Wizard and Glass is the fourth volume of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. The end of the previous book (The Waste Lands) left Roland and his friends hurtling along on a computerized train, called Blaine the Mono and riddling for their lives. If Roland and his friends couldn’t find a riddle that Blaine was unable to answer then the termination of their journey would also mean the termination of their lives, and the suicidal and totally insane Blaine would reach the end of the line at Topeka station, at a speed in excess of 800 miles an hour.
Roland and his friends manage to out riddle the demented train and are surprised to find themselves in Kansas, but it is a very different Kansas to the one that Eddie, Susannah, and Jake are familiar with and perhaps stems from an alternate reality. One thing is certain though, they are no longer in the gunslinger’s world and they must find their way back to it if they want to continue following the path of the beam.
Returning to Roland’s world and following the path of the beam to the Dark Tower might be their immediate worry, but the majority of Wizard and Glass does not deal with this problem. Instead, Roland continues telling his friends his life story, picking it up from the morning after he defeated his teacher, Cort, and earned the right to carry his guns, along with the title ‘gunslinger’. Roland’s is a long story, but he tells it in just one night. Although, since the ‘world moved on’, time is not, perhaps, as predictable as it used to be.
In the previous Dark Tower books, the reader hears the names of Cuthbert and Alain but has never been afforded the privilege of meeting them on the printed page. In Wizard and Glass, the reader gets to know them rather well, and definitely to like them. Of course, the young Roland, only fourteen-years-old at the time, and perhaps faster with his guns than he will ever be again, is also there and the reader learns about some of the emotional baggage that he has been carrying with him for so long.
The reader is also introduced to Susan Delgado, who was and remains the great love of the gunslinger’s life. Susan is a similar age to the young Roland and, when the reader first makes her acquaintance, she is on her way to see the local witch—a rather nasty piece of work called Rhea of the Coors. It will be Rhea’s job to verify Susan’s honesty (about her virginity) because Susan—by far the most beautiful girl in the village of Hambry—has been chosen to be the Mayor’s gilly girl and the mother to his child. The mayor is an old man and his long marriage has produced no children, but as Rhea informs Susan—and her words are probably closer to the truth—”He wants tits and an arse that don’t squish in his hands and a box that’ll grip what he pushes. If he’s still man enough to push it, that is.” Yep! These Mid-World witches certainly don’t mince their words.
Roland and Susan’s love has to be a secret and the path it follows is a rocky one that could land both of them in a great deal of trouble.
Although the young Roland’s mind soon becomes filled with thoughts of the lovely Susan; he has other problems to worry about as well and has discovered evidence that the leaders of Susan’s village might not be as true to the Affiliation as they pretend to be, and he, Alain, and Cuthbert have their work cut out for them.
The whole section about the gunslinger’s earlier life is a little like a book within a book and it took me a few pages to get into it because I was still wondering what was happening, and going to happen, in the world of the older Roland. Once I did get into this little history lesson though, I was hooked completely and forgot about the main story altogether.
My copy of Wizard and Glass is the size of a doorstop and is 672 pages long. Most of it is about the young Roland, his companions, and his lady love. All of it is a damn good read that takes the reader ever closer to the Dark Tower.