“Go, then. There are other worlds than these.”
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 first sections, join me by commenting here.
Last week, our ka-tet’s number dwindled when Susannah fled through the door in the cave, taking Black Thirteen, the Chap, and her alter personalities with her. “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches toward New York to be born.”
Song of Susannah, 1st Stanza, “Beamquake,” Section 1
It is late afternoon/early evening of the day the gunslingers led the defeat of the Wolves on the east road of Calla Bryn Sturgis. The folken are in full celebratory mode, with dancing, singing and fireworks.
For the gunslingers, there is no celebrating.
Roland, Eddie, Jake, and Callahan are having a palaver with Henchick and Cantab, seeking their assistance with creating the magic to open the door in the cave again—and to get where they want to go. After consulting with Cantab, Henchick tells them that he believes it can be done—specifically, to reopen the door on the last two places it had been used.
Eddie is desperate to start immediately because when Susannah disappeared, she was going into labor. He points out that time moves at a faster pace in the world through the door, thus they have no idea if “the chap” has been born already or even if Susannah is still alive.
Callahan is listening, at least a little, but he is obsessed with the copy of ’Salem’s Lot and the fear that he is a fictional character (sorry, Donnie).
Henchick agrees that he will assemble the men of the town the next morning and assist the gunslingers in repayment of their services that morning. By combining their powers, he thinks he can power up the door in the cave.
Eddie still insists that they must go immediately, but Henchick won’t hear of it. The path to the cave is too treacherous and dangerous to negotiate at night. And it will take until morning to assemble the necessary men.
Eddie finally accepts that no attempt will be made until morning. Roland reminds Eddie that Susannah is a gunslinger and maybe she can take care of herself. He points out that Mia might not be able to stay in control since the world they entered was Susannah’s world, not Mia’s.
What Constant Reader Learns: Eddie is a wreck, poor guy. He’s still covered in blood, his hands tremble, and he speaks “in a voice, humble and lost, that Roland had never heard before.” Of course then he sticks his foot in it, scaring not only the Manni but alarming Roland, by saying he’d sell his soul to have Black Thirteen back in his hands. “Roland felt a deep urge to tell Eddie he must take that back, must unsay it. There were powerful forces working against their quest for the Tower, dark ones, and Black Thirteen was their clearest sigul.”
Roland might not have the Touch, but he has intuition, and just in case we can’t stand not knowing what’s going on with Susannah for a while, we’re told this particular intuition of Roland’s is true: that Susannah and Mia are probably working together—unless, of course, they die together.
While all the Manni are huddled and talking, and Eddie’s on a freak-out, Callahan is entranced by ’Salem’s Lot:
He had looked on the back and on the rear flap for the author’s photograph, queerly certain that he would see a version of his own face looking back at him…but there had been no picture, just a note about the book’s writer that told very little… He’d written one previous book, quite well reviewed, if you believed the quotations on the back.
The first edition, we learn, cost $950.
So now that we’re in the Stephen King book and Callahan is the character looking at info on the author Stephen King in a different Stephen King book, I can’t quite decide if it’s diabolically clever or self-indulgent.
Song of Susannah, 1st Stanza, “Beamquake,” Section 2
Henchick and Cantab go to inform the elders of the payment required of them then the next morning. Rosalita and Roland retire to her cottage for some post-Wolf sex. Afterward, she tells him to sleep, to rest, for tomorrow she will see him no more. Roland asks her if she has the sight. Not really, Rosa says, but like all women, she has feelings for when her man is about to move on. Roland kind of likes being a woman’s man again.
Rosalita asks about Roland’s aches and pains. He’s mostly honest about how badly he hurts, saying the pain is “vile.” She leaves him with some ominous advice: “Finish your business as soon as you can. Before your business finishes you.”
What Constant Reader Learns: Well, we’re told that the Manni elders are all male, which is certainly no surprise. It probably wouldn’t have occurred to me that they wouldn’t be, so I am not sure of the significance of Uncle Stevie making a point to tell us this. Perhaps there is none. Perhaps Uncle Stevie is playing with us. (Say it ain’t so, sai.)
