Tue
Oct 11 2016 12:00pm

The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three, Part I

After finally catching up to the man in black at the end of The Gunslingernow what? Join us on the beach as we begin our journey across a different kind of desert in Part I of The Drawing of the Three

Thank you for joining me on a journey of Stephen King’s The Drawing of the Three (1987), the 2nd book in The Dark Tower series. Several of us have just finished a trek through The Gunslinger (1982), which originally was a collection of short stories, later bound together, effectively capturing a world certainly familiar to us—Wild West background set to modern pop tunes—but stirring nightmarish images where time is out of mind and people displaced in various purgatories. The main protagonist, Roland Deschain of Gilead, is obsessed with locating the Dark Tower, so he shadows the man in black, who seems to have answers when confronted, though they are obtusely revealed with a turning over of Tarot cards. The man in black explained that Roland has caught the attention of his superior, who remains unknown, taking an interest in Roland’s endeavors.

 *Remember: While this is a reread, please avoid spoilers in the comments. The point is to get there together!

With Stephen King's chapters getting a little strange, the plan is to read a section a week (about 100 pages), and each Tuesday we will meet to discuss major themes, motifs, and reactions. Make sure to bookmark the HQ page for the schedule and links to all of the chapter discussions as they go live! This chapter sees Roland wandering across a different kind of desert but, this time, without a known purpose—that is, until he happens upon a door. Join us in the comments for a lively discussion of the start of The Drawing of the Three through The Prisoner, Chapter 2: “Eddie Dean.”


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Prologue – The Prisoner, Chapter 2: “Eddie Dean”

Less than seven hours have elapsed since the gunslinger and the man in black’s tête-à-tête with Roland at the Golgotha. He wakes up on the Western beach with what resembles a very large lobster be-bopping its way toward him. Before he can process what is going on, the creature proceeds to bite off two of Roland’s fingers and part of a big toe. He smashes this oddity, that he calls a lobstrosity, with a rock.

What a beginning! Stephen King kickstarts The Drawing of the Three with Roland operating at several disadvantages: he’s still regretful over Jake Chambers (the young boy he let plunge to his death in order to catch the man in black), he has only vague insight to continue his quest via Tarot cards, and now—for a man such as Roland who depends on his guns—he is missing two digits from his dominant firing hand. 

Before we go any farther, though, a few notes on the current revised edition I’m reading. An opening page features “19” prominently, so it seems that prime number is going to play a significant role in the series. If you are reading from the same 2003 version, Mr. King’s introduction mentions that Marten and the man in black were separate entities, but didn’t Walter/the man in black say to Roland in the last chapter of The Gunslinger that he came to Roland’s mom as Marten? Help me out there—I’m sure it’s just me being thick-headed—but I’m doing a quick assumption that we have a demon inhabiting more than one person.

Back to the search—with Roland's hand infected and the last of his food and water nearly exhausted, Roland begins moving north, out of intuition more than anything else. It serves him well when he observes something out of the ordinary in the distance.

His knees buckled, straightened, buckled, straightened again. When his hair fell in his eyes once more he did not bother to push it back; did not have the strength to push it back. He looked at the object, which now cast a narrow shadow back toward the upland, and kept walking. 

He could make it out now, fever or no fever.

It was a door.

And more importantly, prophetically, written above the door are two words: THE PRISONER. He immediately remembers. A demon has infested him. The name of the demon is HEROIN.

“Through the looking glass” Roland “leaps” right into the body of heroin addict Eddie Dean. Mr. King rotates POV so we can listen in on Eddie when he becomes aware that someone has invaded his body. We also jump into the thoughts of Jane the stewardess, who is suspicious of Eddie, especially when she is aware his eyes went from hazel to blue in the time it takes to blink.

Since only Roland’s ka/soul is in Eddie, when he looks back to the door, he sees his undernourished body prone on the beach. A major concern because a lobstrosity could finish dining on his comatose figure, so he needs to move faster. When Eddie falls asleep, Roland takes the tuna fish sandwich (that he ordered while controlling Eddie’s body) and slips back through the door onto the beach where he wolfs down the food to boost his energy.

Eddie is smuggling bags of cocaine under each arm, and he's sure to get caught because suspicious Jane reports him via the captain to customs. 

She got her book from her totebag, but what she really wanted was another look at 3A.

He appeared to be deeply asleep … but the sandwich was gone.

Jesus, Jane thought. He didn’t eat it; he swallowed it whole. And now he’s asleep again? Are you kidding?

Whatever was tickling at her about 3A, Mr. Now-They’re-Hazel-Now-They’re-Blue, kept right on tickling. Something about him was not right.

Something.

Ever since reading C.S. Lewis as a kid and marveling at Susan, Peter, Lucy, and Edmund Pevensie locating that magical portal in the wardrobe, I’m easy game for any storyteller that borrows that plot device. Mr. King provides us with an adult version and heightened tension: will Roland be killed by the lobster-like creatures, and can he convince Eddie of what’s going on before he’s caught? Inquiring minds with compromised nervous systems like mine want to know.

