Book 556: Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower #4) – Stephen King

Wizard and Glass cover artI had to take a few days after finishing this book to process it before I wrote my response. It’s now been a week and three books later and I’m still trying to figure out this book.

During that time I happened to look on Goodreads (here we go again), not to read the reviews of this, but to see whether I should read The Wind Through the Keyhole. I wanted to know if I should read it in its rightful place between book four and book five or after I’d read the series and I was SHOCKED to find that people were sharply divided over this book.

Overwhelmingly, it felt that people did not enjoy this book and I am still flabbergasted by it. They all felt that this one and the next, Wolves of the Calla, were slow and uninspiring. I could see where they would think this book was slow, but it paced such an emotional wallop that I couldn’t even begin processing it for a few days.

This book picks up immediately after The Waste Lands with Roland, Susannah, Eddie, Jake and Oy on the evil train, Charlie, heading toward Topeka, Kansas. Suffice to say they get to Kansas and then they realize not everything is as it was. Something has changed and they’re no longer on the path to the Dark Tower and so they have to find their way back. What happens next threw me for a loop, not only because it was an emotional rollercoaster, but 90% of this book was a flashback to Roland’s youth. Both their trip to Kansas and the flashback take place on the edge of this world or in the one right next to it or a mirror world. If I had to place the outer Barony of Mejis it would be somewhere in Texas or the southwest because of the horse ranches and the Spanish words and phrases dropped in here and there.

I’m not sure I’ll ever find the answers that I want, specifically about how Roland’s world is different from our (Susannah, Jake and Eddie) world because in this book it became very clear that it was almost the exact same thing but with minor differences (i.e. professional sports team names/locations). I haven’t fully read them yet, but I’m wondering whether King and Terry Brooks had a conversation about it in the late 70s early, because a lot of this reminds me of the small weird differences in the books of The Shannara Chronicles. It’s eerie how similar both worlds are in that they’ve moved on, however I think that on is a direct link to our world and this one is more of a tangential connection.

Where I think King’s strengths lie in this book are his characters and their development. He mentioned in the afterward that he struggles with romance and I did not see that in this book. The relationship between Roland and Susan Delgado though brief was incredibly intense and powerful. This book served to humanize Roland in a way we have not yet seen in the series.

“His heart had been broken. And now, all these years later, it seemed to him that the most horrible fact of human existence was that broken hearts mended.” (Loc. 1240)

“True love, like any other strong and addicting drug, is boring—once the tale of encounter and discovery is told, kisses quickly grow stale and caresses tiresome…except, of course, to those who share the kisses, who give and take the caresses while every sound and color of the world seems to deepen and brighten around them. As with any other strong drug, true first love is really only interesting to those who have become its prisoners. And, as is true of any other strong and addicting drug, true first love is dangerous.” (Loc. 5789)

The more I read, the more I feel Eddie acts as a stand in for all the readers. His skepticism, his occasionally naïveté, and him breaking the seriousness up on occasion make it easier for the reader to process everything that happens.

When the flashback ended, I felt like Roland in that I was exhausted, abandoned, weathered, and like I’d lived a thousand lives. What Roland faced at 14, after he’d become a gunslinger extraordinarily early, during this flashback shows not only his maturity and his strengths as a person and a gunslinger, but also his limitations as a man and a person. There were hints of other things to come in the series that I’m hoping we’ll get flashbacks of too, but I won’t hold my breath.

The impact of this story on King’s career and the die-hard followers it spawned is crazy, but King said it best,

“I have written enough novels and short stories to fill a solar system of the imagination, but Roland’s story is my Jupiter—a planet that dwarfs all the others (at least from my own perspective), a place of strange atmosphere, crazy landscape, and savage gravitational pull. Dwarfs the others did I say? I think there’s more to it than that, actually. I am coming to understand that Roland’s world (or worlds) actually contains all the others of my making…” (Loc. 11273)

I’m limited on my horror works by King and so can’t really say, but I’m definitely a fan of this series and ready to keep moving forward. I feel that even if I didn’t know of his success as an author these would still have pulled me into them.

Recommendation: Holy Shit. Read this book and this series. I found this to be one of the most rewarding books. The series may be incredibly slow because it reads like one book, but this book gripped me in a way the others haven’t been able to do so yet.

Opening Line: “The town of Candelton was a poisoned and irradiated ruin, but not dead; after all the centuries it still twitched with tenebrous life—trundling beetles the size of turtles, birds that looked like small, misshapen dragonlets, a few stumbling robots that passed in and out of the rotten buildings like stainless steel zombies, their joints squalling, their nuclear eyes flickering.”

Closing Line: “With Oy in the lead, they once more set out for the Dark Tower, walking along the Path of the Beam.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)

Additional Quotes from Wizard and Glass
“When things got weird enough, someone always found a lynchrope, it seemed.” (Loc. 1421)

“‘Because it’s trouble,’ Roland said, ‘and it’s in our road. We’ll get there in time. No need to live in trouble until trouble comes.'” (Loc. 1921)

“Men! She could not understand why so many women feared them. Hadn’t the gods made them with the most vulnerable part of their guts hanging right out of their bodies, like a misplaced bit of bowel? Kick them there and they curled up like snails. Caress them there and their brains melted.” (Loc. 2071)

“It was all right to feel fear, but sometimes a very bad idea to show it.” (Loc. 2231)

“Fools are the only folk on the earth who can absolutely count on getting what they deserve.” (Loc. 2834)

“Eventually, the man the boy had become had found a gun, of course; the exiles always did, if they looked hard enough. That such guns could never be quite the same as the big ones with the sandalwood grips might haunt them for the rest of their lives, but those who needed guns could find them, even in this world.” (Loc. 3148)

“He accepted love as a fact rather than a flower, and it rendered her genial contempt powerless over both of them.” (Loc. 4348)

“So do we pass the ghosts that haunt us later in our lives; they sit undramatically by the roadside like poor beggars, and we see them only from the corners of our eyes, if we see them at all. The idea that they have been waiting there for us rarely if ever crosses our minds. Yet they do wait, and when we have passed, they gather up their bundles of memory and fall in behind, treading in our footsteps and catching up, little by little.” (Loc. 6133)

“Time was a face on the water, and this time it was the face of her father.” (Loc. 7771)

“‘Sai Manto’ Rimer had said, and the other two had laughed. It had been meant as a harmless joke, but it hadn’t seemed harmless to Reynolds. In many of the lands where he had travelled, manto meant not ”cloak’ but ‘leaner’ or ‘bender.’ That Rimer (a provincial man under his veneer of cynical sophistication) didn’t know this never crossed Reynold’s mind. He knew when people were making small of him, and he coul dmake such a person pay, he did so.” (Loc. 7969)

“So unaware that he was once more lapsed into the unwisdom of the very young—Roland cannot grasp that unhappiness and shame are often no match for desire—he has come here to speak to his mother, to beg her to come back to her husband before it’s too late. He has saved her from herself once, he will tell her, but he cannot do it again.” (Loc. 11057)


5 thoughts on “Book 556: Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower #4) – Stephen King”

  1. Geoff, I am so pleased to hear you enjoyed this – it is mine and my dad’s favourite book of the whole series! We also loved The Wind Through the Keyhole but we read it when it was released which was after we’d already finished the series. Not sure it matters about reading it in order as, similar to this book, most of it is Roland telling the ka-tet a story rather than moving the present story on.

    Liked by 1 person

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