The Waste Lands by Stephen King
|Book Name:||The Waste Lands|
|Formatt:||Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook|
|Genre(s):||Fantasy / Horror|
|Release Date:||August 1991|
There is just so much right about The Waste Lands it actually hurts my mind to picture anything wrong with the novel. Not only does it maintain the quality of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, but somehow makes it even more enthralling, making this the best novel yet. The Waste Lands is an amazing continuation into a thrilling and compelling arc of the story and I found it very difficult to put the novel down (damn full-time employment!).
The story continues the quest for the Dark Tower by our now familiar fellowship; Roland, Eddie, and Susannah. Eddie and Susannah are now at peace with themselves. They have managed to put their pasts behind them, find contentment in their new lives, and almost match Roland’s desire to find the elusive Tower. Roland contrastingly finds himself in a very bad place. Following his world-shaking decisions in the previous volume he is now starting to face the very real consequences that come with taking such liberties. It is a very exciting set-up for the third step along this literary journey.
The two halves of this novel follow two very different, but equally important, story arcs. These are both as incredibly entertaining as they are mind-boggling as you try to keep up with the pace of the plot and piece together the many intricate details and clues to work out what exactly is going on! The first part involves the retrieval of ‘The Boy’ from 1970’s New York, and the second follows the journey to Lud and the search for mad, malicious Blaine the train. Both parts contribute wholeheartedly to the story of this ongoing mystery of a series. The first part in particular is flooded with puzzles and mysteries to the extent that it almost feels like King is inviting the reader to work out what is going on. I adore a novel that makes you think, and boy does this novel twist your mind as you try to pinpoint all the questions, all the enigma, and all the wonders of this dark and dying world.
King makes many references to pieces of popular culture throughout the novel. One that comes to mind is a giant bear called Shardik which makes Eddie think of bunnies (a reference to the novel Shardik by Richard Adams, famous for authoring Watership Down). Another notable example is the split-personality train with rage and riddle issues that draws a ridiculously obvious parallel to Gollum from the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. This insinuation is boosted by Susannah envisioning the party’s journey on the train through the decaying geology of Mid-World as being rather like the journey through Mordor made by Frodo and Sam. I wonder if King draws on such literary allusions to honour the works of authors he admires, or if he feels they have a thematic importance to his work (the Dark Tower supposedly having been heavily influenced by The Lord of the Rings).
These constant references disturbed me as the reader. Are they used to show how closely linked our world is to the world of the Dark Tower? To make the vision of the post-apocalyptic hell that our characters travel through more of a believable alternate world? Or even a way of affirming the world as a possible future of our own if humanity were to travel down desperate paths of division and self-destruction?
The prose is quality stuff and the pacing of the novel is written with true skill and precision. There is something about these novels which makes them so easy to pick up and so difficult to put down, and I believe that it is truly due to King’s proficiency as a storyteller. The characters are always refreshing and full of surprises, the story keeps you guessing, and the setting and atmosphere breathes with a life and soul created by King’s magical imagination. This novel is circa 600 pages in length and I flew through it as if it were 60. The pervading aura of mystery and intrigue is something I find completely irresistible and it was one of the most enjoyable reading experiences I’ve had in the last few years.
This novel placed a strong thematic focus on riddles, with characters bordering on the Tolkienesque in their obsession with the craft (which I daresay King was going for). This made me dwell on the series. I can’t help but think of the whole story as being one big riddle, with the different volumes, and their varying parts and chapters, each constituting another slice of the overall game. This book is filled with enjoyment. An amazing story, a truly unique visionary world, and characters that make you laugh and cry. But still there are so many biting questions, so many elements that don’t make sense! It is absolutely engrossing, and I don’t want it to end.