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Wizard and Glass

Stephen King

Wizard and Glass

  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 the most effectively, so your name comes first.


  All hail the crimson king!

  Her arms and belly and breasts breaking out in gooseflesh

  Cuthbert, meanwhile, had already reloaded

  But he and his love were no longer children

  Smiling lips revealed cunning little teeth

  There they died together-o

  Of the three of them, only Roland saw her It cut the old man's throat efficiently enough A flash as the big-bang exploded The dark tower rearing to the sky The wicked witch of the East ARGUEMENT

  Wizard and Glass is the fourth volume of a longer tale inspired by Robert Browning's narrative poem "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came. "

  The first volume, The Gunslinger, tells how Roland of Gilead pursues and at last catches Walter, the man in black, who pretended friendship with Roland's father but who actually served Marten, a great sorcerer. Catching the half-human Walter is not Roland's goal but only a means to an end: Roland wants to reach the Dark Tower, where he hopes the quickening destruction of Mid-World may be halted, perhaps even reversed.

  Roland is a kind of knight, the last of his breed, and the Tower is his obsession, his only reason for living when first we meet him. We learn of an early test of manhood forced upon him by Marten, who has seduced Roland's mother. Marten expects Roland to fail this test and to be "sent west," his father's guns forever denied him. Roland, however, lays Marten's plans at nines, passing the test . . . due mostly to his clever choice of weapon.

  We discover that the gunslinger's world is related to our own in some fundamental and terrible way. This link is first revealed when Roland meets Jake, a boy from the New York of 1977, at a desert way station. There are doors between Roland's world and our own; one of them is death, and that is how Jake first reaches Mid-World, pushed into Forty-third Street and run over by a car. The pusher was a man named Jack Mort . . . except the thing hiding inside of Mort's head and guiding his murderous hands on this particular occasion was Roland's old enemy, Walter.

  Before Jake and Roland reach Walter, Jake dies again . . . this time because the gunslinger faced with an agonizing choice between this symbolic son and the Dark Tower, chooses the Tower. Jake's last words before plunging into the abyss are "Go, then - there are other worlds than these. "

  The final confrontation between Roland and Walter occurs near the Western Sea. In a long night of palaver, the man in black tells Roland's future with a strange Tarot deck. Three cards - The Prisoner, The Lady of the Shadows, and Death ("but not for you, gunslinger") - are especially called to Roland's attention.

  The second volume, The Drawing of the Three, begins on the edge of the Western Sea not long after Roland awakens from his confrontation with his old nemesis and discovers Walter long dead, only more bones in a place of bones. The exhausted gunslinger is attacked by a horde of carnivorous "lobstrosities," and before he can escape them, he has been seriously wounded, losing the first two fingers of his right hand. He is also poisoned by their bites, and as he resumes his trek northward along the Western Sea, Roland is sickening . . . perhaps dying.

  On his walk he encounters three doors standing freely on the beach. These open into our city of New York, at three different whens. From 1987, Roland draws Eddie Dean, a prisoner of heroin. From 1964, he draws Odetta Susannah Holmes, a woman who has lost her lower legs in a subway mishap . . . one that was no accident. She is indeed a lady of shadows, with a vicious second personality hiding within the socially committed young black woman her friends know. This hidden woman, the violent and crafty Detta Walker, is determined to kill both Roland and Eddie when the gunslinger draws her into Mid-World.

  Between these two in time, once again in 1977, Roland enters the hellish mind of Jack Mort, who has hurt Odetta/Detta not once but twice. "Death," the man in black told Roland, "but not for you, gunslinger. " Nor is Mort the third of whom Walter foretold; Roland prevents Mort from murdering Jake Chambers, and shortly afterward Mort dies beneath the wheels of the same train which took Odetta's legs in 1959. Roland thus fails to draw the psychotic into Mid-World . . . but, he thinks, who would want such a being in any case?

  Yet there's a price to be paid for rebellion against a foretold future; isn't there always? Ka, maggot, Roland's old teacher, Cort, might have said; Such is the great wheel, and always turns. Be not in front of it when it does, or you 'II be crushed under it, and so make an end to your stupid brains and useless bags of guts and water.

  Roland thinks that perhaps he has drawn three in just Eddie and Odetta, since Odetta is a double personality, yet when Odetta and Detta merge as one in Susannah (thanks in large part to Eddie Dean's love and courage), the gunslinger knows it's not so. He knows something else as well: he is being tormented by thoughts of Jake, the boy who, dying, spoke of other worlds. Half of the gunslinger's mind, in fact, believes there never was a boy. In preventing Jack Mort from pushing Jake in front of the car meant to kill him, Roland has created a temporal paradox which is tearing him apart. And, in our world, it is tearing Jake Chambers apart as well.

  The Wastelands, the third volume of the series, begins with this paradox. After killing a gigantic bear named either Mir (by the old people who went in fear of it) or Shardik (by the Great Old Ones who built it. . . for the bear turns out to be a cyborg), Roland, Eddie, and Susannah backtrack the beast and discover Path of the Beam. There are six of these beams, running between the twelve portals which mark the edges of Mid-World. At the point where the beams cross - at the center of Roland's world, perhaps the center of all worlds - the gunslinger believes that he and his friends will at last find the Dark Tower.

