I Kill With My Heart, Motherfucker

(The Waste Lands: The Dark Tower III)4

The first three Dark Tower books have always been the ones I find most difficult to get through. Of the three, this is the easiest one. I like the beginning of the book where they’re getting Jake from New York into Mid-World. And Blaine the Mono shows up near the end, and I like everything having to do with Blaine the Mono. It’s the stuff in the middle where I lose the plot a bit. I’m less fond of the whole scene with Aunt Talitha and the others. And when Jake gets kidnapped by Gasher, I really get sort of bored.

I think it may just be a little bit too much for one story. It doesn’t seem to me that they’re covering all that much ground, but they do encounter a whole bunch of people in this world that’s supposed to be dying. I think if it were just the scene with Aunt Talitha and her people it would be OK, and if it were just the Pubes and Grays and Jake being temporarily kidnapped, I’d be OK. But there’s both, and I just want them to get on with it to the train they’ve been teasing for a while now.

But, let me remind you, I actually started this series the first time with Wizard and Glass, which begins as the ka-tet is getting close to the end of their run with Blaine. Of course, I figured out pretty quickly that I came in at the middle of a series, and I don’t recommend anyone reading by starting with Wizard and Glass before going back to the beginning. But since that’s what I did — and since it was a little while before I managed to read all three of the books that came before and come back around to Wizard and Glass — I think that WaG is kind of cemented in my brain as sort of a starting point, and by the time Gasher comes along in The Waste Lands, I’m itching to get to that starting point, or something resembling it, which would be the end of this book where Blaine first shows up. That’s a fault of my own mind and my accidental start of the series in the middle, not a real flaw in the books.

I’m sort of fascinated by the mental divide that both Roland and Jake are experiencing at the beginning of the book. Of course, that’s precisely what should happen, given that Jake really is supposed to be dead — twice — at this point, but isn’t. But I think in a different kind of story, Roland preventing Jake’s New York death would just cancel out his existence in Roland’s world at the beginning — it would solve a paradox rather than creating one. I like that in this story, this is where you get the paradox. Of course, it still doesn’t adequately explain what Jake was doing in Roland’s world post-death in the first place, but I’m willing to handwave that, I guess. This is a world where random doors just appear when people are needed from other worlds, and where it’s easier than it should be to cross between worlds anyway because of the whole moving on thing. I’m willing to just believe that death is another type of door that occasionally shunts people into Roland’s world instead of wherever they ought to be going after dying in their own world, and that this occasionally just happens because things aren’t right. They sort of allude to it, too, with the discovery of the Nazi plane and David Quick and whatnot.

Jake’s actual entrance into Roland’s world is quite something. Everyone has something important to do — and at least one ka-tet member’s role here will have far-reaching consequences. I’m of course referring to Susannah’s encounter with the demon — it seems like it’s over, but it’s not. Not really.

And of course, this is the book where we meet Oy. I’m not a huge fan of animal stories usually, either on their own or as a major part of human stories. But Oy isn’t an ordinary animal, of course. And he speaks! Well, sort of. I like Oy. I like that he’s really a full part of the ka-tet, not just along for the ride. And I know that he becomes more important later, but it seems to me that he’s pretty important now — I don’t know that Jake would have been rescued without Oy.

The bit of the kidnapping storyline I’m most interested in is the reveal of Flagg (under another name, but still Flagg.) If you haven’t already, this is where you start to put together how he’s a menacing character not just in a variety of stories, but in a variety of universes. And you start to really see more connections between this and other King works.

Blaine, meanwhile — honestly, Blaine is just fun. A homicidal train that wants to play riddle games? What’s not to like? I almost don’t care why he’s there or how he got to be like he is. It’s a fun concept that is played for all the hilarity and terror that it’s worth, and the combination is just so good.

In large part, this book feels like it accomplishes 3 major things — getting Jake into the world, adding Oy to the ka-tet, and getting the group onto Blaine, which will speed their ultimate journey along. It does that (and then some). I’ll be glad to get to Wizard and Glass — I know that’s a book that’s heavy with backstory, but I also feel like the main story starts moving more quickly after that.

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