My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Waste Lands is the first book where the ka-tet of Jake, Eddie, Roland, and Susannah are fully formed. We learn more about the beam, the Dark Tower, and are given a few clues as to the nature of the reality the characters find themselves.
Overall, this is a unique tale blending elements of sci-fi, horror, a dash of romance, and a smidge of thriller (especially in the last quarter of the book or so). Jake’s kidnapping and escort to the Tik-Tok man is intense and a remarkably done chase scene.
The strength of the Dark Tower series is its originality. It took a unique and perhaps slightly demented mind to put together a story that blends so many different elements. The story has a worm infested cyborg bear, Nazi’s, mutants, demons, murder, insane artificial intelligence, a talking weasel thing, and even a few matches of jovial riddling.
Despite the perceived incoherence of my previous description, the book works. If you’re not accustomed to Stephen King and his tendency to go off the rails only to bring you back into sanity and relief, then this might not be the book for you.
I do have one bone to pick in this book. The scene where Roland and his gang bring Jake into their world is tense but there is one aspect that is just downright bizarre. In order to open the door to bring Jake through, Susannah must distract the invisible demon who blocks them. How is the only way she must do that you ask? By having sex with the demon of course. Yes, you read that correctly.
This scene is so weird I almost skipped ahead. The ramifications of the hideous act DO come to the forefront in later books as King makes it relevant to the plot later. However, the way the author inserted this grotesque detail comes across as forced and as if he ran out of ideas.
That being said, despite the oddity of the demon-parapalegic freakfest it is just one scene in an otherwise very interesting story. I loved Oy the Billy-Bumbler who makes me chuckle every time he speaks. The rudeness and pure insanity of Blaine the mono brings some levity to an otherwise disastrous ending for the vagrants of Lud. Jake emerges as perhaps the most insightful character, and it’s one of the better stories in the Dark Tower series.