I can readily put a book down. In fact, I’ve thrown a few across the room for frustrating me so much.
Quickly, I gauge what a story has to offer and whether I’m going to like it. Often, the blurb is enough. Stories are just easy for me to dissect, I guess. And, I actually attribute my love of character-driven tales to this trait. For me, people open up just like books do and vice versa.
There wouldn’t be much story without a well-developed protagonist, after all. Even if you were telling a tale from the perspective of a rock, I bet you’d still naturally personify it. Thus, novels with stereotypical characters acting as mere plot devices lose my interest, fast.
I can readily put a book down. So, when I discovered the Dark Tower series, I almost believed my hands were glued to the spine.
If you crave the same depth of character from a novel, then I highly recommend reading ‘The Drawing of The Three’ of Stephen King’s ‘Dark Tower’ series. This book is the second in the series. I’ve reviewed the first instalment here: ‘The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger – Review’.
‘The Gunslinger’ was gripping, but ‘The Drawing of The Three’ felt within my grasp. Everything about it was incredibly realistic, which is particularly difficult for a science fiction/fantasy novel to achieve. And still, in parts, it felt like the book had ME by the spine. Control was inverted just like when Roland enters his hosts’ bodies. Momentarily, I became the characters with him and understood the characters through him. It was quite an interesting experience.
We left off in ‘The Gunslinger’ with little Jake foreshadowing what was to come in ‘The Drawing of The Three’. Before plunging into the abyss, he tells Roland:
“Go then – there are other worlds than these!”
And, he wasn’t lying.
In brief, this next chapter in Roland’s journey sees him stranded on a stretch of beach that appears to span forever. Here, he awaits ‘the drawing of the three’. Apparently, this beach is where he will uncover three integral characters, all of whom the Man in Black claims Roland must befriend if fate is to allow him to ever reach The Tower. Each new character is made available to him by means of a door: three, roomless doors pop up on the vacant beach and behind them sit the eyes of three very different people living in worlds entirely unfamiliar to Roland.
It’s hard to summarise this story as it’s kind of three in one; I’d have to give a lot away if I started delving into the plot. So, that’s why I’ve prefaced this review with more focus on character relations. Without spoiling anything, I’ll introduce their roles as ambiguously as I can.
The first new character that Roland meets is ‘The Prisoner’, Eddie Dean – a drug addict.
“A demon has infested him. The name of the demon is HEROIN.”
Roland enters Eddie’s New York-bound flight in 1987, where he discovers Eddie is in the middle of smuggling drugs to a very dangerous mob boss, Enrico Balazar. Roland ultimately helps him, for he is certain Eddie’s world must hold the medication that he needs to heal his wounds. Side note: the opening scene saw our strong, dynamic protagonist handicapped and fatally injured by odd ‘lobstrosities’ that worship the waves and come in with the tide at night – this was honestly one of the most exciting openings I’ve ever read.
Motives aside, the relationship that forms between Eddie and Roland throughout this whole escapade is oddly charming. Brotherly, really. For me, Eddie’s purpose appeared to be to coerce more narrative out of Roland. Eddie does a lot of the talking, but we find that this makes Roland think a lot more than he did in the previous book. Through deeper self-reflection, more of Roland is revealed. Like I said in my ‘Gunslinger’ review, we actually know very little about Roland, but I’m certain the point of the series is to work backwards by going ahead. I think the aim is to get to know him by following him on this journey.
Returning to Eddie as an individual, the more he talks about his past the worse I feel for him. I am deeply affected by Eddie and resent his brother, Henry, for leading him down this dark path. Eddie is a classic hard-shelled, soft-centered character, but the richness of his back story and the realness of his voice make him a multi-layered creation.
Much like how I felt about Jake in ‘The Gunslinger’, I was sure King was working his magic again and only allowing readers to sympathise with characters whom Roland himself deemed deserving. Roland, in many ways, approves of Eddie and sees much of the Gunslinger spirit in him. He also feels for Eddie; though, I wouldn’t call this feeling pity. Roland just understands and accepts the reasons why Eddie is as he is – deeply troubled.
Roland is the kind of character who allows people to have their past and uses it to better them. He expects others to strive for a more dignified and purposeful future and helps them achieve so. The notion of ‘ka’ guides him and he imprints this belief upon all of whom he takes under his wing. With Roland’s keen intuition at our disposal, we as readers are guided to the same level of comprehension. In fact, I felt improved as a reader from having experienced Roland and Eddie’s relationship. Their world’s and languages are so different yet they manage to find common ground, enough to survive together. Eddie’s world baffles Roland and Roland’s terrifies Eddie, but, in the end, they learn a lot from experiencing these alternate realities.
Eddie does not have a lot left to live for and coincidentally, Roland’s world offers him a fresh start and a real challenge. Eddie giving up his drug habit in order to help Roland indulge in his addiction, the Tower, may seem counterintuitive. However, I think Eddie will come out better than Roland when the story draws to a close. I think Roland appears all-knowing, but I’m sure the irony is that he’s just as lost as those he guides, if not more.
So far, I genuinely appreciate Eddie. He is stronger than he thinks and laid his past to rest in order to move on and grow as a person. Eddie is actually the most inspiring character I’ve encountered in this series, as of yet, and that’s why I love King. He manages to take really unappealing people and make them accessible.
I mean, even the side-characters in Eddie’s chapter are awfully textured. However, King entirely dictates who you will like and who you won’t. For instance, Balazar is horrible and successfully made me feel uneasy and appalled. His minions, although a few lines apiece, also have distinctive voices, but I wasn’t allowed to empathise with any of them. This just generally impressed me.
