Last week, the cards were turned and plans were set into motion. This week, we get our final showdown between the young gunslingers and Farson's men.
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 finally get our big showdown! Join us in the comments for a discussion of Part VII of Wizard and Glass: Come, Reap: Chapter 8 “The Ashes” – Chapter 9: “Reaping”!
Part III Come, Reap: Chapter 8 “The Ashes” – Chapter 9: “Reaping”
The showdown we have been waiting for is—more or less—here.
Roland, Cuthbert, and Alain have been arrested on trumped-up charges, accused of brutally murdering Mayor Thorin and Kimba Rimer, and are being held in Sheriff Avery's jail. Susan Delgado is in a state of distress looking for her friends when she comes across her unbalanced Aunt Cordelia. I was hoping we were done having to listen to auntie’s whininess, but we must endure a bit more as Susan admits to the old lady that she and Roland are lovers. Aunt Cord contends Susan had put Roland up to the killings, and in a custom of renunciation, she tosses ashes on Susan, who nevertheless shows empathy toward kin whom she assumes has lost her mind—you don’t say!—and Susan says, “I forgive ye, Aunt.”
Susan has a gutsy plan brewing. She grabs firecrackers from the Bar K with the idea of busting the boys out of Avery’s jail. Sheemie, to her surprise, is waiting for her—waiting to help because he's part of the ka-tet. The simple plan works: while Sheemie lights firecrackers outside the jailhouse to cover the sound, Susan, dressed as a cowboy, goes through the front door like Etta Place out to rescue Butch and Sundance.
She shrank back against the wall, avoiding Dave's first swipe at the oversized serape, and, without thinking, pulled the trigger again. There was another loud explosion, and Dave Hollis—a young man only two years older than she herself—was flung backward with a smoking hole in his shirt between two points of the star he wore. His eyes were wide and unbelieving.
Susan feels gutted about Dave, who she considers a good man, but barely has time to dwell on it because Sheriff Avery grabs her, knocking her down. She squeezes off another round, blowing off his head, which drops into her lap. In these passages, Susan Delgado proves she’s no Mary Sue trope. Without her direct involvement and courage, the ka-tet probably would have been dangling from a noose.
The gang escapes to the oilpatch at Hanging Rock and uses more firecrackers to blow up the first derrick, which leads to multiple fireballs on down the line, explosions so deafening that Jonas can hear it back in town. Though that’s exactly what Roland wants, he realizes to win he’ll need to eliminate all of Farson’s men, not just the Big Coffin Hunters.
Roland makes Susan promise that she and Sheemie will stay out of the way while he, Cuthbert, and Alain go up against Jonas and posse. She reluctantly agrees, considering she’s got Roland’s bun in the oven, and she decides not to tell him because it would only serve to place an additional burden on him.
Back with Rhea, the Wizard's Rainbow, aka Maerlyn's Grapefruit, sparkles to life with an image of—I bet you guessed it—Susan at the hut where she’s stashed away for safe-keeping. (I can hear a large Homer Simpson d’oh!) With that piece of information, Jonas easily catches Susan while Sheemie is in the woods taking a leak. Instead of warning Roland, Sheemie decides to follow Jonas wherever he, escorted by Clay Reynolds, is taking Susan, and they end up at Coral Thorin’s. Minor observation: how does Sheemie keep up with horses? Reminds me of the little boy running after Shane.
Jonas threatens Rhea’s life, takes back the orb, and tells her to git. She curses them as she departs. Once again, as previously noted in last week’s post, why is everyone simply letting Rhea off the hook?! Jonas squashes underlings with hardly batting eye but he lets this twisted, old hag live. Why?
And then, the moment between Jonas and Roland has arrived. Yet in an odd turn, even though Jonas has the all-seeing eyeball, Roland and the boys manage to get the drop and begin eliminating the enemy, 1-2-3.
Jonas thought: God's, it's him! It's Arthur Eld himself come to take me!
And as the barrel of Roland's gun opened in his eye like the entrance to a tunnel or a mineshaft, Jonas remembered what the brat had said to him in the dusty dooryard of that burned-out ranch: The soul of a man such as you can never leave the west.
I knew, Jonas thought. Even then I knew my Ka had pretty well run out.
Did the final faceoff work for you? It kinda, sorta did for me. Especially liked the cleverness in which Roland eliminated Jonas while saving the Wizard’s Rainbow. The action is very cinematic, and if looked at from that angle it will play out on the silver screen majestically. But (there's that but), I was expecting Jonas to put up some sort of a fight—shootout, hand-to-hand combat—something other than being caught off guard despite having the Wizard’s Rainbow in hand and knowing ahead of time what’s happening.
Our cliffhanger finds Rhea hypnotizing Cordelia, inducing the woman to cut her own abdomen, and drinking the blood to buck up before confronting Susan. Damn! That image is gothic, and it would seem it’s literally going to take Susan’s own family blood to destroy her.
And the gunslinger, who must be thinking they are pulling it off, peers into the glass. King writes, “Roland saw what was there, and lost himself within it.”
What did you think of the final showdown between the young gunslingers and Farson's men? 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.