I think if we look back on our childhood, we will remember that book. You know the one I mean: a book for kids that frightened the living daylights out of you. It was supposed to be a bright, breezy, carefree sort of book. But you, as a young reader, saw only darkness. What was meant to entertain and make you feel good only served to feed your fears and mess up your sleep for a long time. For me, it was Enid Blyton’s Noddy in Toytown; for Jake in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, it was Charlie the Choo-Choo.
Volume III of the series, The Waste Lands, is my favourite so far. Now, we all know that no one writes horror quite like The King. But what I didn’t know is that he’s more than a dab hand at fantasy, too. The Dark Tower is quickly becoming top of my list of all-time fantasy faves. Why? As I said before, it’s the characters, stupid! We have our good guys – Roland, Susannah, Eddie, Jake and Oy the Bumbler (Ake!Ake!Ake!) – and in The Waste Lands the bad guys showed their cards. There is Gasher, Jake’s abductor; there is the Tick-Tock Man, the leader of the Greys; and at the end The Ageless Stranger puts in an appearance.
But all of these are shadowed by Blaine the Mono: a super-computer who is also a train. He will take the questing party to the Dark Tower (or Topeka) as long as they keep asking them riddles. If he answers each of them correctly, he will self-destruct, taking Roland and his friends with him to his grave. They need to figure out a way to outsmart Blaine. That’s how The Waste Lands ends; and that’s where Wizard and Glass begins. A friend suggested to me not to read the series in one go. It’s too big, he said. Each book is longer than the last. But I don’t see how I can’t not continue. I’m on this quest with Roland and the others, and I have to follow it through right to its end.