I was originally just going to cover the title story from Everything's Eventual and "The Little Sisters of Eluria." But along the lines of this quote from Hearts in Atlantis:
“A book is like a pump. It gives nothing unless first you give to it. You prime a pump with your own water, you work the handle with your own strength. You do this because you expect to get back more than you give.”
I gave enough to Black House to realize my working the handle any further probably wasn't going to result in any satisfying wellspring. So, let's get it out of the way first.
|Just a picture of a 'black house' from the internet that I liked.|
This sequel to The Talisman was published only days after 9/11/01. Tough timing. (Slayer's God Hates Us All had the misfortune of coming out on the day itself, so in this particular bad-vibes contest, Slayer wins) But even had it come out on Christmas Day of the Proverbial Best Year Ever, I doubt it'd have helped much.
As you may recall, I gave The Talisman 200 pages before calling it a day. When I started Black House, I said, "If I don't like this, it gets no more than 50." I got to about page 40. Bring on the Special Teams...
|The narrative mind-meld of Straub and King is apparently just not to my liking.|
Maybe I'll feel differently down the road, but good God, the narrative-style of this one, with its "We move from this house down the lane to this group (of philosophy-major bikers !!), and what do we see?"s and its impenetrable character-and-setting introductions, just magnetically-repulsed me. It was like a bad-CGI roving-map from some old Beyond the Mind's Eye videocassette, AND, I might add, something Salem's Lot accomplished much more effectively without resorting to this oh-so-precious-omniscient-narrator-prose. It probably didn't help that I just finished reading the uber-accessible nostalgia of Hearts in Atlantis last night and then started with this one this morning. That's like following up "Kodachrome" by Paul Simon (or insert-your-own-cotton-candy-for-the-ears) with Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music (or insert-your-own-acoustic-nails-on-chalkboard.)
I skipped around in the text to kill the rest of my train ride, read the end, read bits at random. No luck, though. I find the characters/ The Territories very uninteresting.
|Speedy Parker/ Parkus in particular; this cover came to mind.|
I'll give myself appropriate demerits for the scattershot-above approach, but egads. It's just so boring. These characters are as flat as ironing boards, and I can't justify spending time with them with so much ground left to cover.
|Cool cover, though.|
I probably should wait until Bev Vincent's Road to the Dark Tower arrives to tackle this one's connections to all-things-Crimson King, but meh. If you're interested, here's the relevant Dark Tower wiki and here's the relevant excerpt from the aforementioned. Suffice it to say, the Crimson King continues his quest to gather "Breakers" (more on them next blog) to sever the Beams and fell the Dark Tower. I'm feeling a little snarky, so take this with a silo of salt, but man, if he really wanted to destroy the Dark Tower, all he has to do is keep King and Straub collaborating... I don't think the Beams could survive.
Our trail guide notes, "To say this novel... is important to the overall series is an understatement of epic proportions." Appropriate demerits, again, for yours truly. If you're playing along at home, don't let my negative (and uncomprehending) reaction deter you from your Quest.
While I'm giving demerits to myself, I realized in gathering my notes for "The Little Sisters of Eluria" that I short-changed myself by skipping Desperation, which has some interesting cross-over with this. At the risk of turning this blog into a delivery mechanism for the heavy-lifting-of-others, here is a wealth of information between that novel and this story (as well as The Tommyknockers and Pet Sematary.)
|Art by Michael Whelan, whose Dark Tower portfolio is pretty solid.|
These connections I will bullet-point, somewhat, after a short recap:
Roland (sometime after the events of Wizard and Glass but before The Gunslinger) arrives in a deserted town called Eluria. He is immediately attacked by some Slow Mutants...
|Worth enlarging. Art by Luke Ross, I believe.|
...who overpower him and knock him unconscious. He is saved by some mysterious ladies who call themselves the Little Sisters of Eluria, whose medical technique involves covering the patient's body with little bugs they call "doctors" and drugging them senseless. The Sisters are actually vampires who capture stray survivors and keep them alive/ fatten them up in order to feed on them. One of these vampires, Sister Jenna, falls in love with Roland and helps him escape. But, tragedy strikes, as she disintegrates in the Mid-World sun. Another doomed would-be romance for our man Roland.
|Note to everyone: it does not pay to get mixed up with Roland.|
This is a good read, and it was nice to check in with the gunslinger again. After devouring (perhaps poor choice of words, given this story's goings-on) Waste Lands and Wizard and Glass, it took all my restraint not to just keep charging through the Dark Tower series. I quite like Roland and his ka-tet and am eager to rejoin them on their quest... but, undoubtedly, my appreciation of the last novels of the series will be enhanced by these side-trails.