Every single character in this book feels different not only in voice but in mannerism and gesture. Far too many books fail to do this and have characters who sound exactly the same, or worse, sound just like the author. Stephen King is the master of character creation, introduction and development. There’s never a boring person in his books, even if they’d superficially appear so, should you personally pass them in the streets. His fearlessness when dissecting people, terrible people, is awe-inspiring. And, this truly became apparent to me when I encountered Detta.
The second (and a half) character who lurks behind door number two is ‘The Lady of Shadows’, Odetta and Detta. Originally born as gentle Odetta Holmes, due to a personality disorder caused by a notable head-trauma, the rather vulgar and volatile Detta Walker surfaces with every migraine.
“The perfect schizophrenic – if there was such a person – would be a man or woman not only unaware of his other persona(e), but one unaware that anything at all was amiss in his or her life.”
I really love both sides of this character because they bring something important to the Gunslinger’s quest. Well, we later find out that as one whole, as Susannah, they become necessary.
Odetta’s story, the life she is aware of, is tragic. As a rich black woman in 1964, New York, she has faced a lot of scrutiny and abuse. Nonetheless, she remains a strong and empowering activist – contrary to the self-sabotaging Detta. Unaware of Detta’s existence, Odetta fills in very prominent gaps in time and knowledge with fairly logical, ordinary stories. Whereas Detta uses the holes to dig up justifications for her nasty behaviour. She fabricates villainous schemes after convincing herself that her victims are plotting against her. Often, she tells herself how they must have physically abused or are now planning to hurt her and, thus, she lashes out. It’s clear when Odetta falls into the clutches of Detta as her thoughts become incoherent and abstract, and her language venomous and cruel.
Odetta and Detta’s back story is phenomenal. I LOVE the way King tells it. Again, he is unafraid to really delve into Detta’s animalistic sexuality and unapologetically makes a monster out of her. She is incredibly cold and merciless and determined to cause others pain, but only because of that twisted paranoia. I hated her but I kind of loved her all the same. She was honestly vile at some points but, again, I just considered that fantastic writing.
Wheel-chair bound, after a horrific accident involving being pushed from a platform into an oncoming train, Odetta naturally hinders Roland’s plans, and Detta even more so. I enjoyed King’s used of the wheelchair and how he mixed it with the flailing, uncontrollable temper of Detta. I really felt the pain radiating from a dying Roland and a heroine withdrawal shaken Eddie, as they desperately tried to wheel her across the barren beach. It really felt never-ending but in the best way possible.
Eddie and Odetta develop a really touching relationship and it’s painful for him to watch her turn into the heinous Detta every few nights. Nonetheless, I love the softer side that she brings out in him and how he then applies this when dealing with Roland, also. Eddie becomes somewhat youthful again and whole, which is nice. He appears to find his purpose in looking after people, so really this situation suits him perfectly.
The over-arching story which connects all of these characters, including little Jake from the last book, genuinely blows my mind. Again, I won’t spoil the plot but it all ties together wonderfully in the end. For, through door number three is ‘The Pusher’, Jack Mort, a sociopathic killer whom Roland quickly finds he has no time nor patience for.
“When the gunslinger entered Eddie, Eddie had experienced a moment of nausea and he had had a sense of being watched. … With Detta, Roland had been forced to come forward immediately, like it or not. She hadn’t just sensed him; in a queer way it seemed that she had been waiting for him – him or another, more frequent, visitor.
“Jack Mort didn’t feel a thing. He was too intent on the boy.”
Remember how I said King is entirely in control of which characters you give the benefit of a doubt to? Yeah, well you will immediately despise of Jack Mort. I can’t say much of Mort without revealing the ending; he is like the four walls by which these three doors are connected. Basically, he plays a pivotal role in the lives of the characters you’ll meet, thus, naturally you’ll hate him as much as Roland does.
Now, the third card that the Man in Black drew in ‘The Gunslinger’ was Death. And, Mort isn’t exactly the third to join Roland’s party on this little expedition. But, I’ll say no more than this quote:
“Death was not for him; death was become him. The Prisoner, the Lady. Death was the third. He was suddenly filled with the certainty that he himself was the third.”
It’s honestly a crazy exciting ending and I definitely don’t want to ruin it, so I’ll leave things here, for now.
Honestly, I wasn’t deeply enamoured with ‘The Gunslinger’ from start to finish, but ‘The Drawing of The Three’ was continuously engaging for me. I thought it was incredibly clever and unique. The characters were probably the biggest selling point for me, as well as the setting, actually. I’ve seen a lot of people complain that the beach was too bland, but I found that it wisely contrasted the worlds we entered through the doors. It needed to be empty. The ‘lobstocities’ were the perfect touch; they kept the uneventful horizon slightly more appealing than the shore and, thus, pushed the gang onwards. Stephen King utilises every little thing that he mentions when storytelling – nothing is unintentional or wasted. This I love.
I just, generally, thought the amount that he covered and the depth he went into in this one novel was impressive. The overall plot hasn’t really progressed but we’ve been thoroughly introduced to those who will help Roland reach The Tower. And, for a novel that is basically a bunch of introductions, it’s incredibly compelling and I loved every page of it. I don’t know how else to praise this book; I just genuinely thought it was genius. It was vivid. It was thrilling. It was unsettling. But, it was insightful. And, it was probably one of the best Sci-fi/fantasy novels I’ve ever read.
I loved it so much that I’m giving it a generous 4.5 out of 5 dog-ears. This might seem a bit extreme to some, but, honestly, this book had everything I, personally, needed. I thought it was a masterpiece as well as an oddity. And, I like perfectly strange things.