Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Cannonball Read #5: Wizard and Glass by Stephen King

I kept eyeing the pile of books I had just received in the post lying on the living room table as I read the middle pages of Stephen King's ”Wizard and Glass”. Exciting books. Hand-picked by yours truly, all unique and whispering about amazing new worlds that would be revealed to me when I started turning their pages. I couldn't wait to read them. In fact, I was tempted to start reading one or two before I was even finished with King's book.

Yet they were all almost forgotten when I finally reached the last of the 700 pages of Stephen King's fourth part in the Dark Tower series. All I wanted now was to start on the fifth book. You can't come this far in a heptalogy and not have invested in the characters, not want to know what happens to them next, not worry about their fate. My eagerness to get started on the next part of the story was evidence of the kind of impact this book had made on me, and how well King succeeded in creating a page-turner.

Stephen King has this remarkable talent to throw ingredients into his big old cauldron that shouldn't work together (robots and cowboys? Classic movies and riddle-loving trains?) but somehow he keeps delivering, if not culinary wonders, then at least solid, tasteful dishes. For him you're willing to suspend the hell out of your disbelief. And the result is a western / science-fiction / fantasy amalgam that will reward you for your efforts.

The beginning of the story finds our heroes struggling to survive and to continue on the path of the Beam towards the Dark Tower. But Roland has a story about his past he needs to tell, and he proceeds to do so for the largest part of the book. It is a love story; it is a war story. And it is a story that we, as readers of this series, need to know about in order to understand his character and his motivations better.

”Wizard and Glass” is a suspenseful, well-written book that completely absorbed me. King continues to build rich, believable worlds in which he stages battles between good and evil, and in which tragic stories unfold. Tragic stories that pack a strong emotional punch. My only (and, truthfully, pretty minor) complaint was that I was sometimes drawn out of Roland's world by King's very distinctive tropes, like his portrayal of young characters as precocious. That one of them might think like an adult, I can buy. But that every single one of them should be like that? My suspension of disbelief isn't that great. Still, it was a thrill-ride of a book and my favourite one in the series so far.

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