Wednesday, March 30, 2011

CR Review #11: The Waste Lands

The Waste Lands by Stephen King, is book #3 in the 7-book Dark Tower Series. (My reviews for books one and two can be found here).

The book picks up shorts after the end of book 2. Roland and his two new gunslingers, Eddie and Susannah, are beginning their quest to find the Dark Tower. They quickly find their way after meeting Shardik -- a 70-foot tall robotic bear, and "guardian of the beam" (the beam being basically an invisible path that leads to the tower).

Meanwhile, Roland is slowly going insane. When he entered the body of Jack Mort toward the end of book 2, he stopped Mort from pushing Jake Chambers into traffic, thus saving his life. This makes Roland wonder: If Jake never died, then Roland never met Jake at the waystation, and he never let Jake die under the mountains. Young Jake Chambers is going through the exact same thing back in 1970s New York -- did he die? is he alive? Jake shuffles through life, opening every door he sees, hoping that this door will be the one to take him back to Roland's world.

Jake ditches school during finals (when he opens his backpack to reveal an English paper he doesn't remember writing -- about Roland, trains, something named Blaine, and the Truth). He heads downtown and finds himself in a bookstore (owned by Calvin Tower, of course) where he feels the need to buy two books: Charlie the Choo-Choo (a kids book about a train) and Riddle-Dee-Dum (a book of riddles with the answers torn out). Outside, he happens upon a vacant lot, and inside, the most beautiful rose he has ever seen -- and he knows that it must be protected at all costs.

Back in Roland's world, Eddie has dreams and visions that help him formulate a plan to bring Jake over to their where/when from New York, and eventually the ka-tet of Eddie, Roland and Susannah get Jake over to their where/when and they continue their journey. Along the way, they meet Oy (my second favorite, after Eddie), a racoon-like creature called a Billy Bumbler, and Jake insists that he join them on their quest.

Eventually, they come to an ancient city called Lud (which looks very much like New York), and Jake is taken captive by a man named Gasher, member of the Grays faction of Lud (the opposing faction are the Pubes). Gasher's leader is the Tick Tock Man, and they live beneath the city in an ancient bomb shelter. Roland and Oy rescue Jake, and shoot up the bomb shelter, leaving everyone there for dead (Tick Tock is actually not dead, and is saved by the Ageless Stranger, who we know as Randall Flagg from The Stand).

Meanwhile, Eddie and Susannah race across the city to find a train (who goes by the name of Blaine) that can take them out of Lud and across the Waste Lands, over 800 miles closer to the Tower. Blaine will only take them if they entertain him with riddles. Blaine intends to commit suicide with Roland and his team on board, unless they can stump him with a riddle that he can't answer….

And its there that the book comes to a rather strange and sudden ending.

In rereading these first three books, I'm sort of disappointed now to have to move on to Wizard and Glass -- a book I enjoyed so much when it first came out, but now I'm too impatient to get back to the story and don't want to have to sift through hundreds of pages about Roland and Susan and Cuthbert. I'm thinking if I have time, I'll read Salem's Lot again before reading the Wolves of the Calla, so I can try and remember the details about Pere Callahan. Looking forward to getting back into the story, for sure.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

CR Review #10: I Think I Love You

A few years ago, I think right about when I had my first kid, someone gave me a paperback copy of I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson. It was the story of a working mom who somehow manages to have a full-time job, raise children, keep her house in one piece, and keep her marriage together, all with a British sense of humor and sensibility -- Kind of grown up Bridget Jones. Not a great book, but at the time, I guess I was in the right frame of mind for it and enjoyed it.

Then the other day at the library, I saw her new book, I Think I Love You, and decided to give it a whirl.

This is the story of Petra, a young welsh girl in 1974 who is OBSESSED with David Cassidy of the Partridge Family. She and her friends live and breathe David, even though her strict German mother does not approve of pop music and would much prefer that Petra spend her time practicing the cello. The story alternates chapters with a young writer at the official David Cassidy fan magazine, a new college graduate named Bill, who just doesn't quite understand the obsession that girls have with Cassidy.

