The Gunslinger ended with Roland reaching the ocean. The Drawing of the Three opens with Roland at that same ocean. Welcome back to my first read of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series! Last week I finished The Gunslinger; today I start The Drawing of the Three (book 2). The sections in The Drawing of the Three are longer than those of The Gunslinger, and I’m planning to knock it out in three weeks. Today’s post covers The Prisoner (over a third of the book).
The book opens with Roland asleep, dreaming. He thinks he is going to drown, and he is ok with that…until he realizes that his guns and ammunition may be getting wet. THEN he bolts awake.
There is a four-foot lobster monstrosity (“lobstrosity”) just a few feet away from him. Roland loses two fingers and a big toe before he can get away. Now he’s dehydrated, almost out of food, losing blood, and risking infection. He heads down the beach. Where he finds a door.
The doorway is utterly out of place on the beach. It also hangs on nothing. When Roland walks around it, it disappears from behind. I.e., it can only be seen from the front. When he opens it, he sees strange images. Eventually he figures out that he is looking through someone’s eyes, and we figure out that what he is looking at is our world.
Walking through the door allows Roland to step into the mind of that person. He can even step “forward” and take control of his body. This is the prisoner, the heroin addict referenced in The Gunslinger. He is on a plane from the Bahamas to NYC and has a large amount of cocaine taped under his shirt.
Roland has a problem. His body on the other side of the door (it remains) is dying, but he discovers he can take food back with him. But in doing so he creates another problem: when he steps “forward,” the prisoner’s eyes change color, and the stewardess becomes suspicious. Now Roland has to help the prisoner—Eddie Dean—get through customs. Which he does, but not without a two-hour delay. That makes the drug dealer/minor Mafioso waiting for Eddie Dean suspicious.
There is no way out of this without a gunfight. Roland walks back through the door—fully walks through the door—with Eddie Dean. It is Roland and Eddie versus a handful of Mafioso, but Roland can’t work a gun with a hand with only three fingers left, and all of his ammunition is suspect. One Mafioso is armed with an “automatic in each hand” and another with a “rapid-fire assault weapon.”
A lot of bloggers talk about one thing or another “throwing [them] out of the story.” I never really got that. But if this didn’t throw me out of the story, it did make me want to put my book down, pick up Twitter, and mock Stephen King. This is bad. It is terrible, lazy writing that could have been fixed with even cursory research.
Per Wikipedia, “[a]n automatic firearm continuously fires rounds as long as the trigger is pressed or held and there is ammunition in the magazine/chamber. In contrast, a semi-automatic firearm fires one round with each individual trigger-pull.” There are automatic (machine) pistols, but from the context it is clear King is referring to semi-automatic pistols. If he got that right, then he could call the M16 an “automatic” instead of a weird, uninformative description like “rapid-fire.” The Mafioso’s attempt at using his automatic weapon goes hilariously awry, killing one of his own men and destroying an entire wall. Automatic weapons are pretty much impossible to keep perfectly on target, but they are not uncontrollable. There are plenty of YouTube videos of people shooting automatic weapons if you don’t believe me.
The shootout ends with all of the Mafioso dead, but Roland and Eddie Dean can’t exactly stick around. Roland brings Eddie Dean back with him knowing the door will shut, and Eddie Dean will be trapped in his world forever. He does get some antibiotics.
Where I’m Reading
What I’m Drinking
PC Pils, an American hopped Pilsner from Founders Brewing Company.
The magic door. Roland can see through Eddie Dean’s eyes, enter his mind, or take control of his body. He can bring things back with him. Eddie Dean can physically go through the door to Roland’s world, and vice versa. The door also moves with Roland, which comes in handy when he is fleeing the lobstosities.
The “lobstrosities” are “about four feet long . . . with bleak eyes on stalks” and “long serrated beak[s].” Roland compares them to lobsters, which he’s seen. Their claws are strong and sharp enough to take off fingers. In a nice touch, they “make a noise that was weirdly like human speech: plaintive, even desperate questions in an alien tongue. ‘Did-a-chick? Dum-a-chum? Dad-a-cham? Ded-a-check?’”
There is a certain cognitive dissonance in reading about airplane terrorism concerns from a D.B. Cooper perspective, not a 9/11 perspective. Not to mention with a stewardess smoking(!) on the plane.
This sort of fish out of water thing has been done a million times, including in Wonder Woman, but this is a nice example. My favorite part is Roland’s reaction to people’s profligacy with paper on the plane. In Roland’s world, paper is worth its weight in gold. Two more highlights are Roland freaking out when he sees the sign for the “Leaning Tower” restaurant and his reaction to Eddie Dean giving him two “dogs” to eat. The latter joke has probably been done dozens of times but I still chuckled. As to the former, it is strongly suggested that it actually is the Tower, but the book walks back from that. I’m included to say for now that it isn’t.
We get an explanation for the title in this section. Roland will draw three people from our world into his. The prisoner is the first.
Overall, I already like The Drawing of the Three a lot more than The Gunslinger. The issues with the gunfight didn’t detract from it that much. The whole Eddie Dean has to get Roland medicine and Roland has to get Eddie Dean through customs was a nice setup. But it was spoiled a bit by Roland being the reason Eddie Dean was on such thin ice and because it ultimately didn’t really matter. Roland could have pulled Eddie Dean out before he went through customs and saved us 50 pages. King sets up the part about Roland needing medicine with the opening scene, which also hobbles Roland, but it’s very abrupt. And why was Roland sleeping below the tide line in the first place?
So what do you think of The Drawing of the Three? Better than the Gunslinger? No spoilers!
You can find all of my Dark Tower Big Read posts here.