After finally catching up to the man in black at the end of The Gunslinger—now 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.”
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.
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.
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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.