Last week, victory was bittersweet as Roland learned of his true destiny. This week, we return to our current when and ka-tet ... and Emerald City?
Thank you for joining me on a journey of Stephen King’s Wizard and Glass (1997), the 4th book in The Dark Tower series. When we left Roland, Jake, Susannah, Eddie, and Oy the billy-bumbler, they were trapped on the psychotic locomotive, Blaine the Mono, crossing through the feared waste lands. Our ka-tet had narrowly escaped the destruction of Lud that Blaine had decimated with gas—but for what? To become prisoners aboard a train bulleting into a desolate hell populated by fierce beasts, with a guide that’s clearly mad. Yeah, it looks like we are bound to have a helluva lot of fun as we continue our journey to the Dark Tower.
*Remember: While this is a reread, please avoid spoilers in the comments. The point is to get there together!
We're back to wacky Stephen King chapters, so the plan is to read a section a week (about 100 pages) and meet here at our usual time (Tuesday at 12 p.m. ET) 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 week, we return to our current when and ka-tet, who are off to meet the wizard. Join us in the comments for a discussion of Part IX of Wizard and Glass: All God's Chillun Got Shoes!
Part IV All God's Chillun Got Shoes
Roland’s long palaver has come to an end and, according to him, his recitation took place in one night—though it felt like months to the others. Eddie Dean quips, “… this gives a whole new meaning to ‘Get it off your chest.’ ” True enough! It’s good to have Eddie back in full, though I’m going to miss Cuthbert, Alain, and Sheemie.
Mr. Kings ties up some immediate loose ends. His original ka-tet had returned to Gilead where Cuthbert and Alain made sure Roland turned over Maerlyn’s Rainbow to his father. Clay Reynolds and Coral Thorin had become an item and robbed some banks before meeting their much-deserved demises. And Roland smiles thinking about how Sheemie had followed the ka-tet but leaves off there. And what of Rhea? In the last few pages, Roland alludes to the fact that they’d met again and he’d killed her.
That brings us to The Wizard of Oz. Whaaat? In the distance, they can see Emerald City, and Eddie, Susannah, and Jake catch Roland up on the L. Frank Baum classic. Nearing their destination, they find—conveniently—pairs of red shoes for each of them to wear, even Oy.
Oz, Roland thought. He searched his memory, but he didn’t think it was a name he had ever heard before, or a word of the High Speech that had come in disguise, as char had come disguised as Charlie. Yet it had a sound that belonged in this business; a sound more of his world than of Jake’s, Susannah’s, and Eddie’s, from whence the tale had come.
I beg to differ, gunslinger. Even though I love Oz, just like many other grown-up kids, I never once thought of that familiar tale when I was reading Roland’s adventures. It’s almost akin to an intrusion on reality—took me out of the story like it would if Superman showed up in an episode of Star Trek—at first. Then, they approach the bars of the entry gate, and there they see tiny creatures imprisoned inside the bars … and we now know we’re not in Kansas anymore. Well, close to it, for sure, as they can see an alternative of Interstate I-70, but you know what I mean. To get inside, they don their “ruby slippers,” including Oy, and—you guessed it—click their heels together. The gate shatters “spraying crumbs of obsidian glass in all directions.”
Roland says he’s terrified, though his ka-tet doesn’t seem nearly as alarmed—and why should they, right? Oz is populated by a horse of another color, massages for all, and a humbug harmless wizard. As they enter the “wizard’s” chamber, a voice drives a mile-long shiver down Jake’s spine. It’s Blaine, back from the dead, thundering, “I AM OZ!” But Eddie gets that it’s all smoke and mirrors, especially when Oy, acting like Toto, pulls back the curtain to reveal:
“I WARN YOU, IF YOU REFUSE—”
Oy barked, a sharp and somehow forbidding sound. The man in the equipment alcove began to turn.
Tell me, cully, Jake remembered this voice saying before its owner had discovered the dubious attractions of amplification. Tell me all you know about dipolar computers and transitive circuits. Tell me and I’ll give you a drink.
It wasn’t Jonas, and it wasn’t the Wizard of anything. It was David Quick’s grandson. It was the Tick-Tock Man.
The ending to Wizard and Glass was what it needed to be: climax after eye-popping climax. Roland fast duels Tick-Tock Man and disposes of him instantly. Blood hasn’t even stopped flowing when found sitting on the Wizard’s throne is none other than Marten, aka the man in black, who is now calling himself Randall Flagg. Flagg, of course, is well-known to King aficionados (The Stand, The Eyes of the Dragon) as a demon extraordinaire hellbent on decimating entire civilizations.
I like how we don’t have a drawn-out back and forth here—Roland has been preparing for this moment for eons—he draws, just missing killing Flagg, who vaporizes into thin air. Left in his place is Maerlyn’s Rainbow.
Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy via Roland are transported into the orb. They see a significant torment that has plagued Roland from his younger days—thinking he was confronting Marten, he mistakenly shot his mother, who happened to be holding a peace-offering: a belt she’d made for him to make amends for her infidelity.
Also there, in the orb, is Rhea! Whereas Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy can’t reach the Roland of the past, and he can’t see them, Rhea is able to needle the visitors from the gunslinger’s future, telling them that everyone of importance to Roland dies. He’s bad luck. This ka-tet, that Roland now says he loves as much as he did the old with Cuthbert and Alain, returns the sentiment, saying they are invested in him and the journey no matter what happens. King concludes Wizard and Glass with them striding along the Path of the Beam, heading toward the Dark Tower.
What did you think of the end of Wizard and Glass? 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.
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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.