Released in 1991, “The Waste Lands” gives readers the most explanation of any of the previous novels. This may sound boring, but the novel is action packed throughout. Eddie and Susannah are true gunslingers now and Roland is going insane due to the paradox he created by saving Jake in book two.
The trio travel far in this novel and we learn a lot about the beams connecting the tower to the 12 points around Roland’s world. We travel to a haunted house in New York with Jake, to the war-torn city Lud, ride a riddle-obsessed suicidal train, Blaine the Mono, and even get a brief appearance from one of King’s ultimate baddies.
“The Waste Lands” is a thrill-ride, Olivia and I finished it in three sittings. There are a few sections that get a little slower due to the explanatory bits, but they are very important, and King mixed them in with the action very well. You’ll hit that cliff-hanger at the end and your jaw will be on the ground. Between book two and this one, we have seen some of King’s best work.
Continue your ride on the review train, but beware, spoilers lie in the Waste Lands below.
We start off with Roland, Eddie and Susannah in the woods past the beach we left in book two. Roland is teaching Susannah how to properly shoot a gun like a gunslinger. This is the first time readers get a glimpse of the gunslinger litany and its marvelous:
“I do not aim with my hand; he who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I aim with my eye.
I do not shoot with my hand; he who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I shoot with my mind.
I do not kill with my gun; he who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father. I kill with my heart.”
Roland and Susannah hear crashes and roars and run to find Eddie. They see him at the top of a tree with a giant cyborg bear beneath it trying to get him. After Susannah kills it, we learn this is Shardik, one of the guardians of the beams connected to the Tower.
Roland shows his ka-tet that you can actually see the beams in the sky and the surrounding area. They start following the beam to the center, the Dark Tower. On their journey, Roland and Eddie have dreams. Roland’s of Jake and Eddie’s of the Tower. Eddie’s dreams and growing desire to see the tower are part of the reason why Eddie is the best character. He is genuine, and his curiosity is exactly what every constant reader feels.
Meanwhile, in New York, Jake is having a hard time with his divided mind, much like Roland. Jake has a dream of young Eddie and his older brother Henry. In the dream, Jake follows them to the famous haunted mansion on Dutch Hill. When he awakens from his dream, Jake seeks out and eventually finds young Eddie and follows the brothers to the mansion. Once there and the Dean brothers have departed, Jake goes inside.
While Jake is entering the house, Roland, Eddie, and Susannah have entered a speaking circle guarded by a demonic spirit. While there, Susannah must distract it, sexually, while Eddie draws a door. The circle is where the ka-tet hopes to draw Jake through.
King flips back and forth between the ka-tet and their struggle and Jake and his. Jake is in a house of horrors, pretty much. The descriptions are truly terrifying, especially when the house comes to life and tries to grab Jake and consume him. After a heroic struggle, Jake is finally drawn into Roland’s world. Obviously that description doesn’t cut it, but it is one of the most intense scenes in the book and King set it up and executed it so well.
Once Jake is drawn, his and Roland’s minds are at ease and the ka-tet has one more member. After rounds of story sharing, they are all one the same page and of one mind: khef. Jake tells the trio of a riddle book and a book about a train he found in a NY bookstore. The books foreshadow a train the ka-tet will soon encounter.
They resume their journey toward the war-torn city of Lud. Along the way they pick up a hitchhiker: a little billy-bulmber, a raccoon-fox-like creature named Oy. Oy can somewhat repeat words and phrases and takes an immediate liking to Jake, “Ake.”
The ka-tet reaches a bridge leading to Lud. The bridge is very run-down and on the brink of collapse. They go across single file until they are stopped when Jake and Oy almost fall off. This scene is stressful as hell.
Once they regain their composure, they see a figure on the other side: Gasher. Gasher wants them to hand over Jake or else he’ll blow the bridge. They do… another heartbreaking scene where we have to watch Roland lose Jake.
Gasher drags Jake through a series of twists, turns, tunnels and around traps until they reach the lair of the Tic-Toc man underneath the city. Another heart pounding sequence. Eddie and Susannah go off in search of the train, Blaine the Mono. Roland and Oy search for Jake.
Eddie and Susannah find Blaine and must answer a riddle to board. Roland and Oy find where Jake is being held. Oy goes into the vents and attacks Jake’s captors from the inside and Roland bursts through. Together they escape with Jake and rendezvous with the Deans.
Susannah solves the riddle, and the five members of the ka-tet board Blaine. Once aboard, Blaine talks to them and impresses the group with his futuristic technology. Blaine takes the them through the waste lands and strikes a deal: The ka-tet must ask him riddles and if he solves them all, he will drive the train with them locked inside, into the blockade at the end of the track in Topeka. If the ka-tet manages to stump him though, then he will let them off safely in Topeka.
While the ka-tet are riding away from Lud, a mysterious figure approaches the injured Tic-Toc Man. This figure spouts a few lines from one of King’s best novels, “The Stand,” giving us the idea that he could be Randall Flagg (it is).
King leaves us with a nasty cliff-hanger to finish off this epic novel. It is totally frustrating until you just immediately grab book four, “Wizard and Glass,” and pick right back up. Overall “The Waste Lands” was absolutely incredible. If you weren’t sucked into the journey to the Tower after book 2, then you definitely will be after book 3.