“There they stood, ranged along the hillsides, met
To view the last of me, a living frame
For one more picture! In a sheet of flame
I saw them and I knew them all.”
—Robert Browning, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”
Welcome to A Read of the Dark Tower series. Join me each week as I, Constant Reader, tackle the magnum opus of Stephen King’s career for the first time. If you want to discuss in general terms or talk about these or preceding sections, join me by commenting here.
Last time, our ka-tet got to know their Breaker hosts better, and Roland revealed that the Breaker known as Stanley Ruiz had once upon a time been Sheemie back in Wizard and Glass.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 6: The Master of Blue Heaven, Section 1
We begin our chapter in the point of view of Pimli Prentiss, the master of Algul Sienta. He’s in his bathroom preparing to squeeze a pimple of ginormous proportions when he’s joined by “The Weasel,” a taheen named Finli O’Tego, head of security. Finli is tall, even for a taheen, at just over seven feet, with the head of a weasel (natch) and black eyes. He’s also had his tail docked, the result of a drunken whim.
Finli has been investigating the security breach at the door to Fedic but concludes it was simply a mechanical malfunction.
What Constant Reader Learns: It takes a lot to gross me out these days, but feeding pimple juice to Finli? All I can say is ewwww.
So Pimli was a prison guard, and in human years is probably about seventy-five, although he looks fifty. He’s tall and overweight, although not as tall as Finli. Interesting character, with his strong religious bent and determination to do the job he was “hired” to do, even though he realizes the finality of it. We learn that until a year ago, he’d gotten The New York Times on a regular basis, perhaps by people traveling back and forth through the doors.
Those living in the Algul like Pimli have regular skin eruptions because of the environment, “death baking out of the very rocks and earth that surrounded them.” Beyond Fedic, in the lands called Discordia, there’s a red glow, and the “Rods,” who live closer to it, have worse mutations.
Finli is a fan of John Fowles and is reading The Collector. Not sure of the significance here.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 6: The Master of Blue Heaven, Section 2
Pimli and Finli talk about the maintenance drone he’s blaming for the malfunction, but Finli admits something feels “hinky” to him—something he can’t put his finger on. And yet “telemetry doesn’t lie,” he says. It’s probably because they’re in the end-times now.
Pimli decides he wants to accompany Finli on his rounds, but first he must go and pray. His prayer closet is his bathroom, which Finli finds interesting: “If prayer’s so exalted, why do you kneel in the same room where you sit to shit?” he asks.
What Constant Reader Learns: I keep typing “Pimli” as “Pimpli." I’ve done it three times now.
It’s interesting that the two leaders of Algul Siento are so aware of where they are on the journey, how little time is left, and yet there’s no thought to save themselves. So if the Crimson King is off being crazy, who’s their boss? Who’s calling the shots for Pimli? Who’s the master’s master? Or is the situation beyond such matters at this point? Pimpli (I’m just giving in to it) even thinks, “Things were out of control, running downhill with no brakes, and there was nothing left to do but enjoy the ride.”
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 6: The Master of Blue Heaven, Section 3
In the bathroom, Pimli (who in his human life was known as Paul o’Rayway of New Jersey) knees before the toilet and prays for strength, wisdom and courage. He prays that God will help him to “hurt no one who doesn’t deserve it.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Were I not bound and determined not to venture onto any political limbs, there is much I could comment on about Pimli and the irony of the things he prays for in light of the things he’s doing, and parallels with our national politics. But I shall refrain.
Apparently sai-King couldn’t resist, because he goes off on a multi-page “aside” from his omniscient narrator’s point of view about the former Paul Prentiss, former Attica prison guard who answered a blind ad in the New York Times and ended up with the non-paying job he could never leave. “Certainly he saw himself as no villain,” King the narrator tells us, “but no truly dangerous man ever has.”
Because I found the irony of Pimli so interesting, I did not get nearly as annoyed by the authorial intrusion as I usually do. Mildly annoyed but not “throw the book against the wall” annoyed.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 6: The Master of Blue Heaven, Section 4
Pimli and Finli stroll through town, and Pimli stops only to greet “off-duty” Breakers. He counts it a victory that they respond in some way, and we’re told he truly cares about them.
They come across Dinky Earnshaw, who is sitting on a bench reading John Fowles’ The Magus. Finli tries to engage him in a literary discussion but Dinky suggests he stick The Collector up his furry ass, sideways. As they go on their way, Pimli can tell that Finli’s feelings are hurt so he points out what a bad attitude Dinky has always had—he’d been recruited for an assassination program by a Positronics subsidiary but they caught him trying to escape and reassigned him.
Again, they talk about how uneasy Finli is feeling about things, and we learn that the first “appreciable bend” has appeared along the Bear-Turtle Beam. Since then, the Eagle-Lion Beam had snapped and there would only be the Wolf-Elephant Beam left. Pimli figures it will last no more than another month, and the Tower will fall.
They meet Ted and Stanley, who are riding bikes, and Pimli greets them. But when Pimli comments that maybe a gunslinger came and helped the Calla-folken, Finli chastises him for being childish. “There’ve been rumors of gunslingers coming out of Mid-World to save the day for a thousand years and more. And never a single authenticated sighting.” Another thing not to worry about—Ted Brautigan, who Pimli assures his security chief is under control and no longer trying to fight back.