The 1974 section of the book culminates with David's 1974 concert at White City, where a young girl was actually killed by the surging crowd of girls trying to be closer to Cassidy. Scary. Petra and her friends (or enemies -- lots of "mean girl" stuff going on behind the scenes here) also enter a contest to win a trip to meet David on the set of the Partridge Family, sponsored by Bill's magazine.

Turn to 1998...Petra's mother has just died, her husband has left her, and she is cleaning out her mother's closet. She finds out that 25 years earlier, she actually won the big prize to meet David Cassidy (this is not a spoiler, it provides this info on the book flap) and she calls the magazine to claim her prize.

Of course, now Bill is the big boss at the huge publishing company and the two head off to Las Vegas to meet Cassidy, along with Petra's childhood friend Sharon. And yes, Petra and Bill fall in love.

A quick, easy read. Probably more fun for Pearson to write about David Cassidy (clearly, she was a fan) than for me to read about him, but I understand her point about (mostly) innocent teenage obsession. Substitute Simon LeBon for David Cassidy, and I could have been Petra. Recommended if you ever picked up a copy of Tiger Beat magazine.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

CR Review #9: The Drawing of the Three

And so we move on to the second of the Dark Tower books (click here for my review of book one, The Gunslinger), The Drawing of the Three.

I'm pretty sure that this one is my favorite of the books (my least favorite, without a doubt, is book six, The Song of Susannah. Bluch.). In this story we are introduced to two of the new members of Roland's "ka tet" (a group bound by destiny), Eddie Dean and Odetta Holmes. I am a sucker for Eddie Dean, and love everything about him, so that's probably why this one is my favorite (note to Ron Howard and Brian Grazer: I know you're probably going to screw this movie/miniseries up. But please be nice to my Eddie. Thanks.).

As the story begins, Roland finds himself on a beach, waking up in the surf. He sees enormous lobster creatures (dubbed lobstrocities), who immediately attack him and eat one of his toes and two of his fingers before the end of page 2. And so, Roland makes his way down the beach, dying of blood infection and wondering how and when he will "draw" his companions: The Prisoner, The Lady of Shadows, and The Pusher.

Roland comes upon a massive door, free-standing on the beach. On the front of the door it simply says "THE PRISONER", and when he opens it, he finds himself in the mind of Eddie: a cocaine mule and heroin addict, living in New York City in the 1980s. Roland "draws" Eddie into his world and his "when" by pulling him through the door (along with enough antibiotics to improve his health for the time being).

The next door they find is labeled "THE LADY OF SHADOWS" and it opens upon Odetta: a young, beautiful, paraplegic (she lost her legs after being pushed onto the NYC subway tracks) African-American in the New York City of the 1960s, who just happens to be schizophrenic (her other personality is a nasty young woman named Detta Walker, who was "born" when Odetta was a young girl and a brink was dropped on her head, putting her in a coma). Odetta and Detta are not aware of each others' existence.

Roland and Eddie spend much of the time while searching for the third door wondering about Odetta/Detta and what to do about the two. Odetta is lovely and beautiful (and Eddie falls in love with her immediately) but Detta is dangerous and clever and plots to kill Eddie and Roland.

The third character who is "drawn" is a sociopath named Jack Mort ("THE PUSHER"), who just so happens to be the same man that once dropped a brick on Odetta's head, and who also pushed her in front of the subway a few years prior. And if those coincidences weren't enough, when Roland enters his mind, he is also planning to push young Jake Chambers into traffic to his death. Roland stops Mort from pushing Jake (which causes Roland to lose his mind in book three…), uses his body long enough to get more antibiotics and bullets for his guns, and then drags him back through the door to the beach.

When Roland and Mort appear on the beach (where Detta is waiting to kill Roland and has left Eddie to be eaten by the lobstrocities), Detta and Odetta merge, battle and become a new, third woman: Susannah Dean. Mort is eaten by the lobstrocities on the beach.

Roland, Eddie & Susannah leave the beach and head to the woods to continue on the quest for the Tower.

Confusing? Absolutely. And sadly, the least confusing and most straightforward of the books.