Movie Review: The DARK TOWER

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the dark towerColumbia Pictures
2017
PG-13

“It’s a hotdog.”
“Savages. What breed?”

Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger, is locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black. The Gunslinger must prevent the Man in Black from toppling the Dark Tower, the key that holds the universe together. With the fate of worlds at state, two men collide in the ultimate battle between good and evil.

The Dark Tower. What started off as a series of short stories collected together into a small novel, that suddenly exploded into an epic western/dark fantasy/sci-fi saga of the last Gunslinger in a world that has moved on, questing to find the Dark Tower, the nexus that holds the multi-verse realities together, a quest that is not only personal, but also to protect and save it from being destroyed by the Crimson King. Along the way, he travels to different dimensions, meeting others who would join him on his quest, as they make their way to the ultimate goal. It is a saga that is held in as almost as much regard as The Lord Of The Rings, with fans that are just as passionate about the books and other adaptations and lore.

They made a movie about it, now. I’m pretty sure you may have noticed by now, but yeah. After what seems to be decades of trying to bring it to the big screen, it’s finally happened. And, after a week or so having to wait due to scheduling issues, I finally watched it with some key members of the Coven of Exalted Geeks.

I will pause right now to say that, in case you’re just reading this, and haven’t gotten around to checking out my book reviews, I am what you would call a Stephen King Constant Reader, and have been since I was 14. I’ve also read all of the Dark Tower novels, and some of the comics as well. So, yeah. Dark Tower nerd, here. Anyway…

One more time around the wheel, I guess: So, there’s this tween-ager named Jake Chambers who, for a number of years now, has been having these really detailed dreams involving a mysterious man in black (not Johnny Cash, I’m afraid) trying to destroy an even more mysterious dark tower, while being pursued by a gun-slinging cowboy. This “gun-slinger”, if you will, is seeking revenge, because the man in black, it turns out, killed a bunch of people with magicks, including the gunslinger’s father. Little Jake has been drawing pictures of these dreams and more, and everyone things that he’s a bit…insane because of this, including his mom and step-father. That’s why they decide to send Jake off to a special retreat for crazy kids. Only, the people from the retreat who show up aren’t really people, so Jake parkours his way to freedom and goes to a house he dreamed about and activates a portal that takes him to Mid-Wolrd, the home of the real-life gunslinger. And also the guy in black. He meets up with the Gunslinger, and they go on a journey to find the man in black’s hideout, where he’s taking kidnapped children that have psychic powers to use to topple the Dark Tower, to stop him. Along the way, they make a pit-stop back in New York to stock up on bullets and a certain soda brand they couldn’t get the license for, so they couldn’t show the logo or say the name out loud.

Oh, there was a lot of nerd rage over this movie. Not as ridiculous levels as with the 2016 Ghostbusters movie; there was quite a bit, though, some of which I overheard going out of the theater after the movie. But, this is my review of the movie, and thus you will have my not-so-humble opinion on this movie. And remember, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve been a long-time Constant Reader of Stephen King’s work, and have also read the entire original saga of books and hold them as kind of my Lord of the Rings. Ready? Deep breath, here, aaaaaaand…

…I rather enjoyed The Dark Tower. No, really. I did. I went in knowing that they weren’t trying to adapt the books–because, really, that would have been nigh impossible, even if you got Peter Jackson in his prime in on things–but essentially do a continuation of the books. Really, even Stephen King himself mentioned that this wasn’t an adaptation attempt, but kind of a sequel to the books. I don’t want to go into the details, but if you’ve read the entirety of the saga, you know why I’m saying this. Also, it’s been documented by the makers of the movie that this was the intention. As such, there were elements that were lifted from all of the books–and some other Stephen King books outside of the Dark Tower universe proper–that have been included here and there, with more of a focus on Jake’s perspective of the story rather than Roland. And yes, I was nerdy enough to pick out the easter eggs abounding.

