The Dark Tower V : Wolves of the Calla
Reviewed: June 8, 2006
By: Stephen King / Illustrations by Bernie Wrightson
Publisher: Pocket Books
960 pages, $12.99
Oh dear - another cliffhanger. Howís
that for spoiling the ending of a book for you? Of course, if youíve been
following this series at all, you know that itís been one cliffhanger after
another, so I havenít spoiled a thing. If you havenít been following this
series, this column is not for you. The Dark Tower really is one enormous
novel in seven volumes, the sixth of which just appeared in paperback last
week and the last of which is still doing well in hardcover sales.
This volume, like the one just before
it, certainly partakes of the hobbits meets Louis LíAmour meets Sergio Leone
meets H.P. Lovecraft feel that permeates this saga. When all is said and done,
however, it would be the LíAmour westerns and the Lovecraft horror which dominate
the proceedings this time.
To recap, Roland and his three companions
are on their way to the Dark Tower, following something they call the Beam.
There are a number of beams that lead to and support the Tower, which is the
edifice at the centre of a multitude of universes, one of which is ours. Another
is the world of Kingís earlier novel The Stand, while still another,
as we learn in this book, is the world in which the novel Salemís Lot took
Rolandís companions, Jake, Eddie and
Susannah, all come from one of the other worlds like ours, from the same place
but from different times in that world. In Jakeís time there is a vacant lot
in New York City, and in that lot there grows alone a splendid flower that
is somehow crucial to the quest of Rolandís ka-tet (ka means fate, tet is
a group, so the idea is pretty clear).
Now, this volume does not start with
our weary little band, but instead introduces us to the inhabitants of Calla
Bryn Sturgis, a farming town in the midwest. Every 20 years or so the town
is visited by riders they call Wolves, who spirit off one of every set of
twins (the town has many pairs), take them away for a period of time, and
return them in a condition the people call ďroontĒ. At first the returnees
seem physically normal but they are retarded. Later their bodies become outsized
and slow, and they are fit for nothing but to use as beasts of burden until
their altered condition causes them to die young and in great pain.
As we enter the story, it is almost
time for that culling to take place again, and those who know they will lose
children are trying to stir up the courage to resist it. One of the townsfolk
leading this incipient rebellion is the Old Man, or Pere Callahan, a man who
found his courage the hard way, in another world altogether, when he was known
as Father Callahan and tired to fight vampires in Salem.
Roland and his companions arrive in
classic Lone Ranger fashion. The townsfolk seek them out as known gunslingers
(this is more like being a knight in Mid-World) and ask for their help against
their enemies. The companions agree and take on the task. How they get the
lay of the land, find the warriors they need among the people, and fight the
battle with the agents of the dark ones is one part of this novel.
The second part is Callahanís story,
which sits in the middle of things. We learn of all that has happened to him
since his faith failed him during his confrontation with the master vampire
in that little New England town. Callahan learned that his encounter with
Barlow had left him with the ability to see things heíd rather have ignored,
and the ability to walk between the worlds to the other realities. He spent
years as a drunk, as a hospice volunteer, as a vampire slayer of sorts, and
on the run from the Low Men in Yellow Coats (see Hearts in Atlantis)
until his wanderings brought him to the Calla, where he found his faith and
his calling once again.
Then there is the third part. When
they rescued Jake from the insanity which almost took him in 1977 when he
did not die as he had in his first passage through that time, Roland, Jake
and Susannah faced a demon. They drove it back to rescue Jake, but it left
a little gift behind it. Susannah, who is the integrated personality of a
woman with two minds, now carries some kind of a child. She does not know
this, A new personality, which calls herself Mia, is the mother of ďthe chapĒ,
as she calls it, and she is fighting Susannah for control of her body.
It is this danger, combined with the
need to rescue the flower in the world Jake left, which provides the unfinished
ending of this installment in the saga.
It is a nasty place to end the book,
an anti-climax after multiple successes combined with much action and intrigue.
Wolves of the Calla takes us much deeper into an understanding of what
forces Roland of Gilead has arrayed before him in his quest.
On the other hand, we readers canít
feel any more shocked than Callahan does when he picks up a novel called Salemís
Lot in a New York bookstore, a book written by an author heís never heard
of, some guy named Stephen King, and discovers that part of his life has been
recorded there. On that note, I leave you to read it for yourself.