What Constant Reader Learns: Pimli’s house is a “tidy Cape Cod” at the end of the Mall. At the other hand is a Queen Anne called Damli House, aka Heartbreak House, where the taheen and the can-toi live. Which begs the question: who built Algul Siento? Who designed it? How long has it been there?
Of course time is meaningless at this point, but I was trying to gauge how much time had passed since the ka-tet left the Calla. Pimli is still puzzling over the Wolves, who’d gone into the Calla after their last load of children but hadn’t returned. When he asks Finli what he thinks happened, Finli says he thinks it was a computer virus—“because no matter how fearsome the Greencloaks may look to a bunch of rice-farmers, computers on legs is all they really are.” Or, he says, maybe the Calla-folken finally stepped up and figured out how to kill them.
Seems as if Finli is being unbelievably obtuse in his insistence that there’s no gunslingers. He’s paranoid, admittedly, and wants to increase security. And yet he also is insistent that nothing is really wrong. Seems as if it would be more believable to have him at least a little suspicious.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 6: The Master of Blue Heaven, Section 5
Pimli and Finli next go below Heartbreak House in order to observe the Breakers who are at work. About the can-toi, Finli, in a sublime pot-kettle moment, observes, “They are so odd.”
What Constant Reader Learns: The can-toi, the rats with human masks we first saw in the Dixie Pig, are, in Pimli’s estimation, believe they are becoming human. That there would be a new heaven and a new earth after the fall, and they’d inherit it. Pimli isn’t so sure about that, from his reading of the Book of Revelation. A new heaven, yes, but he’s not sold on the new earth.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 6: The Master of Blue Heaven, Section 6
The Damli House basement is mostly filled with non-working equipment but the telemetry and surveillance equipment still works—most of the time. The rest is given over to “The Study,” where the Breakers practice their joined psychic abilities. The telemetry readings tell them if any Breakers are using their skills outside The Study, which is forbidden. It would also tell them if any of the Breakers had developed the dangerous skill of teleportation—the one skill they fear. But no one can do teleportation, they are certain.
Yet again, the two talk of Finli’s uneasiness, and Pimli asks why he is uneasy. “I know that the Bleeding Lion hasn’t reappeared in the north, nor do I believe that the sun’s cooling from the inside,” he responds. “I’ve heard tales of the Red King’s madness and that the Dan-Tete has come to take his place, and all I can say is, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’ Same with this wonderful news about how a gunslinger-man’s come out of the west to save the Tower, as the old tales and songs predict. Bullshit, every bit of it.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Ah, so here we have good old Sheemie the teleporter but because he’s simple, perhaps, the equipment doesn’t pick up his skill.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 6: The Master of Blue Heaven, Section 7
Pimli and Finli finally reach the area overlooking The Study. Finli asks Pimli if he’s heard from “sai Sayre.” Pimli says no, and he doesn’t really expect to. He seems annoyed by the question.
What Constant Reader Learns: These guys have gotten complacent and clueless.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 6: The Master of Blue Heaven, Section 8
The Study has a balcony overlooking it where Pimli and Finli stop, and we learn that others in the Algul stop by frequently to absorb the good vibes coming from the Breakers. Inanimate objects—and somethings they themselves—sometimes floated in the air. Thoughts were clear. Anxiety disappeared. “It was as if some sort of happy-gas, invisible to the eye and unmeasurable by even the most sophisticated telemetry, always rose from the Breakers below.”
There are thirty-three breakers who work at a time, in shifts—except for Ted Brautigan, who comes and goes as he wishes. He comes in while Pimli and Finli are watching, and the power level rises. He’s a facilitator, unlike any of the others, who ramps up the others’ abilities just by being near them. The psychic force amplified by Ted rises through the Study’s skylight and directly against the Beam above them, “chipping and eroding and rubbing relentlessly against the grain. Eating holes in the magic. Working patiently to put out the eyes of the Bear. To crack the shell of the Turtle. To break the Beam which ran from Shardik to Maturin. To topple the Dark Tower which stood between.”
Pimli and Finli are so at ease they don’t notice Ted Brautigan watching them.
What Constant Reader Learns: Fun touch. On the walls of The Study are paintings by Matisse and Rembrandt—and even the Mona Lisa—“the real one, as opposed to the fake hanging in the Louvre on Keystone Earth.”
This is the first time I recall the phrase “Keystone Earth.” I wonder if that’s in reference to the period Eddie and Roland were in most recently, which they deemed the “real” when.
The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 6: The Master of Blue Heaven, Section 9
Later that night, as Pimli lies in bed, thinking how easily one could be misled working around the Breakers who made one feel so good and so certain things were all right. What if someone were to channel that feeling and “send it to them like a lullaby,” he wonders. Just as he’s thinking he’s being totally paranoid, a double roll of thunder booms from the direction of Fedic and Discordia, and Pimli gets up and goes to pray again.
What Constant Reader Learns: Methinks the thunder is a warning and Pimli should trust his instincts more than those of Finli.
And…that’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll continue our read of the final book of the Dark Tower saga.