Beyond that, though, as a movie in and of itself, I would have to say that The Dark Tower was much more enjoyable than most of the reviews I’ve come across have made it out to be. I found it to be a rather well-made, well-acted, gorgeously shot western fantasy with a creamy sci-fi center that entertained me for the surprisingly tight 90 minute run time. Because, if anything had the right to go over the 2-hour limit, it would have been this. But, the filmmakers showed restraint, and it helped things out in that area. Idris Elba was the perfect choice to play Roland Deschain, as he managed to emote more with his eyes to give that haunted look needed for the character. And what can I say, but Matthew McConaughey nailed it as the Man In Black, the evil known as…Walter. Okay, you can probably laugh at that, but that’ll be the last thing you’d do. The guy can charm you one second, and then chill you to your spine the next, all while never changing cadence or going over the top. That said, he may have been underused. The action scenes are probably where you’re going to get the majority of the groans, especially if you have even a rudimentary grasp on basic physics. But, with just a bit of strength to the suspension of disbelief, you still get some very action-packed scenes mixed in with your dark fantasy, here. And I do believe the movie’s best part happens when Deschain arrives in New York City. Some fish-out-of-water comedy to flavor things up.

Overall, yeah, there were some flaws to this iteration of The Dark Tower. I wasn’t happy with how easily the resolution at the end happened. But, when it was all said and done, The Dark Tower managed to entertain me, and did so without feeling the need to cram something happening at every moment of its run time. It was a rather satisfying blended genre flick that, honestly, I hope they make more of the story. Even in television form, which I think would work better overall. But, we shall see if survives the whiners. For me, this is recommended, more of a matinee, but definitely on the big screen if you can.

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Book Review: The HARLAN ELLISON COLLECTION: I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream

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I have no mouth and i must screamHarlan Ellison
Ace Books
1984

Slowly but surely I am assimilating eBooks into my reading habit. Not that I’m fully converted to the digital style of reading a book; I’m still very much old-school when it comes to that, I can assure you. But, even I have to admit that there are some advantages to reading something electronically. Like when you’re on a rather long download at work, and can access the ebook account there for some quality reading time while you’re waiting for that dial-up download to go through. Seriously, in this day and age, why do are there still dialups going on?

Anyway, one of the ebooks I purchased was this nifty thing featuring seven short stories by science fiction icon Harlan Ellison. Mostly because for years I’ve been hearing about how the title story was one of the more haunting and scary pieces of science fiction horror written. But, also as kind of a taster for the author himself, as I wasn’t really all that familiar with Ellison, beyond his reputation of not being able to play well with others. Also, he wrote a classic episode of Star Trek TOS. Here are the stories and my thoughts on ’em:

“I Have No Mouth & I Must Scream”
…the classic story of a sentient computer that came self-aware during World War III and killed off all of humanity, save for five, which it (he?) keeps alive for the simple reason to torture them throughout the centuries. I have to admit, this is a very haunting and nihilistic post apocalyptic tale, very effective. Just the way I like it. I can see why this is loved in the Science Fiction community.

“Big Sam Was My Friend”
…a sad tale of an intergalactic circus performer that was put to death due to his interruption of a virgin sacrifice. Also, he can teleport. Also, his circus chums let it happen due to business. It’s quite bittersweet, really.

“Eyes Of Dust”
…on a planet of perfect beauty, the “ugly” couple have a kid equally as ugly, and it doesn’t sit well with the Normals. This one is rather brief, and I get the feeling that there could have been more explored within the context of the story, but it just kind of escalates quickly and then ends.

“World of the Myth”
…three space-faring explorers crash-land on a planet, and while waiting for their rescue ship to arrive, have a run-in with an indigenous species of insects. And yes, wackiness ensues. This one kind of reminded me of a variation of the Outer Limits episode “The Sandkings”, with the insects that are more than what we would perceive them as. Or, more to the point, as they would perceive us as.

“Lonelyache”
…a divorced man slowly goes insane. It doesn’t end well, as you may have deduced by now. Very bleak, very melancholy. Also, it makes me question my desire to not remain single for the entirety of my life.

