I'm going to launch right in and say that I found much of The Waste Lands boring. I know King's renowned for taking a hundred pages where ten would have sufficed, but it was more than that. I found myself wishing he'd just get on with it.
There were a lot of things I liked about the book. Roland is certainly growing on me. There wasn't a lot to like about him in the first book, but as his temperament thaws, so does my feeling towards him. I'm sure I said in my post on The Gunslinger that I'm not childish enough to find antipathy towards a protagonist a deal-breaker for my enjoyment of a book, but it doesn't hurt when it goes the other way.
It was nice to see Jake rejoin the group and Eddie and Susannah are still interesting enough. When things get going and something actually happens, it's pure King and as we know by now, he knows how to get the pulse racing.
King's wont to tell us that the books largely write themselves and he hasn't got them all outlined before writing. At times, this is quite apparent, especially when he's rambling along and I was willing him to find the direction and get on with getting there. I know that, as part of a wider story, there will be aspects of it and Mid-World itself that will, in time, take on much greater and more immediate significance and until then remain oblique and incongruous. I should probably serve up an example here. Let's pretend I did. I may be hanging on to false hope that when I'm able to see the whole story, these sections will radiate with relevance and show themselves to be keystones of the whole saga in one of those 'end of Fight Club' reveals. We'll see.
Once again, there's a generous degree of allowance for the book's failures as a stand alone novel due to its position in the ongoing saga. Anyone who criticised the ending of the book at the time was acting like a spoilt child. Mind you, I imagine it was long six years before Wizard and Glass was published.
Overall, I've come away with a negative impression of The Waste Lands. You know the adage where things are described as being greater than the sum of its parts? It's the opposite here. In their singularity, there are some great moments, but they're set within a world and a framework I don't really care for. I want to see how the relationship between Roland and Jake continues to develop and I'm interested to see what the deal is with The Dark Tower but am finding the journey tiresome.
It's a bit worrying to me that The Dark Tower series is King's self-professed magnum opus because, from what I've seen so far, I'd rather it was a passion project and a distraction from the main body of work. That said, King's art is his business alone and, as a Constant Reader, I am not entitled to a say or an illusion of entitlement about his work. My role is nothing more or less than the choice to read or not to read. And read I will.