King continues Roland's story

February 16, 1992|By Gregory N. Krolczyk

THE WASTE LANDS: THE DARK TOWER, BOOK III.Stephen King.

Plume.

422 pages. $15 (paperback).

In this, the third novel of six (or seven) in Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series, Roland, the Last Gunslinger, continues his quest through this world that has "moved on" for the Dark Tower. He is joined by Eddie Dean, an ex-addict from the New York of the 1980s, and the wheelchair-bound woman who now calls herself Susannah (formerly from the New York of the 1960s).

Unfortunately, Roland now is uncertain he will see his quest to its end, for he thinks he's going mad. The cause of his madness is a paradox he himself created.

Back when he was following the man in black, Roland befriended a boy named Jake who came to Roland's world after being killed in ours. Eventually, Jake died because Roland was unwilling to stay his quest long enough to save the boy's life, something for which Roland never forgave himself.

Later, Roland got what he hoped would be a reprieve when, during a journey to Manhattan of the mid-1970s, he was able to stop Jake's death.

But instead of a reprieve, Roland was left to wonder how, if Jake never died in Manhattan, he could have ever come to Roland's world as Roland clearly knows he did?

Now these conflicting memories are waging an all-out war in Roland's mind, and he's not sure how much longer he can take it.

Meanwhile, a similar war is occurring in the mind of a young Manhattan boy who knows that, to get it to stop, he must somehow make his way to Roland, and the world that has "moved on."

Readers who skipped this series because its first book, "The Gunslinger," is so convoluted and confusing should rethink their decision. For, like "The Drawing of the Three," "The Waste Lands" reads as if Mr. King, with nothing to prove and no one to impress, simply decided to have some fun writing. And Mr. King

having fun is Mr. King at his best.

Mr. Krolczyk is a writer living in Baltimore.

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