“Delusion for a Dragon Slayer”
…an average man living a mundane existence happens to be a mere few minutes late on his usual routine and is crushed by a wrecking ball…and that’s when the adventure begins. This was more a straight fantasy, like one of the Dreamland tales of H. P. Lovecraft, with a rather melancholy ending. Not too bad, this.

“Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes”
…a down-on-his-luck guy uses his last literal dollar on a slot machine in Vegas, and begins to win big; the reason of which involves the ghost of a lady that died playing that very slot six months prior.

I have to admit, I had no idea of what to expect when first taking in the stories. It turns out that Ellison’s style is really more of a blend of science fiction, some fantasy and horror, with everything marinated heavily in dark existential nihilism. It’s kind of like Philip K. Dick without the mental illness, and just jaded and grumpy. Which is what I dig. Also, his introductions are insightful, yes, but also a riot.

As a first timer checking out his work, I found this collection to be more than beneficial. I was rather sad that it ended so soon, really. Highly recommended to check out.

Movie Review: WONDER WOMAN

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wonder womanWarner Bros.
PG-13
2017

“I used to want to save the world, this beautiful place. But the closer you get, the more you see the great darkness within. I learned this the hard way, a long, long time ago.”

Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior. Raised on a sheltered island paradise, Diana meets an American pilot who tells her about the massive conflict that’s raging in the outside world. Convinced that she can stop the threat, Diana leaves her home for the first time. Fighting alongside men in a war to end all wars, she finally discovers her full powers and true destiny.

So, by now, if you’re reading this, you fall in one of three categories: 1) you’ve already watched Wonder Woman (perhaps multiple times), 2) you have yet to watch Wonder Woman, as you’re still iffy about the possible quality due to the track record of the previous DC movies in the past couple of years, or 3) you’re trying to find something to be angry about to satisfy your inner sense of political self-righteousness. I wish I could say I was joking about that last part.

Anyway, Wonder Woman. Officially the fourth movie in DC’s Extended Universe, this one had the stigma of needing to be not as bad as the previous films turned out to be. I say this as the general overall perception of the previous films; you might recall that I ended up liking Man Of Steel a bit more than most of all fandom did. Batman v. Superman was a hot mess, while Suicide Squad was also a hot mess, but a far more entertaining hot mess. As such, by the time Wonder Woman rolled around, my expectations were rather low. All the movie had to do was not suck obnoxiously, and it would be the best DCEU movie of the bunch. And on that basic front, Wonder Woman succeeded. Boy howdy, did it succeed.

After a prologue scene where Diana Prince receives a special package from some guy named Bruce Wayne, we’re taken back to the Greek island of Themyscira, the home of warrior women called the Amazons, at a time when she was a precocious little tot who wanted so badly to be a warrior like everyone else, but her mother–Queen Hippolyta–would rather she pursue a more mundane existence, for her own good. Diana’s aunt, however, disagrees with the sentiment, and begins training the young girl in secret. In time, though, they are found out, which leads to…Diana getting even more training. And after a surprise hint as to Diana’s true nature, in comes the first male to visit Themyscira since ever, with WWI pilot Steve Trevor crashing into the coast. After Diana rescues him, the Germans soon invade, causing havoc and, after interrogating Trevor, Diana decides that Aries, the god of War is behind this World War (under the guise of German General Ludendorff), and sets off to kill him to bring peace to mankind. After a brief stint in London, Diana, Trevor and a motley crew travel to the front lines, where Diana wastes no time in invading No Man’s Land, takes out a machine gun nest, whups a bunch of Germans into submission, and punches a tower (the tower loses) to liberate a small Belgium village from the occupation it was under. However, General Ludendorff decides to wipe out the village the next day with a big ol’ Mustard Gas bomb, which pisses Diana off even further, and she goes off and manages to kill Ludendorff…only Ludendorff isn’t Aries. In a twist that everyone saw coming miles away, the real Aries shows up, he tries to explain that mankind isn’t under his spell, that mankind is capable of all sorts of atrocities by themselves, which clashes with Diana’s sense of altruism, which leads to a big fight with lots of damage and ‘splosions and stuff. Meanwhile, Trevor sacrifices himself to save London from being hit with a cargo plane full of Mustard Gas, Aries is defeated, and we flash back to current times where Diana decides that the power of love will blah blah blah, something-something I’m Wonder Woman now. The end.

