Number of pages: 463
This is the second novel in Stephen King's epic Dark Tower series, and I found it gripping from the start.
Throughout the book, Roland - the gunslinger - is slowly dying, as the result of a brutal attack by the "lobstrosities" that populate his world, which costs him two fingers and one toe; hence the storyline involved him also attempting to procure medicine in the hope of curing himself.
The main plot felt like it was the original version of King's later novel, 11.22.63 and involved Roland passing through doors to enter the real world. This made the book feel very different from the first title because it wasn't entirely focused around the fantasy world. It also made it feel almost like three separate mini-novels, as Roland encountered three different characters, while visiting three separate decades of the 20th Century.
When I first read the plot synopsis, I thought it would just be about Roland stepping through three doors and meeting other characters, but in this case things were a little weirder. So in this novel, when Roland walked through a door, it allowed him to enter a character's body, feel what they were experiencing, communicate with them telepathically, and even control their body. Some of it felt slightly illogical, but I'm familiar enough with Stephen King's books to know that he never likes to explain why bizarre things happen.
The first (and longest) section involved a character called Eddie, in 1987 (the year this book was first published) on a plane, attempting to smuggle drugs through customs, apparently forced to do so by people who kidnapped his brother.
Then the next section involved a character called Odetta, a civil rights campaigner in the 1960s, who lost her legs after being pushed in front of a train. Odetta also appeared to have schizophrenia, evidently as the result of having had a brick thrown at her head when she was a child. Her other personality, Detta, was possibly the scariest character in the book, as she not only shoplifted, but seemed downright sociopathic, psychologically torturing the other characters in the book with her behaviour. The only real problem with this section of the book was that I'd expected a lot more commentary on race issues, and these seemed to be only briefly touched upon.
The final section involved serial killer Jack Mort in the 1970s, and I initially thought this would involve more of the character Jake, previously seen in the first novel, but he only appeared briefly here. I can't really say much about Jack's storyline without giving away spoilers, except to say that the plot kept going in a direction that I wasn't expecting, and it had an outcome that I would not have predicted.
I overall enjoyed this book, although there were some moments that I found baffling (I've found at times events in Stephen King books become really hard to visualise in terms of exactly what is happening) but I am very exciting to continue with the Dark Tower series, and I found the ending very satisfying; it left me wanting to know what happens next.
Next book: Who is the Holy Spirit? (R.C. Sproul)