Wizard & Glass:Dark Tower IV ***
Stephen King
Published by Plume Paperback, 720 pp

The prolific master of horror strikes again...well, ok, the Dark Tower series isn't horror. If you haven't read the first three (The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three, and The Waste Lands) then I'd advise you read them first.

The main characters are Roland, the gunslinger from the World that has moved on, Eddie of New York, Jake of New York, and Susanna/Detta...as well as a billy-bumbler named Oy, who repeats parts of what he hears (kinda like a racoon-dog). When we left the characters at the end of The Waste Lands, they were speeding toward their deaths on a cognizant train, their only escape in the form of a riddle-contest. This is where W&G picks up.

Unfortunately, we only get to spend a hundred or so pages with the characters we've been talking about, at which point Roland begins to recount a lengthy memory of his childhood, and the great love of his life, Susan (not Susanna). If you've read The Eyes of the Dragon, also by King, then you're familiar with the type of world in which Roland and his cohorts resided. The Dark Tower books hold worlds, possibly parallel universes, or time-travel, and nothing ever seems too constant. For example, in Roland's youth, the town of Hambry has something called a Citgo (which has proved confusing to the town's inhabitants) which pumps unrefined petroleum. "Ancient" machinery like trucks and the like are still around. One passage notes strange words such as Citgo, Sunoco, Exxon, Mobil, Texaco...

One of the things I like about King's writing is how he ties in other books of his. In W&G, we find ourselves looking at Kansas and a scene which obviously came from The Stand, where everyone is dead. Yet this "time" exists before young Jake's time, which suggests there is not one fixed path of time and space. As always, be on the lookout for any characters with the initials R.F., who seems to transcend time.

I'm not finished reading this book yet, about 150 pages or so to go, but it is well-constructed with an interesting story. I thought this would be the last book in the series, but there's supposed to be 2 or 3 more to come. There are color images (computer generated?) every 30 pages or so which are visually deep and stunning. The cost of the book is $17.95 and it can be found in any decent bookstore. Waldenbooks currently is selling this title at 20% off. Amazon.com is selling this for $14.36 plus shipping.