It took them a few times in this shared universe of theirs, but DC has finally stumbled upon the formula for making a superhero movie feel like a genuine superhero movie. The tone and feel really brings back the sense of (no pun intended) wonder that Richard Donner’s Superman The Movie did, where you’re watching and manage to go beyond seeing some actor dressed as Wonder Woman, and believing it really is Wonder Woman. With maybe the exception of the CGI heavy boss fight at the end (yeah, it did feel like a video game cut scene), the two-and-a-half run time didn’t seem that long at all.

I went into Wonder Woman expecting it to fail, and wound up suddenly having hope for the other DC movies coming up after this. We’ll see. In the meantime, if you still haven’t seen Wonder Woman, go do so now while it’s still in theaters. Assuming you’re reading this while it still is.

Movie Review: FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

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fantastic beastsWarner Bros.
2016
PG-13

“I don’t think I’m dreaming.”
“What gave it away?”
“I ain’t got the brains to make this up.”

The year is 1926, and Newt Scamander has just completed a global excursion to find and document an extraordinary array of magical creatures. Arriving in New York for a brief stopover, he might have come and gone without incident, were it not for a No-Maj (American for Muggle) named Jacob, a misplaced magical case, and the escape of some of Newt’s fantastic beasts, which could spell trouble for the wizarding and No-Maj worlds.

I am not a Harry Potter fan. There, I said it. I have nothing against the series of books and films, and I acknowledge the phenomenon for what it is. I’ve never read the books, but I have watched all of the movies. When you date someone who is a massive fan, watching the movies was inevitable. They’re not bad. Not planning on reviewing them any time soon, mind you; what I’m trying to get at is, the Harry Potter series isn’t really my thing, and I hold no animosity against anyone who does. I write this for the benefit of anyone thinking of taking to whatever social media they use to call down fire on me for not liking what you like, therefore I must automatically hate it. Don’t be stupid.

Now that the disclaimer has been made, let’s move on to the first spinoff movie set in the Harry Potter Universe, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. This one, I actually kind of wanted to see when I first saw the trailer at some other movie I was waiting for to start. I understood it had its basis in the fictional text book in the main Harry Potter movies (remember, I’ve never read the books, so I personally can’t use those as a point of reference), with the story surrounding the adventures of the man who eventually would write that text book. The reason why I had an interest in see it was due to it being set in the early 20th Century New York. I am a sucker for period pieces, especially when united with sci fi and fantasy like this.

The movie itself, which I did see in the theater on opening weekend, turned out to be rather enjoyable. While the trailer makes it look like Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them is about a search for a bunch of magical creatures that have escaped and are roaming about in 1920s New York. And, at its base, it is…but this being part of the so-called Potterverse, there’s a bit more than that, with the search for the fantastical beasts being more of the incidental bit that leads to the overall wackiness that ensues.

So, we have this misfit wizard traveling the globe, documenting the titular fantastic beasts in their natural habitats, arriving in New York for one of his stops, where he suddenly finds his suitcase–where he has his collection of fantastic beasts–was accidentally switched with a similar one owned by a would-be baker wanting to get a small loan to open a bakery. So now, instead of the fantastic beasts, the suitcase is filled with baked goods. Also, a marsupial with a TARDIS-like pouch and a thing for shiny items has escaped. The Baker and the Wizard team up to find the escaped critter, they run into a member of the American branch of the Magic Police, who have their own hands full with…something. Bigger. Soon, the Wizard, the Baker and…not the Candlestick Maker (and her sister) find themselves tied up with a bigger conspiracy within the magic community, one that has ties to a certain wizard school across the pond in England. Whimsical wackiness and wanton destruction ensues.

