Who's a Stephen King fanboy? *raises hand* "I am! I am!" Stephen King has been a hero of mine since I was thirteen. Two decades of idolatry later and I'm still dumbstruck at what this man has accomplished. I do not wish to be like him, or write like him, because mimicry is the failure of self, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't want his money. I preface this review with this paragraph because you should know that my love for King's work goes far beyond the reaches of a mere fan. I'm a fanatic of the highest order, and no matter how many times he lets me down, I will buy every book, in every format, that he releases upon the world. This review should not be taken as my opinion of Stephen King, only as an opinion of this particular work. Even the best have their bad days.
In my review for THE WASTE LANDS, I said that it was not only the best book in the Dark Tower series but one of my favorite King books of all time. WIZARD AND GLASS is the exact opposite of that. It is damn-near my least favorite, and is only beaten out for the bottom spot by FROM A BUICK EIGHT, of which I shall never speak of again. I have many problems with WIZARD AND GLASS, but some issues I have come down to personal preference. Although, there are some things that I don't think any reader will enjoy, and I'll start with those. Unfortunately, though, they are spoilers.
SPOILED ROTTEN SPOILERS SPOILING BELOW
This book snatches you away from the characters you come to know and love - Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy - and shoves you crotch first into a time and place you're unfamiliar with. This is my third read-through of this book, and it never fails to jar me out of my socks when we're thrust into Rhea's head for the first time. Then, just as jarringly, we're tossed into Susan's head. All the while we're waiting on Roland to pop up. When he finally does, he's not the man we remember, but a kid with his brain nestled firmly in the wrong head. Now comes the issue I have with this five-hundred-page flashback. We know Susan dies because Roland told us as much in the first book. We even know how she dies because, once again, we're told in the first book. Had WIZARD AND GLASS been written before THE GUNSLINGER (and yes I realize as an author myself how unfair that is to say, what with me knowing how finicky stories can be with the information they deliver and when) I wouldn't have half the problems I did with this novel. I think that's my biggest complaint: this book feels like an afterthought, as if King said to himself, "Shit, I need to toss this in somewhere..." and decided to weigh down this volume in Roland's tail with a bloated and boring romance. I couldn't let myself get attached to Susan because I knew she was going to die. Simple as that. I don't care how well-written this book is, it's a chore to get through because you know what's going to happen.
END THE SPOILS OF SPOILERTUDE
Personal preference time.
I fucking loathe romance novels. There is no greater love story than the one I've lived for the past 13 years, and whenever I read about puppy-dog love and love at first sight, I grow sick to my stomach. Love rarely works the way romance novels would have one believe. Now, granted, I can count on one hand how many love stories I've read, but I'd been dragged to numerous rom-coms and Nicolas Sparks film adaptations before I met my wife, because it seemed that was the thing to do. Women like romance, so I took my dates to such movies. Surprisingly enough, none of those dates turned into relationships because I never had any fun during those outings. Anyfuck, what I'm getting at is, 75% of WIZARD AND GLASS is a romance, and that 75% of this book never fails to bore me to tears. Literal tears, because I can't stop yawning, and my eyes water when I yawn. So yeah... literal tears. There's fifty pages or so of just sex. Roland and Susan scrumpin' like bunnies on any flat surface they come across. Who cares. I know I don't.
Every fun moment of this book is stalled by King's need to follow up with banal characters and world-build a time and place I don't want to be in. I want more Mid-World and Path of the Beam. I give not a fuck about Mejis or the politics of a place that has, as King puts it, moved on.
Then we have the plagiarism. Yes, I said it, plagiarism. King is famous for tossing in nods to other books from his prolific career, sometimes he even includes entire characters from other books (as is witnessed later in this series), but this go around, he completely rips off The Wizard of Oz, almost down to the word. It's lazy storytelling. I know he could have done better, yet he chose the easy road. There's the obvious nod to LORD OF THE RINGS, but instead of a ring, we're given a pink grapefruit.
The final bit of bullshit dripping from this pile of offal is the appearance of the Tick Tock Man. Why was he spared in the last book? What was the purpose? Oh yeah... King needed to reintroduce Flagg, that's right! Still, Tick Tock Man's part in this book is pointless, and I'm left feeling as if King regretted saving him in THE WASTE LANDS so he simply tossed him into the fire, so to speak, in this volume.
In summation: Not even this King fanboy can over look the boredom he feels while struggling through these pages. I only reread it because it's part of the entire experience, and Roland's overall quest is worth it. I tried to skip it during my last re-read in 2003 (when King finished the rest of the series), but found something lacking, so I ended up going through it again anyway. So there must be something redeeming about WIZARD AND GLASS, right? I just don't know what that is. There are only two books from King that I've ever given less than three stars to in a review. This is one, and I mentioned the other earlier in this post. We shant speak of the latter ever again. Even typing the name of that book above caused my bowels to quiver in rage. Now excuse me while I steam clean my chair.