THE DARK TOWER

VOL. III, THE WASTE LANDS

Chapter three of King's epic alternate-world saga (1988, 1989) finds Roland the Gunslinger and his sidekicks continuing their quest for the Dark Tower—and the Maine master keyboarding some of his least restrained writing in years, great sagging storm clouds of padded prose that only occasionally thunder or brighten with lightning inspiration. The storyline by now is so complex that King opens with a four-page "Argument" summing up past action and tracing ties between major characters. The Argument for volume four won't be much longer, since relatively little happens here: Roland trains Eddie Dean and Susannah Walker, previously brought by him from Manhattan to his blighted world, in the arts of gunslinging—soon used to slay a giant mechanical bear named Shardik; Jake, the boy whom Roland let die in volume one, reappears as a Gotham schoolkid who makes his way through a haunted house into Roland's world; the band of four encounter a town of old folks, then a wasted city where Jake is kidnapped by degenerates, then rescued; Roland and company take a ride toward the Dark Tower on a train operated by an insane computer enamored of riddles. In a note, King admits that "finding the doors to Roland's world has never been easy for me." The strain is evident, with the volume seemingly jerry-built on borrowings (the hoary haunted house; the mad computer, echoing Hal of 2001; the wasted city and its criminal denizens, shades of Escape from New York) and overblown character conflicts (can Eddie summon the courage to cross the swaying bridge?). Still, some of the action cooks up shivery suspense, and Roland's anticipated duel of riddles with the homicidal computer promises a swift start to the next volume. Hopefully it won't take any more slack interlude volumes for Roland to reach the Dark Tower. Meanwhile, though confirmed series fans might at least tolerate this chapter (and buy up its 1.5 million first printing—on-sale Dec. 2), the generic King fan will enjoy far more the upcoming Needful Things (p. 813).

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 1992

ISBN: 0-452-26740-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Plume

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1991

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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