Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King
Digital Audiobook narrated by George Guidall
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on February 1st 2006
Series: The Dark Tower #5
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Science Fiction
Length: 931 pages or 26 hours, 20 minutes
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Wolves of the Calla continues the adventures of Roland, the Last Gunslinger and survivor of a civilized world that has "moved on." Roland's quest is ka, an inevitable destiny -- to reach and perhaps save the Dark Tower, which stands at the center of everywhere and everywhen. This pursuit brings Roland, with the three others who've joined his quest to Calla Bryn Sturgis, a town in the shadow of Thunderclap, beyond which lies the Dark Tower. Before advancing, however, they must face the evil wolves of Thunderclap, who threaten to destroy the Calla by abducting its young.
There are two things I dislike about Wolves of the Calla.
One: The pacing is insanely slow. It’s one of the longest books in the Dark Tower series, and yet, it only needs to tell one story. In fact, it almost feels like filler to pass the time as Susannah develops her little… problem. That isn’t to say it’s not an interesting story, but it takes an awfully long time to get to the point.
Two: At least 50% of Wolves of the Calla is a retelling and extension of ‘Salem’s Lot. Why? When we get to the Calla, we meet Pere Callahan – the Father Callahan from ‘Salem’s Lot – and Roland urges him to tell his story, because he feels that the Pere is destined to be part of their ka-tet and he would know his tale. In ways, retrospectively, the emergence of this character makes sense. But if you are reading through this story for the first time, it’s a terrible drag to have a ‘Salem’s Lot retelling stuck in the middle. Unless, I suppose, you love ‘Salem’s Lot. If so, good for you!
These are the two parts of Wolves of the Calla I struggle with, but on the other hand, I appreciate the break from the endless traveling. When your hero’s quest only ends when they reach a destination, you find yourself passing through a lot of places and a lot of readers will lose attention. Wolves of the Calla slows this down a bit. We spend the entire novel physically in the same place, learning about another way in which the world has moved on. We have scenes in Midworld as well as scenes in New York (remember the bookstore from The Waste Lands? It’s back!) and even though the characters aren’t physically moving closer to the Dark Tower, the clock is still ticking and you feel so anxious for them to get where they’re going, because what if they run out of time?
While I enjoy Wizard and Glass the most, I would actually say Wolves of the Calla is the best of the series for the general reader. I know that I will jump up and down about the whole series, but I do have to admit, it takes some patience to get through. The audiobooks have two readers, and the reader of books 2-4 is a much stronger narrator… so it’s easy enough to lose interest at this point without a compelling story. Fortunately, Wolves of the Calla is compelling. Already we have our Dark Tower journey: now we add the twist of Susannah’s new development, the preying “wolves” that steal the Calla’s children and why do they exist, Roland’s quickly developing arthritis that could bring their journey to a sudden halt if he cannot move fast enough to defend himself, the emergence of Black Thirteen, Pere Callahan’s vampires… there are so many new elements thrown into the story that don’t quite have a place yet, and we are waiting for them all to fit in.
After all, who ever said that a journey to the Dark Tower would be easy? Since this is a re-read for me, I know that this is only the first handful of many obstacles the ka-tet will have to face. The closer they get to their goal, the more twisted and dangerous things become….