Wolves of the Calla (The Dark Tower #5)

Wolves of the Calla (The Dark Tower #5) by Stephen King





This book is for Frank Muller,

who hears the voices in my head.





THE FINAL ARGUMENT




Wolves of the Calla is the fifth volume of a longer tale inspired by Robert Browning’s narrative poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.” The sixth, Song of Susannah, was published in 2004. The seventh and last, The Dark Tower, was published later that same year.

The first volume, The Gunslinger, tells how Roland Deschain of Gilead pursues and at last catches Walter, the man in black—he who pretended friendship with Roland’s father but actually served the Crimson King in far-off End-World. Catching the half-human Walter is for Roland a step on the way to the Dark Tower, where he hopes the quickening destruction of Mid-World and the slow death of the Beams may be halted or even reversed. The subtitle of this novel is RESUMPTION.

The Dark Tower is Roland’s obsession, his grail, his only reason for living when we meet him. We learn of how Marten tried, when Roland was yet a boy, to see him sent west in disgrace, swept from the board of the great game. Roland, however, lays Marten’s plans at nines, mostly due to his choice of weapon in his manhood test.

Steven Deschain, Roland’s father, sends his son and two friends (Cuthbert Allgood and Alain Johns) to the seacoast barony of Mejis, mostly to place the boy beyond Walter’s reach. There Roland meets and falls in love with Susan Delgado, who has fallen afoul of a witch. Rhea of the C?os is jealous of the girl’s beauty, and particularly dangerous because she has obtained one of the great glass balls known as the Bends o’ the Rainbow . . . or the Wizard’s Glasses. There are thirteen of these in all, the most powerful and dangerous being Black Thirteen. Roland and his friends have many adventures in Mejis, and although they escape with their lives (and the pink Bend o’ the Rainbow), Susan Delgado, the lovely girl at the window, is burned at the stake. This tale is told in the fourth volume, Wizard and Glass. The subtitle of this novel is REGARD.

In the course of the tales of the Tower we discover that the gunslinger’s world is related to our own in fundamental and terrible ways. The first of these links is revealed when Jake, a boy from the New York of 1977, meets Roland at a desert way station long years after the death of Susan Delgado. There are doors between Roland’s world and our own, and one of them is death. Jake finds himself in this desert way station after being pushed into Forty-third Street and run over by a car. The car’s driver was a man named Enrico Balazar. The pusher was a criminal sociopath named Jack Mort, Walter’s representative on the New York level of the Dark Tower.

Before Jake and Roland reach Walter, Jake dies again . . . this time because the gunslinger, faced with an agonizing choice between this symbolic son and the Dark Tower, chooses the Tower. Jake’s last words before plunging into the abyss are “Go, then—there are other worlds than these.”

The final confrontation between Roland and Walter occurs near the Western Sea. In a long night of palaver, the man in black tells Roland’s future with a Tarot deck of strange device. Three cards—the Prisoner, the Lady of Shadows, and Death (“but not for you, gunslinger”)—are especially called to Roland’s attention.

The Drawing of the Three, subtitled RENEWAL, begins on the shore of the Western Sea not long after Roland awakens from his confrontation with Walter. The exhausted gunslinger is attacked by a horde of carnivorous “lobstrosities,” and before he can escape, he has lost two fingers of his right hand and has been seriously infected. Roland resumes his trek along the shore of the Western Sea, although he is sick and possibly dying.

On his walk he encounters three doors standing freely on the beach. These open into New York at three different whens. From 1987, Roland draws Eddie Dean, a prisoner of heroin. From 1964, he draws Odetta Susannah Holmes, a woman who lost her legs when a sociopath named Jack Mort pushed her in front of a subway train. She is the Lady of Shadows, with a violent “other” hidden in her brain. This hidden woman, the violent and crafty Detta Walker, is determined to kill both Roland and Eddie when the gunslinger draws her into Mid-World.

Roland thinks that perhaps he has drawn three in just Eddie and Odetta, since Odetta is really two personalities, yet when Odetta and Detta merge as one into Susannah (largely thanks to Eddie Dean’s love and courage), the gunslinger knows it’s not so. He knows something else, as well: he is being tormented by thoughts of Jake, the boy who spoke of other worlds at the time of his death.

The Waste Lands, subtitled REDEMPTION, begins with a paradox: to Roland, Jake seems both alive and dead. In the New York of the late 1970s, Jake Chambers is haunted by the same question: alive or dead? Which is he? After killing a gigantic bear named either Mir (so called by the old people who went in fear of it) or Shardik (by the Great Old Ones who built it), Roland, Eddie, and Susannah backtrack the beast and discover the Path of the Beam known as Shardik to Maturin, Bear to Turtle. There were once six of these Beams, running between the twelve portals which mark the edges of Mid-World. At the point where the Beams cross, at the center of Roland’s world (and all worlds), stands the Dark Tower, the nexus of all where and when.

By now Eddie and Susannah are no longer prisoners in Roland’s world. In love and well on the way to becoming gunslingers themselves, they are full participants in the quest and follow Roland, the last seppe-sai (death-seller), along the Path of Shardik, the Way of Maturin.

In a speaking ring not far from the Portal of the Bear, time is mended, paradox is ended, and the real third is drawn. Jake reenters Mid-World at the end of a perilous rite where all four—Jake, Eddie, Susannah, and Roland—remember the faces of their fathers and acquit themselves honorably. Not long after, the quartet becomes a quintet, when Jake befriends a billy-bumbler. Bumblers, which look like a combination of badger, raccoon, and dog, have a limited speaking ability. Jake names his new friend Oy.

The way of the pilgrims leads them toward the city of Lud, where the degenerate survivors of two old factions carry on an endless conflict. Before reaching the city, in the little town of River Crossing, they meet a few ancient survivors of the old days. They recognize Roland as a fellow survivor of those days before the world moved on, and honor him and his companions. The Old People also tell them of a monorail train which may still run from Lud and into the waste lands, along the Path of the Beam and toward the Dark Tower.

Jake is frightened by this news but not surprised; before being drawn from New York, he obtained two books from a bookstore owned by a man with the thought-provoking name of Calvin Tower. One is a book of riddles with the answers torn out. The other, Charlie the Choo-Choo, is a children’s story with dark echoes of Mid-World. For one thing, the word char means death in the High Speech Roland grew up speaking in Gilead.

Aunt Talitha, the matriarch of River Crossing, gives Roland a silver cross to wear, and the travelers go their course. While crossing the dilapidated bridge which spans the River Send, Jake is abducted by a dying (and very dangerous) outlaw named Gasher. Gasher takes his young prisoner underground to the Tick-Tock Man, the last leader of the faction known as the Grays.

While Roland and Oy go after Jake, Eddie and Susannah find the Cradle of Lud, where Blaine the Mono awakes. Blaine is the last aboveground tool of a vast computer system that lies beneath Lud, and Blaine has only one remaining interest: riddles. It promises to take the travelers to the monorail’s final stop . . . if they can pose it a riddle it cannot solve. Otherwise, Blaine says, their trip will end in death: charyou tree.

Roland rescues Jake, leaving the Tick-Tock Man for dead. Yet Andrew Quick is not dead. Half-blind, hideously wounded about the face, he is rescued by a man who calls himself Richard Fannin. Fannin, however, also identifies himself as the Ageless Stranger, a demon of whom Roland has been warned.

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