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The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King
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Book Name: The Drawing of the Three
Author: Stephen King
Publisher(s): Signet (US) Hodder Paperbacks (UK)
Formatt: Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Fantasy / Western
Release Date: August 5, 2003 (US) February 1, 2012 (UK)

In The Drawing of the Three, his second step along the journey towards the Dark Tower, King creates another mind-boggling, wonderful, weird, fascinating, adventure akin to the original but with a far better grasp on narrative structure and characterisation. In this second volume, we follow the Gunslinger in his attempts to, as the title aptly suggests, ‘draw his three’: three figures – three destinies that he must obtain in order to get any further towards his ultimate goal.

Whereas The Gunslinger served as a collection of short stories that introduced the central figure and set up the storyline, The Drawing of the Three pulls a brake on the pace of the plot and instead focuses on a single arc in Roland’s life, with minimal insights into his backstory. Indeed the action takes place entirely on one beach where three doors that lead Roland to different time periods in New York are placed at odd, and very distant, intervals. Roland finds himself forced to depart from his own world and make these leaps into, what is to him, an alien land. These scenarios give some excellent introductions to new characters who, we can assume, will play a large part in the series run and have a resounding and memorable impact.

These ventures across worlds give us a very fun and interesting look into a clash of cultures. Roland rather humorously refers to planes as ‘sky carriages’, tuna as ‘toota fish’, and has no idea what Pepsi or aspirin is. It is an exploration into an alien’s perspective on what we consider as everyday things. It makes sense and it’s fully involving. Through King’s writing, you truly get to experience these objects for the first time through Roland’s eyes and this leads to some clever and thought-provoking writing.

For a time however, it is not through his own eyes that Roland witnesses this strange new world. Roland walks through a physical door into the minds of the different figures he is invited to capture. This creates a unique storytelling narrative with his interactions between these characters limited to sharing thoughts in the same mind. Roland learns how to control them, bring items from New York to his world and, in time, he figures out how to physically manifest himself in the city. It’s weird, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s ridiculously engrossing. Something about the distinctive plot elements just shouted out to me as I read this novel. This is a series so radically different to most others that I’ve read, focusing more on characters and strange happenings, rather than physical limitations or other world concerns. This is a story committed to being out of place, out of time, without limits of scope or physicality but with the unstoppable liberation that comes with an imagination such as King’s.

Each novel feels like a step of a journey thus far, one more step towards the Dark Tower, and yet it still doesn’t feel like the story has started properly yet. The Gunslinger could be perceived as a prequel due to its odd narrative construct, and yet The Drawing of the Three itself still feels like an introduction, mainly in this sense due to the new characters. Each are shown in turn, and then their back stories, perilous circumstances, and consequences are all fleshed out episodically. It’s very neatly done and by the end of the novel you have a full appreciation for the new figures in the world who are here to aid Roland on his quest. It’s sensible in terms of the story (by not trying to focus on too many new characters at once) and in terms of the characterisation; now you can continue on in the series with an understanding of the nature of each character, as well their personal drives and motives. This in turn creates fully fleshed-out and realised personalities that really get you caring about them in the building climax of the novel’s final pages.

The character of Odetta, in particular, faces many issues that one would think unusual in a fantasy story. First of all, she is African-American, and so issues and questions about race, although not overly dominant in her story, are important to her character (especially due to her American 1960’s origin). Not only that, but she has a physical disability having lost both her legs in an unfortunate encounter with a train, as well as a severe mental disability with her perpetual struggle against her ‘other’ a foul-mouthed rabid monster known only as ‘Detta’. These last two obstacles mould her into a very interesting and different character to what I have experienced before in my reading history.

Whilst reading the story I couldn’t help but think it had the vibe of an Absurdist drama, like a play written by Samuel Beckett or Harold Pinter. It just had that oddly unique vibe and dramatic chilling atmosphere that such plays evoke. The image of a never-ending beach with nocturnal lobstrosities coming out each night to maim and consume any living thing they came across helped to support this bleak outlook on the future of existence. This a dark tale that tackles a variety of mature themes (such as drug addiction, racism, and extreme violence) making it a very adult and ‘real’ novel.

It is so far an absolutely fantastic and mesmerising series. It’s different, and that is what I find so easy to love about it.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (4 votes cast)
The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King, 10.0 out of 10 based on 4 ratings
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