  By now Eddie and Susannah are no longer prisoners in Roland's world. In love and well on the way to becoming gunslingers themselves, they are full participants in the quest and follow him willingly along the Path of the Beam.

  In a speaking ring not far from the Portal of the Bear, time is mended, paradox is ended, and the real third is at last drawn. Jake reenters Mid-World at the conclusion of a perilous rite where all four - Jake, Eddie, Susannah, and Roland - remember the faces of their fathers and acquit themselves honorably. Not long after, the quartet becomes a quintet, when Jake befriends a billy-bumbler. Bumblers, which look like a combination of badger, raccoon, and dog, have a limited speaking ability. Jake names his new friend Oy.

  The way of the pilgrims leads them toward Lud, an urban wasteland where the degenerate survivors of two old factions, the Pubes and the Grays, carry on the vestige of an old conflict. Before reaching the city, they come to a little town called River Crossing, where a few antique residents still remain. They recognize Roland as a remnant of the old days, before the world moved on, and honor him and his companions. After, the old people tell them of a monorail train which may still run from Lud and into the wastelands, along the Path of the Beam and toward the Dark Tower.

  Jake is frightened by this news, but not really surprised; before being drawn away from New York, he obtained two books from a bookstore owned by a man with the thought-provoking name of Calvin Tower. One is a book of riddles with the answers torn out. The other, Charlie the Choo-Choo, is a children's book about a train. An amusing little tale, most might say . . . but to Jake, there's something about Charlie that isn't amusing at all. Something frightening. Roland knows something else: in the High Speech of his world, the word char means death.

  Aunt Talitha, the matriarch of the River Crossing folk, gives Roland
a silver cross to wear, and the travellers go their course. Before reaching Lud, they discover a downed plane from our world - a German fighter from the 1930s. Jammed into the cockpit is the mummified corpse of a giant, almost certainly the half-mythical outlaw David Quick.

  While crossing the dilapidated bridge which spans the River Send, Jake and Oy are nearly lost in an accident. While Roland, Eddie, and Susannah are distracted by this, the party is ambushed by a dying (and very dangerous) outlaw named Gasher. He abducts Jake and takes him underground to the Tick-Tock Man, the last leader of the Grays. Tick-Tock's real name is Andrew Quick; he is the great-grandson of the man who died trying to land an airplane from another world.

  While Roland (aided by Oy) goes after Jake, Eddie and Susannah find the Cradle of Lud, where Blaine the Mono awakes. Blaine is the last above-ground tool of the vast computer-system which lies beneath the city of Lud, and it has only one remaining interest: riddles. It promises to take the travellers to the monorail's final stop if they can solve a riddle it poses them. Otherwise, Blaine says, the only trip they'll be taking will be to the place where the path ends in the clearing . . . to their deaths, in other words. In that case they'll have plenty of company, for Blaine is planning to release stocks of nerve-gas which will kill everyone left in Lud: Pubes, Grays, and gun-slingers alike.

  Roland rescues Jake, leaving the Tick-Tock Man for dead . . . but Andrew Quick is not dead. Half blind, hideously wounded about the face, he is rescued by a man who calls himself Richard Fannin. Fannin, however, also identifies himself as the Ageless Stranger, a demon of whom Roland has been warned by Walter.

  Roland and Jake are reunited with Eddie and Susannah in the Cradle of Lud, and Susannah - with a little help from "dat bitch" Detta Walker - is able to solve Blaine's riddle. They gain access to the mono, of necessity ignoring the horrified warnings of Blaine's sane but fatally weak undermind (Eddie calls this voice Little Blaine), only to discover that Blaine means to commit suicide with them aboard. The fact that the actual mind running the mono exists in computers falling farther and farther behind them, running beneath a city which has become a slaughtering-pen, will make no difference when the pink bullet jumps the tracks somewhere along the line at a speed in excess of eight hundred miles an hour.

  There is only one chance of survival: Blaine's love of riddles. Roland of Gilead proposes a desperate bargain. It is with this bargain that The Wastelands ends; it is with this bargain that Wizard and Glass begins.

  romeo: Lady, by yonder blessed moon I vow,

  That tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops -

  juliet: O, swear not by the moon, th' inconstant moon,

  That monthly changes in her circled orb,

  Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.

  romeo: What shall I swear by?

  juliet: Do not swear at all.

  Or, if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self,

  Which is the god of my idolatry,

  And I'll believe thee.

  - Romeo and Juliet William Shakespeare

  On the fourth day, to [Dorothy's] great joy, Oz sent for her, and when she entered the Throne Room, he greeted her pleasantly.

  "Sit down; my dear. I think I have found a way to get you out of this country. "

  "And back to Kansas?" she asked eagerly.

  "Well, I'm not sure about Kansas," said Oz, "for I haven't the faintest notion which way it lies. . . . "

  - The Wizard of Oz L. Frank Baum

  I asked one draught of earlier, happier sights,

  Ere fitly I could hope to play my part.

  Think first, fight afterwards - the soldier's art:

  One taste of the old time sets all to rights!

  - Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came

  Robert Browning