Stephen King,
The Dark Tower #2: The Drawing of the Three
(Penguin, 1987)

Picking up seven hours after where Stephen King last left us in The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three finds Roland of Gilead in a bad place. He's deserted and alone on a beach that seems to never end. From the ocean arrive lobstrocities (similar to gigantic lobsters, but more vicious) that claw at his hands and feet and manage to claim a few of his fingers and a toe.

While growing weak with hunger, Roland helplessly walks around for the next stage in his quest. He finds what he's looking for in a door, casually planted on the beach in front of him. Bearing no instructions on what he should do with it, Roland opens the door and discovers it leads him into the mind of a man who lives in 1980s New York, an entirely different world than what Roland has grown accustomed. (The plot point surely could have been one of Charlie Kaufman's influences when he conceived and crafted his 1999 movie, Being John Malkovich).

As Roland learned from a sacrificed Jake at the tail end of The Gunslinger: "Go, then. There are other worlds than these." Jake wasn't kidding.

While I'm eager to continue with the Dark Tower books, I can't say I was especially a fan of The Drawing of the Three. The series totally earns its sci-fi branding here as parallel worlds, strange creatures and the like are introduced in this second installment of seven books.

But the simplicity of The Gunslinger, which introduced readers to Roland's quest for a mystical tower, is completely thrown out the window. No longer are we dealing with a single, barren world, a few soft-spoken characters and some interesting insight on the universe and the significance of size. Here, we're literally traveling in and out of characters' heads, we're mercilessly killing law enforcement and other cronies and powering our way through a substantial amount of ammunition.

The sequel is also a good deal longer. Most of the text was enjoyable to read, though there seemed to be a few too many nothing arguments on the beach amongst Roland's new pals. Had that been cut some, the book probably wouldn't have dragged so much.

This isn't to say I didn't like the book. Heck, it was entertaining. And if anything it gave the series a little structure. Which is a godsend, considering King's nonchalant attitude in Gunslinger's afterword about where the series is going and what it all means had me a little worried last time around. But at the close of Drawing of the Three, The Dark Tower is finally showing a little more shape, and promise of grander things to come.

review by
Eric Hughes

11 April 2009

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