Stephen King’s THE DARK TOWER Book Profile: WIZARD AND GLASS

W&GcoverYear Published: 1997

“Re” Word: Regard

Dedication:This book is dedicated to Julie Eugley and Marsha DeFilippo. They answer the mail, and most of the mail for the last couple of years has been about Roland of Gilead — the gunslinger. Basically, Julie and Marsha nagged me back to the word processor. Julie, you nagged me most effectively, so your name comes first.

Eh, I always felt this was a bit of a backhanded compliment.  SK refers to both of his assistants as “naggers,” and then praises Julie for doing it better.  I wonder how poor Marsha felt about that.

W&G4Overview: Now finding themselves lost and in an alternate version of Topeka, Kansas, the ka-tet listens to Roland tell a long, epic tale from his youth.

Critique: This one has always split readers.  The common complaint I often hear from first-time readers is “Ugh, I don’t care about this flashback.  I want SK to get back to the present-story” or “No, SK can’t write romance.”  However, after finishing the series and looking back on it as a whole, their opinion for this entry tends to go up.  That’s because when you judge this book for what it is, a charming interlude in the middle of the series, it’s actually a great novel, just as epic and full of world-building as THE WASTE LANDS.  I don’t think SK has gotten enough credit for what he achieved in this novel: Young Roland is a well-realized character, who seems much more tragic when you know what he will become, yet it’s very believable that he will.  Susan, Cuthbert, Alain, and Sheemie are also great characters.

To those who complain of the love story, I have two responses to that.  First off, SK himself acknowledges that it’s a melodramatic love story.  His goal wasn’t to capture what it’s like to be in love but to capture what it’s like to be 14 years old and in love for the first time.  Of course everything is exaggerated.  Maybe the fact that I was 14 when I first read this was why I connected so well.  Secondly, to say that this flashback is just a love story is selling it short.  It’s also a strong western with a large cast of characters.  I will also say that this book has the best villains of the entire series.  Rhea of the Coos is creepy and evil while Eldred Jonas is three-dimensional and serves as a failed version of Roland.  Finally, there’s the final piece of the story: Roland’s murder of his mother.  In an odd way, the entire book is more about that event than it is about Susan.

Pretty much the only thing I dislike in this book is the scene at the very end with Tick Tock Man and Marten.  First off, what was the point of bringing Tick Tock back from the dead in the last book only to kill him off so easily here?  That plotline went nowhere and should have just been removed.  Secondly, Marten’s dialog here might need to be reworked.  While the scene makes it clear that Marten and Flagg are the same person, it seems to contradict that he’s also Walter, which confused me on a first read.  Roland says “Marten, after all these centuries!” as opposed to saying “Walter!  I last saw you back at the golgotha!”  I also dislike that Walter/Marten/Flagg threatens our heroes, telling them to give up their quest or they’ll be sorry.  Basically, this feels like it’s setting up a future confrontation  that never happens.  MINOR SPOILER FOR THE REST OF THE SERIES: Although Walter will make a cameo in every remaining book, he will never see Roland again.

W&G3Trivia:

-Features a prologue, though it’s actually just recycled material from the previous book.  Is also the last book of the series to NOT include an epilogue.

-This and THE GUNSLINGER are the only two books in the series to not feature anyone traveling either to or from our world (Topeka doesn’t count as our world as it’s clearly an alternate dimension).  And since THE GUNSLINGER included Jake’s flashback, that makes this the only book to not feature either New York or the year 1977 at all.

-The scenes in Topeka reference the events of THE STAND, but in an alternate dimension.  The original edition of THE STAND was set in 1980 and the Expanded Edition was set in 1990.  This version of events sets the superflu outbreak as occurring in 1986.

-Susannah gets a newer, more modern wheelchair in this book.  She’ll keep it until WOLVES OF THE CALLA.

-Walter’s Cameo: Walter appears twice in this book: first when speaking to Jonas in the flashback, and then as Marten/Flagg in the final scene.

-When Sheemie is first introduced in this book, we’re told that Stanley Ruiz, the bartender at the Traveller’s Rest, has a soft spot for the boy, believing there’s a good chance he may be the boy’s father.  However, in DT7 we learn that Sheemie’s full name is Stanley “Sheemie” Ruiz.  Well, gee, I think that solves the mystery pretty clearly.

-I also always thought this had the weirdest title of the seven.  WIZARD AND GLASS sounds awkward and incoherent.  I agree that the orb is a very important part of the story, but why not call the story THE WIZARD’S GLASS?

W&G2FINAL SCORES

The Book Itself: Much like THE GUNSLINGER, this book might not be for everyone, but if you’re open to hearing a charming flashback with a lovely romance, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how rich the tale is.  It’s also nice to get a feel for Roland’s youth for the first time since DT1.  While THE WASTE LANDS is a great epic, WIZARD AND GLASS feels like the natural completion to that work.  One is about the present and the other the past, but they are flip-sides to the same great world.  Verdict: This is the THIRD BEST book of the seven.

Afterword: The afterwords for THE DRAWING OF THE THREE, THE WASTE LANDS, and WIZARD AND GLASS are all pretty much the same: SK is basically giving you a “Where I am now” in this ongoing work-in-progress.  These afterwords were nice; allowing you to see into the writer’s mind while the story was still taking form, and get a peak at what was coming next.  Verdict: DT2, DT3, and DT4 are all tied for the SECOND, THIRD, and FOURTH BEST of the entire series.

Illustrations: This book features illustrations by Dave McKean, and the result is an admirable failure.  These illustrations, shown throughout this blog article, utilize photo-collages and are very striking and super-abstract and impressionistic.  The result is that they are great works of art, but fail as actual depictions of scenes from the novel.  Now let me make it clear that I do like McKean’s work in general, particularly MIRRORMASK and his collaborations with Neil Gaiman.  But his style, while unique, just doesn’t fit the romantic vibe of this book and is actually kind of off-putting.  Verdict: This book has the SIXTH BEST illustrations of the entire series.

W&G1Click here for the next book in the series, when we travel through the Unfound Door!

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One thought on “Stephen King’s THE DARK TOWER Book Profile: WIZARD AND GLASS

  1. Pingback: Stephen King’s THE DARK TOWER Book Profile: THE WASTE LANDS | Let Us Nerd

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