Last week, we began the final showdown with Roland's gang and the Big Coffin Hunters. This week, victory is bittersweet as Roland is faced with his true destiny.
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, Roland may have won the battle, but he lost his love. Join us in the comments for a discussion of Part VIII of Wizard and Glass: Come, Reap: Chapter 10 “Beneath the Demon Moon (II)”!
Part III Come, Reap: Chapter 10 “Beneath the Demon Moon (II)”
A buzzkill is hanging over Hambry. Citizens had been hoping for the usual festive Reaping, but instead they are in a whirl with news of the mayor’s death and the escape of the “murderers” from jail. Into their spirit-trodden midst strides Rhea, with the zombified Cordelia in tow, spinning lies of how Susan Delgado had claimed that the mayor hadn’t been good enough for her and that she had coerced Roland into a lust-driven frenzy in which he, along with his pals, had killed Thorin and Rimer. The crowd buys into it, especially with Aunt Cord’s convincing testimony, and their collective solution is the girl needs to be executed for her sins.
In the meantime, looking for answers, Roland peers into the recently confiscated Maerlyn’s Rainbow and sees his destiny.
Yes, there it is, a dusty gray-black pillar rearing on the horizon: the Dark Tower, the place where all Beams, all lines of force, converge. In its spiraling windows he sees fitful electric blue fire and hears the cries of all those pent within; he senses both the strength of the place and the wrongness of it; he can feel how it is spooling error across everything, softening the divisions between the worlds, how it’s potential for mischief is growing stronger even as disease weakens its truth and coherence, like a body afflicted with cancer; this jutting arm of dark gray stone is the world’s great mystery and last awful riddle.
Thanks to Sheemie’s mule, Caprichoso, for finding the exhausted lad, the boy is able to catch up with Susan, where she’s being held captive in a pantry at the Seafront. In a surprise turn, the mayor’s widow wants to help Susan escape. They set off some of Sheemie’s left over firecrackers and set fire to the Seafront’s drapes as a distraction. With the guards checking on the commotion, Sheemie, Maria, and the widow free Susan. And it almost works.
They are confronted by Reynolds and Rhea. The widow pulls out a concealed gun but it backfires, and she’s killed by the Big Coffin Hunter. Sheemie, having been sent away just before their capture, once again gets away.
Roland’s friends are worried over his attachment to Maerlyn’s Rainbow. The gunslinger’s eyes turn black like a fathomless void, and the orb is described as alive and hungry. He only escapes the seismic pull when Alain slaps him hard on the forehead. Fully returned, Roland has changed in more ways than one: white strands of hair aside, he now understands the Dark Tower is his ka, and Susan (who he knows is carrying his child) is not. If the Tower crumbles, then all of humanity goes with it … or something along those apocalyptic lines.
The ka-tet’s battle plan works so far, as Farson’s men follow them toward the thinny. As the gunslingers climb up the mountainside to escape, their pursuers gallop into the anomaly of space and time and perish.
Roland, again, is melded with Maerlyn’s Rainbow, being forced to watch Susan’s gruesome death. As she’s burned alive, she remains brave, not giving the crowd the satisfaction. Instead screams, “ROLAND, I LOVE THEE.”
What a sacrifice. Not sure if I were in Roland’s boots I could do the same, even with the understanding that in return I’d save all of humanity—especially a world that contains John Farson and Marten, the man in black. Of course, he didn’t know she would die such a horrifying death. Still, there wasn’t another option? Even my six-year-old daughter likes to say that there’s always another way. Plus, that ball is selective. With its half-truths and propaganda, it can’t be trusted.
Roland’s hands are “welded” to the orb, and only when Cuthbert pulls his firearm and threatens to shoot the sentient crystal does it quickly grow dark and free Roland. As they ride away, the transformation of the gunslinger is complete.
The thing which rode west with them toward Gilead was not Roland, or even a ghost of Roland. Like the moon at the close of its cycle, Roland had gone.
What did you think of Susan's death? 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.