Right, first up, this review of Wolves of the Calla is going to involve ranting, and it will involve spoilers. You have been warned on both counts. This book is getting a 1 star review, and I’m not holding back. Should you wish to continue, well, click on the link to go further.
Firstly, I want to say how much I loved the first three books of this series. From the first point where Stephen King explained how he read Lord of the Rings, and how he was inspired to create, I was hooked. I understood everything he said, and the Gunslinger didn’t disappoint. It was like watching a western in book format. It rocked.
The next two (The Drawing of the Three, and The Wastelands) rocked fairly well. Finally a great sprawling epic with all the flavor and power of fantasy while being something truly unique and fresh.
Book four (Wizard and Glass) rocked my world in an entirely different way. Firstly, the whole book was a flashback. Secondly, it was paced poorly, and could have stood being 400 pages less. Disillusioned, I still needed to push on, because like Roland, I too was obsessed with reaching the Dark Tower.
Book five, Wolves of the Calla, is a steaming pile of crap. Well written crap, but crap none the less. Why do I have this strong opinion on a book? What are my reasons? Let me lists the ways.
Wolves of the Calla is about a bunch of heroes that roll into a town just as it decides to stand up to a bunch of things that are raiding them on a regular basis. Ok, so it’s the Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai/The Last Stand/etc. Not a new story. I won’t hold it against it, despite the book starting with a jarring piece of technology. Again, the setting has shown technology exists.
You think that this story wouldn’t take 700 pages to tell, but it does. The pace stinks. This is how not to write a book, people. Is there conflict? No. Well, no. Sorry. There is. In the last few chapters. When we finally get to the point of the story we have been building up to for so many pages.
Whereas the last book was a flashback, and was Roland’s telling of his past, it felt authentic. And it was written right and well. The same happens to a degree in this book, but the story of Callahan really doesn’t have enough bearing on the immediate story for it really to matter (at least it didn’t to me). Further to that, a lot of it was in the format of Callahan telling other characters, rather than going back into the memory.
The true test is that Callahan would have been edited out and the story would not only have been better paced, but it would haven’t lost anything for having lost him.
Later, Callahan makes the realization that actually, he’s a fictional character made up by Stephen King. And that really pisses on the whole thing. More on that later.
Next, the story is made up in part by coincidence. Everything is linked, and everything ties into everyone. It’s something that King’s done a brilliant job of skating the fine edge of doing it right, and just making it seem like he’s making this related to that because of lazy storytelling.
Wolves of the Calla is where he crossed the line. The characters groan when they realize that this is linked to that, and yes, we do too. We feel your pain. It would be fine if there were hints of it in the past books, but there isn’t. King is now injecting events back into previous events. I find myself feeling robbed, because previously it made sense. Drawing of the Three was a stunning example of how everything is linked. Wolves of the Calla has characters bouncing about in time more than a bad Star Trek episode.
Finally, and this is where things cap themselves off at their worst. When we finally get to the action, and it’s over in two chapters, we come to the realization that one of the characters is actually a character. He’s fiction. He doesn’t exist. And the characters are all but ready to jump once again through the magic doors of time to meet the author Stephen King himself.
I knew King turned up in the series. I didn’t think it was the cliffhanger realization. I guess it’s ok, because only Callahan (who spent 300 or so damn pages giving us his life story, aka, Saloms Lot, or rather the bits that didn’t turn up in it) is the fiction. But who knows …
That didn’t peeve me off as much the pacing. The fact that there were huge swathes of the book that could have been somewhere else. That is, not in the book at all. How can books get published that have such waste in them? Sure, King is great, and yes, I did read it. It was well written. I’m not disputing that. Good god. Where was the editor?
I’m giving this book 1 star out of 5 because I expected better. Given the build up so far in the series, and the build up in this book, the resolution (so far in the series) stinks.
And too early, I find out why Roland is going to the Dark Tower. And it’s nothing like I thought it was. When it finally came, it just sort of slipped out, and felt stale and nasty, like dry bread. Too late to spit it out now. You just chewed off a whole mouthful.
I’ve been told it doesn’t get better until the last half of a book two on from here. Can I last that long? I’m now on my own journey to the Dark Tower. That is, the last book of that title in the series of the same name.