Right from the start, this novel has better flow compared to The Gunslinger. King takes his time telling this part of the story, fleshing out even minor characters like Jane, helping to shape and wind up the suspense to the nth.

My favorite scenes are with the chelae-wielding lobstrosities wandering the beach, resonating “Did-a-chick? Dum-a-chum?” all the while biding their time to snip off another piece of Roland with their saw-like beaks. 

What about you? Was the tonal shift noticeable? Doesn’t this story have more of a regular King novel feel?


What do YOU think about the opening of The Drawing of the Three? Head to the comments and start/join the conversation!

*Remember: Be careful with your comments—NO SPOILERS! We will be moderating the comments and deleting anything we feel is a spoiler, so pause before you post and make sure you're not ruining it for someone else.
 


The Dark Tower Reread Navagation
Chapter 5 | Index | The Drawing of the Three: Part II

 

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David Cranmer is the publisher and editor of BEAT to a PULP. Latest books from this indie powerhouse include the alternate history novella Leviathan and sci-fi adventure Pale Mars. David lives in New York with his wife and daughter.

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12 comments
1. Mates
I liked the way King has Roland operating against the odds by losing his fingers and then just barely escaping with his life.
David Cranmer
2. DavidCranmer
Mates, it really sets the bar high, doesn't it? Because those opening scenes were knuckle-biters for sure and we can only guess at how he's going to top it. And, yeah, King knows how to beat his protagonists up that's for sure. You have a gunslinger and chop two fingers off his firing hand. Brilliant.
Adam Wagner
3. AdamCWagner88
I was so surprised that I honestly thought it was still part of a dream orchestrated by the man in black or something. It wasn't until almost the end of this section that I realized he actually lost his fingers. I just kept waiting for him to snap back to the "real world" and his fingers would return.

During the scenes when he first enters Eddie Dean, I had the mental image of walking through a door and there's a square bit of light at the end of a black tunnel that narrows as you move forward. Sort of Being John Malkovich-esque. King makes such good use of the senses in his writing, he really makes you feel like you're in the scene.
David Cranmer
4. DavidCranmer
Adam, Absolutely felt I was on that plane and inside Eddie's cranium. Being John Malkovich! Yes, I thought of this film when I was reading these passages. (Btw a favorite line: "It's my head, Schwartz, and I'll see you in court!")
5. Garnett Elliott
What I really liked about this one was how quickly it draws (no pun intended) you into the action, with Roland getting injured right off the bat, and Eddie Dean in the middle of a dicey situation as soon as he is introduced. This novel actually felt less strange to me than its predcessor, maybe because of its more familiar structure.
David Cranmer
6. DavidCranmer
Garnett, The Drawing of the Three certainly doesn't seem as disjointed as The Gunslinger. And I'm hearing that the movie coming in 2017 starts with Roland following the man in black into the desert and then steers its own course away from the first novel picking up elements from other books—seems like a wise decision though it will probably irritate purists. I do hope the lobstrosities pop up in the movie because “Did-a-chick? Dum-a-chum?” they are freaky and entertaining as hell.
Alan Williams
7. tontowilliams
Sorry, late to the party this time as I've only just managed to get a copy of the book!

I much prefer the style of this one to Gunslinger, it's much easier to follow and yes more like Stephen Kings non-Dark Tower books.

I loved the opening, the lobster and wondering whether Roland will survive at all, trigger-fingerless and with damp shells.

I hadn't thought of the LW&W plot device until you mentioned it David, but yes it's great to see it reused in this way, and the way in which Roland takes over/becomes Eddie and vice-versa with Eddie feeling some of the injuries to Roland.

I'm looking forward to this "reread" even more than Gunslinger as I really don't remember this one at all, and wonder if maybe I've never read it before at all.

Anyway back to the book for me to catch up with the next section.
8. Prashant C. Trikannad
David, I liked the elements of horror, the creepy scene with the lobster on the beach, and the supernatural, where Roland's soul leaps into Eddie Dean's body. In terms of tone, I think the story appears to get scarier and more intense from here. Of course, I have not read this or any other novel by Stephen King.
David Cranmer
9. DavidCranmer
@tontowilliams: so glad you are still with our ka-tet! And I remember little about The Drawing of the Three beyond the opening on the beach so it will like reading it for the first time again.
David Cranmer
10. DavidCranmer
@Prashant: your enthusiasm for this reread is much appreciated! And, yes, I have a strong sense that King will up the horror passages significantly—horror, after all, is in his bloodstream. Fyi: in the oft case your library has any King, we will continue (after The Drawing of the Three) with The Waste Lands (1991).
11. Prashant C. Trikannad
Thanks, David. As I noted elsewhere, I overlooked Stephen King's novels at the Books by Weight exhibition I visited earlier this month. In fact, a box containing his books even appears in one of the pictures I took, sharing space with other authors. That doesn't diminish my interest in reading your review of "The Dark Tower Part II" and subsequent parts.

Just one thing, though: why is this Chapter 2 and not Chapter 1? I didn't get that.
David Cranmer
12. DavidCranmer
Prologue – The Prisoner, Chapter 2: “Eddie Dean" includes chapter one, Prashant. It is in that em dash. :)
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