I'm more than happy to say I really, really enjoyed this one. After my disappointment with The Gunslinger - http://thekinglongread.blogspot.com/2011/02/gunslinger-dark-tower-i-14th-jan-19th.html *(more on this below)- it was a relief to find that I got right into the thing straight away and charged through it. I especially took pleasure in how often I found myself looking forward to the next time I'd be able to pick the book back up and get on with the story.
These days it's almost unheard of for me to read a 450 page book in a few days. It's both a relief and a reassurance that I can make the time and maintain the concentration in the face of the Internet and the iphone, not forgetting marriage, parenthood and employment, to achieve such a feat.
So, why and what did I like about this book? I think the main draw this time was the gunslinger's increased humanity. While he's still nails and a borderline sociopath, it was much easier to warm to him here than in The Gunslinger. I don't know whether you feel it necessary to like your protagonist to enjoy a book, but it must help. I remember reading Camus' The Outsider and not liking or enjoying the book in the slightest bit because I found the main guy an absolute tool. I know that was part of the point and the reader should be able to appreciate the work with an artistic detachment, I just couldn't bridge that gap.
I know it's not essential to be able to identify with the hero - I'm not that much of a simpleton - but you can't deny that it makes the reading that bit smoother.
The story itself was compelling. The mixture of the slowly closing doorway to progression on the quest with the well-written horror of the beach scenes and the rip-roaring tales of the gunslinger's interloping in the minds of The Prisoner, The Lady of Shadows and The Pusher.
I was going to say there were a couple of things in the book that I wasn't that bothered about, but really it's just one big thing. The Odetta/Detta thread didn't do much for me. It seemed a protracted way of constructing the twist of the three that were actually drawn in the end. I'm not saying it wasn't a nice and satisfactory twist, it was just a thread where the destination interested me much more than the journey.
It's something of a challenge to satisfactorily view the book as an isolated work in itself. Yes, I know it's a volume within a larger work and can't (or shouldn't) be divorced from its place in the greater tale. But still, it's a novel and should have enough of narrative arc to exist independently. What I'm really getting at is; is there a limit to how much a book can rely on its existent volumes for details and character traits that this one will only tell you about and never show. And equally; can an author only get away with so many obscure nods to the future and the promise that this detail will be really significant or 'if you just keep on the road with me for another n pages, the story is really going to take off'?
I'm not really levelling any charges at King here, rather just giving voice to ideas that crossed my mind as I came to the end of the book. It's fair to say I'm very much looking forward to continuing on Roland's quest for the Dark Tower, there's just the small matter of four novels and a collection of novellas to see off first.
*On the subject of The Gunslinger - when I came to starting reading The Drawing of the Three, there was a bit of a recap of The Gunslinger and I found myself thinking 'really? I don't remember that'. Clearly my memory is toss. So, in an effort to refresh my shitty memory and find out whether I'd missed something that would have made me appreciate the book more as well as looking back with a modicum of context surrounding Roland, the man in black and the tower quest, I'm currently listening to the audiobook version of The Gunslinger, read by Stephen King himself. It would have made sense to have finished it before I got to the end of The Drawing of the Three but things didn't work out that way. Do they ever. Anyway, once I'm done I'll be back with a re-review.
Thanks for reading.