warning: dependence on such is precarious and can cause great harm. I do find it interesting that the protagonists seem to uphold an ancient sense of honor and self-reliance that negates the need for such tools. Technology in this world is indifferent at best and malicious at worst, seeming to have taken on an almost human facade of spite. From the vague familiarity to the sense of foreboding surrounding technology, the reader feels an intuitive pull that perhaps Mid-World isn't a where, but rather a when....more