So, overall, yeah. Rather enjoyed Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. Everyone was good in their rolls (though I got a nagging feeling Eddie Redmayne was trying to channel Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor for his portrayal of Newt), the effects were good, and the story itself kept my rapt attention throughout the course of the run time. Taken on its own merits, Fantastic Beasts ranks as a memorable fantasy flick that should be checked out at least once.

Book Review: The DARK TOWER

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book-review_-dark-tower-viiStephen King
Grant
2004

“Death, but not for you, gunslinger. Never for you. You darkle. You tinct. May I be brutally frank? You go on.”

The seventh and final installment of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower saga is perhaps the most anticipated book in the author’s long career. King began this epic tale about the last gunslinger in the world more than 20 years ago; now he draws its suspenseful story to a close, snapping together the last pieces of his action puzzle and drawing Roland Deschain ever closer to his ultimate goal.

The final book (in theory) of the long-going Dark Tower series, and this one’s a doozy. Strap in, this is gonna be a bumpy ride.

So, picking up where the last book left off, Jake and Callahan sieges The Dixie Pig, which turns out to be a vampire lounge that specializes in roast human flesh and features doors leading to their worlds. Because nightmare fuel really brings out the subtle nuanced taste of the brisket. Callahan ultimately sacrifices himself to save Jake from the inevitable vampire attack. Meanwhile, in the world of Fedic, Mia (having been separated from Susannah) gives birth to a bouncing baby boy…that can turn into a spider, which it does and immediately feasts on his mother. Susannah manages to escape Fedic back into the Dixie Pig and meets up with Jake and Oy, Roland and Eddie recruit a guy named John Cullum in Maine, then they all make their way back to Fedic. Walter/Randall Flagg is killed by the rapidly maturing baby/spider (going by the name of Mordred), while Roland and the gang get involved with freeing a bunch of psychics that are being used to weaken and break the beams that support the Tower. Eddie is wounded and dies, then Roland, Jake and Oy jump back to our world Maine 1999 and save Stephen King from getting hit by a minivan, only to have Jake killed by said van in his place. Roland and Oy meet back up with Susannah in Fedic, get chanced by a monster, and continue on to The Dark Tower. They meet up with another vampire, a psychic one, that makes them laugh a bit too much, they free his captive that had once appeared in King’s 1994 novel Insomnia, who can make his drawings come to life, and so Susannah has him draw a door out of this world, because she knows that Roland needs to finish his quest without her. Then Mordred (suffering from a serious case of the trots) attacks, killing Oy (quite the body count we’re racking up, Sir Roland), but then gets killed by Roland. The remaining two finally arrive at the Dark Tower, only to find it already occupied by the Crimson King. No worries, though, because Roland’s remaining companion manages to just literally erase the Crimson King’s existence, allowing Roland to enter the Dark Tower finally. Then we get a glimpse of how Susannah turned out, and if you keep reading, you end up right at the beginning of the upcoming Dark Tower movie. The End.

I’m not kidding about that last part. It seems that the long-planned and finally coming out the year of this writing is officially a sequel to the book series, as a small bit of a reveal that I’m not going to spoil shows why it’s a sequel and not a straight adaptation of the books.

As far as The Dark Tower goes, this was epic. Both by the size of the book and the scope of the adventure itself. It’s quite a bit darker, as of course people close to Roland don’t get out unscathed. I understand that the majority of those I’ve talked with consider the final confrontation between Roland and the Crimson King to be a cop-out let down, but I actually get it; it’s in keeping with King’s voiced opinion that the big bad evil always seems bigger and scarier from far off, but when you finally confront it face to face, the “unstoppable evil” always turns out to be more bark than bite. That’s not to say that the Crimson King was a wuss; his evil influence has a far-reaching and devastating effect, felt in the books Black House and Insomnia (where a couple of characters first hail from), and is quite possibly the embodiment of Satan himself. Regardless, it was a rather out-of-the-box way that he was defeated. Also, the true ending to the tale…I found it satisfying. Then again, I am something of a geek when it comes to…endings like that. Also, giving the were-spider monstrosity explosive diarrhea was hilariously awesome.