So how bad will Roland’s arthritis get, I wonder? We’re told that “he felt a deep ache. Lurking. Waiting its time to come out.”
Song of Susannah, 1st Stanza, “Beamquake,” Section 3
It is midnight. Eddie is on the back porch of the rectory, unable to sleep and worrying about Susannah. He feels helpless, lost—and mean. He resents the sounds of the Calla folk still celebrating their victory, when most of them spent the whole battle hiding in the rice fields.
Jake and Oy come out to join him. Jake’s been thinking about Benny, and also feeling a bit mean—blaming the “Tavery kid” for delaying them and leading eventually to Benny getting killed. Eddie tells him to let it go, and in comforting Jake he feels a little better himself.
Jake tells Eddie that Susannah is still alive, that they would have felt it if she was gone. Eddie asks Jake if he can “touch” Susannah and before Jake can answer, everything begins to shake. The house quakes, windows break, objects come crashing down, the ground beyond the porch rips open. Callahan comes out of the rectory and figures it was an earthquake—he’d experienced one in California. Eddie tells him that it was a hell of a lot more than an earthquake.
Roland and Rosalita join them. To the east, they see “silent artillery bursts of green lightning” on the horizon to the east—“where the land of Thunderclap waited for them, and the Court of the Crimson King, and, at the end of End-World, the Dark Tower itself.”
Roland suggests that what they experienced wasn’t an “earthquake” but a “beamquake”—one of the Beams holding up the Tower had just snapped. Since we might have forgotten, Callahan asks how many beams there are, so Jake and Eddie go through it. Jake knows (via the Touch) that the Great Turtle’s name is Maturin, and they are on the Path of the Bear, Way of the Turtle.
Callahan asks if Roland has any way of knowing which beam broke. Roland tells him all he knows is that it wasn’t the beam they are on, else nothing within a hundred miles of the Calla would be standing—or even a thousand miles. Callahan then asks how many beams remain. Roland tells him perhaps only two. He has no way of knowing how long they will hold, what with the Breakers working on them night and day. Time is short.
At first, Eddie thinks Roland is suggesting they press on without Susannah. But Roland reassures him they can’t win their way to the Tower without her and that for all he knows, they can’t win through without Mia’s chap as well.
Jake suggests that they might have another problem: the quake may have blocked the mouth of the cave or knocked it down completely. Roland wonders if the Manni will still turn out to help tomorrow in light of the quake. Callahan reassures him that the Manni are men of their word.
Roland suggests they play Watch Me to pass the time until morning, since no one can sleep—and Rosa cleans everyone’s clocks. But their minds are on the Tower. Jake thinks: “How long before everything ended? And how would it end? Would they hear the vast rumble of those enormous slate-colored stones as they fell? Would the sky tear open like a flimsy piece of cloth, spilling out the monstrosities that lived in the todash darkness? Would there be time to cry out? Would there be an afterlife, or would even Heaven and Hell be obliterated by the fall of the Dark Tower?”
What Constant Reader Learns: The big fight for the Calla, we’re told, will be forever after called The Day of the East Road Battle. Which is kind of a lame name, really. Why not The Stand? The Dead Zone?
Holy crap—a beam snapped! We’re finally (FINALLY) getting a true sense of what’s at stake and how close things are to really falling apart. Six beams connecting twelve portals, and all beams come together at the Tower. And maybe only two remain.
Ah, and now we learn that Gilead fell not entirely because of Farson but because the Beam on which it rested broke:
He had been through this once before, when Gilead fell and civilization as he then understood it had ended. When he had been cast loose to wander with Cuthbert and Alain and Jamie and the few others of their ka-tet. One of the six Beams had broken then, and almost certainly not the first.
So if what the “Breakers” are trying to break are the Beams, and if broken Beams destroy everything along their path…exactly what are the Breakers supposed to be getting out of this deal, other than hastening their own deaths? What’s the endgame if everyone dies?
That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll continue with our read of Dark Tower Book Six, Song of Susannah.