Thursday, August 23, 2012
100 Books #78 - Stephen King's THE DRAWING OF THE THREE
This one wasn't quite what I was expecting the second Dark Tower novel to be, but really? That's a good thing. I wasn't sure I could endure another whole novel's worth of Old Testament desert trekking with Roland.
There's still plenty of moralizing to be had here anyway, of course, mostly about drug addiction, pushers and junkies and gangsters, oh my. For Roland, who confronted his nemesis (or at least the mouthpiece of his nemesis) at the end of The Gunslinger only to find his encounter took years, rather than hours, has won through to the beach with a slightly clearer understanding of his purpose, or at least the next task he has to complete in his quest to reach the titular tower. He has to gather allies. Or more Jack-type sacrifices. Or something.
So a decent chunk of this novel is spent coming and going between our own world and a weird interstitial wood between the worlds sort of place, the beach through to which Roland won at the end of the last book. Except the danger on this beach is not that he is going to fall asleep and forget what he was supposed to be doing. No, it's much cooler.
Damn, but I love the lobstrosities. Giant mutant crustaceans that creep forth from the waves at nightfall and pursue anything that moves with bizarre nonsense questions "Dod-a-chuck? Did-a-chum?" and can snap through anything with their claws and beaks. And yes, that includes people.
I think I could have read a whole (short) novel of just Roland versus the Lobstrosities, but that wouldn't advance the quest plot of the Dark Tower very much, would it? And so after pretty much losing to them, barely alive and minus some of the parts he was born with, Roland finds a door in the sand that opens into the mind and senses of someone in our world. First a junkie, Eddie, muling drugs back to New York City from the Caribbean: then a legless (and not in the sense of drunk) heiress and civil rights activist (another of Stephen King's oracular black women) with two personalities in one skull, Odetta/Detta; and then a man who brings a hilarious new literality to the term "pusher", Jack. These three figures' lives were bizarrely intertwined even before Roland came along to suck them out of their worlds (and times; Eddie comes from the 80s, Odetta from the 60s and Jack from the 70s) and into his.
There are shoot-'em-ups (Eddie's arc), struggles with multiple personality disorder in which one personality (Odetta) falls more or less in love with, and the other (Detta) keeps trying to kill, Eddie, and an elaborate improvised heist (Jack's arc). There is, to my delight, plenty of lobstrosity action. And there is an abundance of word play. The title is evoked several times in several ways, as is the idea of pushing and pushers, all very elegantly and slyly handled.
Overall, though, while the interlocking plots are all plenty interesting (especially the last, in which the question of how Roland is going to keep going after proflagate ammo expenditure and loss is answered) keeps all this interesting for me is the same as what keeps it interesting for everybody, I think: the figure of Roland, lean and tough, scrawny and scary, the crackest shot that ever drew a gun, the hero of every epic quest narrative stripped down to his barest essence and armed with some exquisite and powerful weapons. I've joined the Twitter game of arguing over who should play him if this series ever makes it to the big or small screen. Currently the favorite seems to be Daniel Craig, but Craig would have to pull a Christian-Bale-in-the-Machinist to do it, and that seems to have done lasting harm to Bale. But after what I've seen of that insane new IFC series Bullet in the Face, I think I have the best candidate yet: Max Williams, who wouldn't have to starve himself much to achieve the scrawniness and has just the right kind of menacing presence (when he's not chewing the scenery and firing off ridiculous one-liners, anyway). Your mileage will doubtless vary.*
*And I fully stipulate that my notion is simply born of the coincidence in time that had me watching this series while waiting for my Kindle to recharge so I could finish reading this book.