Overall, though it clocks in at nearly 850 pages in length, being the longest book in the series, I was completely engrossed in the story from beginning to end. I think the all-encompassing tale of the Dark Tower is far from being over; however, this is a good ending to a larger arc in the tale.

Book Review: SONG OF SUSANNAH

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book-review_-dark-tower-viStephen King
Grant
2004

King looked back at Roland. “As The Man With No Name–a fantasy version of Clint Eastwood–you were okay. A lot of fun to partner up with.”

To give birth to her “chap,” demon-mother Mia has usurped the body of Susannah Dean and used the power of Black Thirteen to transport to New York City in the summer of 1999. The city is strange to Susannah…and terrifying to the “daughter of none,” who shares her body and mind. Saving the Tower depends not only on rescuing Susannah but also on securing the vacant lot Calvin Tower owns before he loses it to the Sombra Corporation. Enlisting the aid of Manni senders, the remaining katet climbs to the Doorway Cave…and discovers that magic has its own mind. It falls to the boy, the billy-bumbler, and the fallen priest to find Susannah-Mia, who, in a struggle to cope with each other and with an alien environment “go todash” to Castle Discordia on the border of End-World. In that forsaken place, Mia reveals her origins, her purpose, and her fierce desire to mother whatever creature the two of them have carried to term. Eddie and Roland, meanwhile, tumble into western Maine in the summer of 1977, a world that should be idyllic but isn’t. For one thing, it is real, and the bullets are flying.

Here we are, the penultimate edition in the overall Dark Tower series, and…things get wonky. I mean, things have gotten wonky in past books, yes; this is, after all, a fantasy epic, in the same vein as The Lord of the Rings, by way of Sergio Leone. But, where the previous novel had only a little bit of the ol’ time-and-dimensional hopping shenanigans, Song of Susannah goes entirely Masters Of The Universe: The Movie. You know, the live action He-Man movie that didn’t have the budget to set things in Eternia, so He-Man and the gang wind up in New York for most of the time? Yeah, this is the Dark Tower novel that’s set in our dimension, at different points in history. Specifically, 1977 and 1999. But, I’m getting ahead of myself, here.

So, after Susan got all possessed by her unborn demon child and escaped into the dimensional doorway into New York of 1999, closing said door and throwing away the proverbial key, Roland and the remaining Ka-tet members–Eddie, Jake, Oy, and including Father Callahan–manage to open up another magic door and go in…only, Jake, Oy and Father Callahan wind up in 1999 New York, where Susannah/Mia have shown up at, while Roland and Eddie are sent to 1977 Maine. Roland and Eddie manage to fend off enemies sent by the Crimson King and get the deed to the land that has the rose in New York, and then get all super-meta when they pay a visit to Stephen King. Mind you, it’s 1977 Stephen King, and is considered the conduit for which the story of the Dark Tower saga transmits itself. That, and the Gunslinger and Eddie’s presence in Maine causes reality in the town to go all wonky and “thin”, as it’s mentioned. And thus Roland encourages this “wordslinger” to continue with the writing of the Dark Tower saga. Meanwhile, in 1999 New York, Susannah/Mia are taken to a restaurant called the Dixie Pig and is preparing to give birth to that unholy spawn, attended to by the Crimson King’s men, as Jake, Oy and Father Callahan show up and prepare to storm the restaurant to rescue Susannah. Then we end things by discovering via journal entries that Stephen King the character died in 1999. Wacky.

Considering the shadows of our world showing up in Ronald’s world, and the fact that The Drawing of the Three spent a goodly chunk of time in (for lack of a better term) our real reality (albeit something of a slightly altered history version), the characters jumping to different points in time in our reality wasn’t something suddenly utilized to shake things up. Also, authors appearing in their own novels isn’t anything new, either. And in a way, Stephen King writing himself into this story actually fits in the narrative; the fact that he was rather self-depreciating when he did it, making him come off as a bit of an arsehole that got on Ronald’s nerves a nice way of downplaying what could have been a cheep ego boost.

