Welcome back to my first read of the Dark Tower series after a one-week hiatus for Memorial Day! This week I will cover the rest of The Way Station, part 2 of The Gunslinger.
The third chapter of The Way Station opens with Jake hypnotized by the gunslinger. We get a long sequence in italics that makes clear that Jake came from the New York City of our world. Or at least one very much like it. It is also a reminder that Stephen King is very good at that sort of thing but his writing still makes you want to roll your eyes. “His father sometimes talks about people at the Network who are doing too much ‘Coca-Cola.’” Jake gets to the gunslinger’s world rather differently than in the trailer for the movie.
The gunslinger and Jake set off from the way station, but not before the gunslinger investigates the cellar (Jake was too scared to). When the gunslinger goes down into the cellar and starts clearing it out, sand begins spilling from between cracks in the foundation, “as if something on the other side was digging itself through with slobbering, agonized intensity.” Roland uses “the High Speech” to demand it speak—wait, is this the first time we’ve seen the gunslinger referred to as “Roland”? It’s the first time I’ve noticed. I’m just happy I don’t have to keep referring to him as “the gunslinger.” Roland is fewer letters to type. Anyway, the voice in the wall tells him:
“Go slow past the Drawers, gunslinger. Watch for the taheen. While you travel with the boy, the man in black travels with your soul in his pocket.”
Roland and Jake depart.
There is a long flashback to Roland’s time as an apprentice gunslinger. We get to see Cort, who he has mentioned before and who apparently trained him. Cuthbert, his fellow apprentice. And Roland’s father. They live on an estate of some sort. The two overhear the cook conspiring to assist “the good man” with poisoned meat and turn him in. Later they watch him hang. There is a conversation between Roland and his father that mainly reminds us that Stephen King is a creepy weirdo who thinks a lot about people thinking about their parents having sex.
Roland and Jake reach the end of the desert and the edge of the mountains. They also catch their first glimpse of the man in black.
Where I’m Reading
What I’m Drinking
I’ve been drinking Michigan beer, mostly. At the moment, New Holland’s White Hatter Belgian-style white pale ale.
In the movie trailer, Jake walks through a hole in a wall to get to Roland’s world. Here, the man in black pushes him in front of a car, and he basically dies to make the trip.
“Only a corpse may speak true prophecy.” Roland pulls a jawbone out of the wall after hearing the prophecy.
Spiders with their eyes on stalks and as many as sixteen legs.
Roland at least initially suspects a “demon” is in the cellar.
Not a lot happens in these chapters, but there is a lot of worldbuilding.
We learn definitely that Jake is from NYC.
The water pump runs on an atomic slug (probably). And there are canned goods in the cellar. The level of technology still isn’t clear, but it is fairly advanced (or was).
As for the prophecy, I have no idea what the Drawers are. If I remember correctly, the bird-headed man we saw in Resumption was a taheen.
We get a bit more on the gunslingers’ abilities, whether supernatural or not. Cort sees Cuthbert stick his tongue out at him in the reflection in Roland’s eyes. But that flashback is more important for the other things we learn. There used to be a number of gunslingers. The man in black, or the good man, conquered Roland’s home in some fashion. He’s only been presented as working alone, thus far, but this is our first glimpse, I think, at how his influence has spread across this world and been killing it.
Like I said, there is a lot of worldbuilding here. I’m beginning to get a better sense of the world and the structure of the books. We get what I think are our first mentions of the gunslinger’s name and of the tower. [Checks series title.] The tower seems pretty important, not that the initial mention gives much indication.
Roland, rightly I’m sure, suspects that Jake must be some sort of trap laid by the man in black.
Still, this was a pretty boring section of the book. I’m ready to keep steaming along, but the series hasn’t grabbed me yet.
You can find all of my Dark Tower Big Read posts here.