No need to detail the Dark Tower connections, obviously, but here is the aforementioned bullet-point list:
- The operating theater of the Little Sisters is similar to the one housing Queen Laura in The Talisman.
- Sai King (I seem to have adopted the use of this nickname, used often at the SK Forum; "Sai" is simply the "Sir"-term of Roland's language, aka the High Speech of Gilead) writes, "in the long ago, the Little Sisters had been human. They served the White but turned to the dark side."
- Both Little Sisters (well, sort of) and Desperation take place in the Desatoya Mountains.
|Word to the wise traveler: bring a cross.|
There's lots more, and while you don't need it to enjoy Little Sisters, King's inner-networking of concepts and characters is really fascinating and rewarding to work out. If you look at his novels as individual buildings, there are numerous underground caverns and secret passageways connecting them. (Bring a flashlight. And, again, a cross or two.) I feel a bit like I'm blowing off class by not detailing them further, but it requires more space-time than I have at present.
Finally, we come to "Everything's Eventual."
|Cover to the collection. Apparently, there's a short film of this, as well. (Haven't seen it)|
What did I say about this when I covered King's short fiction in these pages last June?
"(It) feels like the beginning of a great story; it ends right when it gets interesting/ complicated... tantalizing questions and possibilities are raised that are left dangling."
Guess I was onto something, as this is, apparently, a lead-in to the events of Dark Tower VII, where Dinky Earnshaw, the protagonist, re-appears. What we have here is his recruitment by "Mr. Sharpton" into "the Trans Corporation." (Which, we later discover - tho not here - serves the Crimson King) He becomes one of their "trannies." (I know, I know.) Dinky possesses a mysterious gift where he can send poison-pen/evil-emails to people, filled with weird symbols, that inject a suicidal virus or death-magnetic into the recipient's consciousness. Let's turn it over to the wiki:
"For a time, Dinky is happy with his new position, living life in a semi-mindless bliss; however, when Dinky finds an article in the newspaper about one of the individuals whom he has killed (a seemingly innocent old newspaper columnist) he begins to feel guilty for what he has done. After researching more into his other victims, Dinky realizes that the Trans Corporation has been using him to assassinate political dissidents and alternative thinkers. As the story ends, he is planning his escape from the Trans Corporation, but not before sending one final email to Mr. Sharpton, his recruiter."
If I had a problem with this one on my re-read, it was that Dinky's realizations are rather one-sided. Who's to say these people he's targeting aren't actually evil? Or serving evil ends? There's not much ambiguity drawn, here; they seem to be good merely because they're "left-wing." Well, so? Left-wingers like Alger Hiss? Pol Pot? Any number of domestic less-than-heroes? Granted, he's only a kid, more or less, and perhaps it's in-character for him not to investigate further, but... felt like stacking the deck, on King's part.
(And why would the Crimson King target an anti-AIDS activist? What's the point of that? Dunno. I aspire to be beyond left and right, but I'm definitely jaded by the ongoing climate of polarization in this country, so hey, maybe I'm projecting. Perhaps the answers lie in book 7, so I'll shrug it off for now and be patient.)
King states in the foreword that he got the idea for this after dreaming about a person pouring change into the storm drain. This image/ action appears in the story, as well. There's a quick word about how this serves to keep Dinky tethered to his situation, but... it doesn't quite work for me. It struck me as the sort of detail that perhaps could have been jettisoned once the story took shape. But, it's not much of a distraction, just something that seems a bit out-of-place, for me.
|HEARTS IN ATLANTIS|