“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, the walkin’ dude Randall Flag, aka Walter O’Dim, aka the Man in Black, finally met his Waterloo rather ignominiously when he was devoured by spider baby Mordred.
The Dark Tower,Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 4: The Door into Thunderclap, Section 1
Our reunited ka-tet has spent time sleeping, but now it’s time to move along. They awaken after six hours to find a tray filled with popkins waiting for them.
Feeling the Touch, Jake knows that Nigel has delivered his final popkins, and that he ended “doing something he didn’t want to do.” Roland realizes Jake has been crying, and knows he is mourning Callahan.
There’s some affectionate banter between Susannah and Eddie, and some banter about the nasty white boy and where his hands are going, something sure to send Constant Reader into a rant.
What Constant Reader Learns:Did Nigel have time to deliver sandwiches before he took the bumbler to Mordred and met his final short-circuitry? Guess so. We’re backtracking quite a bit in our story timeline, which is a little awkward, but I have faith in sai-King to make it work.
Eddie’s hauling Susannah around like a sack of potatoes. Bet he’d like a wheelchair about now; wonder how that baby weight is faring.
Sorry, but after thousands of pages I STILL don’t find the Eddie/Susannah romance to be genuine. It’s way too superficial. Doesn’t feel real—as if we’re being told they’re in love but never allowed to connect with their minds and hearts, or what it is about the other than meets a need or lights their fires. We’re told Eddie loves Susannah, but not why, or what he thinks of her, or what about her speaks to him. Ditto for Susannah. That’s been my biggest complaint about the series, the one thing that never rang true, and unless something happens in the next few hundred pages to change my mind, I just never saw the need for fabricating a romance if once isn’t going to adequately develop it. Okay. Rant over. For now.
The Dark Tower,Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 4: The Door into Thunderclap, Section 2
The group is wandering around aimlessly, not sure how to find the door to Thunderclap, but Oy to the rescue! The bumbler leads them to a door that reads C-Level and wants them to follow. Roland isn’t sure, so he asks Jake. They absolutely should follow, says Jake—Oy probably scents the Dogan, the real one between the Calla and Thunderclap.
Remembering the Dogan reminds Jake of his friend Benny, and Jake hopes he dies well. He doesn’t dread the death itself, but the grave-time: “You had to die, yes, and Jake hoped he could do it at least moderately well when the hour came. He’d had some training in how to do it, after all. It was the thought of all that grave-time that chilled him. That downtime. That lie-still-and-continue-to-be-dead time.”
Eddie spots a stainless-steel kitchen cart and sets down his sack of potatoes, er, Susannah, on top so they can roll her around.
As we head-hop madly through this section, from one point of view to another, we jump into Oy’s head and learn that he smells the Wolves. They continue to follow, and come across a door marked “To Horses,” then another, “Staging Area.” Sai-King joins the head-hopping long enough to pop in and tell us none of them realized they’d been followed by Walter o’Dim up to this point: “When Walter was sure where the bumbler was leading them, he’d turned back to palaver with Mordred—a mistake as it turned out, but one with this consolation: he would never make another.”
Holding their guns in quick-firing position, they go through the big Staging Area door, and come into a big room full of Wolves in various stages of repair, hanging from the ceiling, wires dangling. At one end was a line of bays filled with plugs, where the Wolves were charged up.
Jake starts laughing—he thinks the lines of Wolves waiting to charge up in the bays look like commuters at Penn Station, lined up to use the pay phones. Eddie and Susannah laugh as well. Roland doesn’t get the joke, but he is glad that Jake can still laugh after all he’s been through.
What Constant Reader Learns:Again Roland is following rather than leading, as he asks Jake’s opinion on whether or not to follow Oy. I like this gradual shift he’s making, both showing his trust of his ka-tet, and also maybe showing his age and weariness. I get the feeling that, like the world itself, Roland is winding down, maybe getting ready to move on. But move on to where and what, ah, there’s a question.
Jake’s ruminations on death bring me back to the last section, talking about moving on. What happens between when one dies and when one appears in another world or another level of the tower? If our ka-tet die in this quest, will they live on or continue their quest on another level? Or, more likely, I’m way off base and reading things in that aren’t there. Obviously, though, there ARE other worlds than these.
Too bad Suse couldn’t have kept Mia’s legs.
Sign No. 19,999 that the world has moved on….pay phones at Penn Station. Now, all those commuters have smartphones.
The Dark Tower,Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 4: The Door into Thunderclap, Section 3
The ka-tet finds the door they want to the left of the utility bays, only marked with the cloud-and-lightning sigul. It’s not a magical door, though, but a steel door with power cords coming from it and leading into the wall. From the wall comes a low rumble that Eddie recognizes from the encounter with Shardik back in the woods.
When he points this out to Roland, he also remembers what Eddie said at the time, as if in a trance: “These are the rooms of ruin…These are the halls of the dead, where the spiders spin and the great circuits fall quiet, one by one.”
Eddie points out that the machinery doesn’t sound very robust, so they better go through the door while they can.
Roland leads the way in, with the others close behind. As soon as the door’s opened, they can smell burning wires and see, beyond them, a vast room crisscrossed with silvery lines.
This door-passing didn’t feel like going todash, Jake notes, but as soon as he was on the other side, he was hit by violent nausea. As are they all, so there’s much yarking and retching—even by Oy.
Before the vomitus eruptus has ended, three men approach dressed in jeans and denim shirts. “Gunslingers!” exclaims the elder of the group. “Are you gunslingers? If you are, don’t shoot! We’re on your side!”
The man tells them the sickness is bad from crossing, but it won’t last long. In the meantime, they need to hurry because an alarm went off in the “ki’dam’s” study. Then the guy gets a look at Jake and his face pales. “My God,” he whispers. “Is it Bobby Garfield?”
What Constant Reader Learns:Roland touches the doorknob with his hand before going in, and pulls his hand away. Jake asks if it’s hot, and Roland shakes his head no. Susannah asks if it’s electrified, and again, no. But we never really know what makes Roland pause. We know he’s not very strong in the Touch, so I don’t know if he was mentally testing what was on the other side or not.
But as he steps through the door, for a second Jake sees Roland seem to be broken into two pieces.
Ah, and so we once again revisit “Hearts in Atlantis…” How did those worlds intersect, I wonder? Hmmm….
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.