At the risk of repeating myself, allow me to give a little background on King’s “Dark Tower” series. When the first book of the seven volume series, The Gunslinger, was published, it was an extraordinarily hot Texas summer. My Better Half and I checked out the unabridged CD of King’s novel, our first foray into audio books. As the over one hundred degree afternoons droned on, we listened to Roland’s (protagonist’s) story while letting the fan blow across us on the bed. The reader’s voice did NOT drone on and on, and we were caught up in the exciting, action-packed narrative, filled with King’s exquisite imagination.
The same reader read through Book III of the series, then died. King said (in a newspaper account) he would never let anyone else read that particular series, so readers were committed to reading in print themselves the rest of the saga. Wizard and Glass was Book IV, and when I first attempted to read it, it seemed dull by comparison to the insane trip on Blaine the Train in Book III that I skipped Book VI and went on to Book V, The Wolves of Calla,which became, perhaps my favorite book in the whole series. Since it was a detour from the quest/journey the ka-tet was on, there was no disconnect in the plot. I read The Song of Susanna, Book VI next, another side-trip into Roland’s past, which revealed a darker side of both the gunslinger Susan and especially of Roland, the original gunslinger. It was perhaps the weakest book of the series, in my opinion, and certainly the goriest, grossest of all the books. Before reading Book VII, the end of the story, I realized there were gaps that I needed to fill in, so I returned to Book IV, which was all I lacked before reading the conclusion.
Book VI, Wizard and Glass, is a fascinating look into young (14 years old) Roland’s past and his first assignment as a gunslinger, as well as his first love, Susan Delgado. Perhaps one of the strongest features of this novel is the character of Rhea of the Coos, and unforgettable witch/wizard woman who will haunt your dreams and give you night terrors. King outdoes himself with this characters and her “mutie” familiars, so grotesque that they turn your stomach. What she does to Roland and to Susan is revenge and perverseness, pure and simple. Again this book is action-packed, a beautiful story of young love and worthy adversaries to the trio of young gunslingers (Roland and his two best friends) are the Great Coffin Hunters, all working for the Crimson King, who will appear in future books. Perhaps this is one of my favorite things about King’s series (I also found this in The Stand, another of King’s masterpieces.) is how characters from other books turn up in more recent ones to continue to do their evil or to have evil acted upon them; for example, the priest, Callahan, from Salem’s Lot, is a major player in Wolves of the Calla (Book V).
The strange, hypnotic globe in Book IV, the pink light emitting “8 Ball” of this book, is one of the thirteen globes that are encountered all through the series and has a definite effect/influence on the plot, the character development and the growth or devastation of the protagonists and antagonists in Book IV.
Wizard and Globe is long, but when I came to the end and faced the other three volumes with the quartet (quintet if you count Oy) of gunslingers, I was energized and could hardly wait to continue the journey to save the Rose and defeat the power of the Dark Tower and the Crimson King. I do recommend reading the series in order, but King, starring with Book IV, does give a chapter or so refreshing the reader’s memory on what came before. If you do not want to commit to seven volumes (several being over 700 or more pages), Book IV, Wizard and Globe is a good place to jump in. Even the terrorizing suicidal journey on Blaine the Train is repeated and even prolonged and fleshed out a bit. This novel is a stand alone masterpiece and a vital part of Stephen King’s Lifework, “The Dark Tower Series.”