Overall, while the twists and turns do tend to give you a bit of motion sickness, Song of Susannah nevertheless was rather engaging and entertaining.

Book Review: WOLVES OF THE CALLA

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book-review_-dark-tower-vStephen King
Grant
2003

It was the possibility of darkness that made the day seem so bright.

Roland Deschain and his ka-tet are bearing southeast through the forests of Mid-World on their quest for the Dark Tower. Their path takes them to the outskirts of Calla Bryn Sturgis. But beyond the tranquil farm town, the ground rises to the hulking darkness of Thunderclap, the source of a terrible affliction that is stealing the town’s soul. The wolves of Thunderclap and their unspeakable depredation are coming. To resist them is to risk all, but these are odds the gunslingers are used to. Their guns, however, will not be enough….

After Wizard & Glass was published in 1997, there was a stretch where it seemed a possibility that we may never see (or read) of Roland finally arriving at his long-traveled destination of The Dark Tower. Or, if you wanted to be optimistic, there would be a conclusion to the epic, but it might not be Stephen King that would pen the last few stories. This was something that King himself actually mused about back in the 1980s, around the time when The Drawing of the Three was published. It makes sense, really, as The Dark Tower series was never really his main focus as a writer. But still, continuing a story is a thing us geeks tend to get antsy about.

Also, there was the little issue with King almost getting killed after being hit by a minivan while on one of his daily walks in 1999. It took him a while to recover, and during his readjusting period said he was going to retire from writing all together in 2002. Fortunately, whether he found a way to work through the discomfort, or if he just discovered that retirement sucks, he continued to write, and managed to get the fifth volume of The Dark Tower series out, Wolves of the Calla.

After leaving Topeka from the previous story, Roland and the gang find themselves enlisted in protecting a small farming village called Calla Bryn Sturgis from the Wolves of Thunderclap (again, great band name, there). Seems these Wolves come around every generation to take one child from each pair of twins from the village, and after a few months of being away, the child returns mentally handicapped and destined to grow really big and die young. Meanwhile, one of the citizens of Calla is one Father Callahan, who used originally used to be from a little town in Maine called ‘Salem’s Lot. You may have heard of it; bit of a vampire infestation and all. Turns out, things got all sorts of wacky for Father Callahan after he left ‘Salem’s Lot, and after dying in that reality wound up here in Roland’s world at the Way Station shortly after Roland met up with Jake there in The Gunslinger (gads, we’re starting to need a flow chart, aren’t we?), yadda yadda yadda, there’s a black scrying orb in a cave that can allow traveling via dream doorways. Or something like that. Eddie uses said object to travel back to New York circa 1977 to ensure a rose in an empty lot that is the manifestation of the Dark Tower in this dimension is not destroyed. Meanwhile, in the Calla, the Wolves show up, who turn out to be robots that look more like Doctor Doom that wield Star Wars-style light sabers and throw grenades designed to look like the snitches from the Harry Potter books. I am so not making that up. A battle ensues, the Wolves are defeated, and then Susanna gets possessed by the baby she got impregnated with by a demon back in The Waste Lands, and runs off back to New York Prime and closes the door behind her. The End.

Clearly, Wolves of the Calla is the Seven Samurai edition of the story arc. Or, if you will, The Magnificent Seven. Wherein our ragtag group of vagrant cowboys are called upon to help defend a village from a dark force that preys upon it because evil. Throw in some time-and-dimension hopping shenanigans, a crossover from another Stephen King book, some other blatant cribbing from other modern pop culture touchstones and a callback to one of the previous novels in the series, and boy howdy was this a wonderful and glorious mess. I don’t mean that in a bad way, either; the story had so many twists and turns, not to mention so many wacky surprises that it was just all kinds of fun to read. I mean, who wouldn’t want to make light sabers part of your fantasy play when you were a kid?

Overall, after sloshing through Wizard & Glass, I’m glad I kept going with Wolves of the Calla, as I was rewarded with a much more imaginative and kinetic continuation of the overall arc, as well as some geek moments that left me with a bit of a grin at times.

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