Call this a testament to the reason I keep books I love and re-read them again and again.
For R.I.P. XI, I intended to read, finally, The Dark Tower, the last volume of Stephen King’s epic Gunslinger* series. I got 65 pages into it and realized I remembered next to nothing about its immediate predecessor, Song of Susannah. Okay, let’s get that one down off the shelf. 41 pages into Susannah, I realized I remembered nothing about its predecessor, Wolves of the Calla. I picked Wolves up, turned to the last few pages and recognized….nothing.
So I went all the way back to Wizard and Glass, looked at its last few pages, shook my head in dismay and started at the beginning. After re-reading the first section, the nightmare trip with Blaine the Mono, and reading enough of the middle section, the flashback to Roland’s teenage travels, to sufficiently reacquaint myself with the high and low points, I then skipped ahead to join up with the ka-tet once more, where they sit by the side of I-70 outside Topeka, after the end of Roland’s tale of young love, loss, and exile. A quick trip to Oz later (read it: you’ll see what I mean), and now we’re back on the Path of the Beam.
I love Wizard and Glass. I love it. And I love it for all the reasons other readers of this series hate it: that novel-length interlude where Roland tells the story of his trip West to the Barony of Mejis when he was 14 years old, where he fell in love for the first time, and how that love led to unexpected consequences and set his foot on the path that will lead inexorably to the Dark Tower. I don’t want to say much more about it because of spoilers, but here’s the truth: Roland is who he is because of that fateful journey and the story of the Tower couldn’t be told without it.
*Yes, I know, it’s really “The Dark Tower” series, but I’ve always called it the “Gunslinger” series after the title of the first volume and the mythic characters King brought to life.