Del Toro’s Crimson Peak is the Prequel to Drood

Creepy, yes? No?

Creepy, yes? No?

(As a quick note, after salivating for a few years over the thought of Guillermo del Doro directing Drood, I see little to no discussion from his side of the fence toward the development of the movie. This post is partially to continue my interest in the project and partially to try and garner a resurgence of hope for it).

I follow my favorite artists, as I’m sure everyone does. I listened to Smashing Pumpkins until they broke up (and never got back together again), I’m currently reading every single thing written by Dan Simmons, I dream of someday owning an original Beksinski, and I follow Guillermo del Toro’s everything. While half of the previously mentioned artists are no longer producing (Billy does not a Smashing Pumpkins band make), the other two are hard at work dominating the writing scene and big screen, respectively.

That being said, Crimson Peak snuck up on me. I checked on del Toro’s upcoming releases, saw the film adaptation of Dan Simmons’s masterwork Drood and a few other things, and set it aside to essentially pay bills by working my tail off. It came out, seemed like a sexy mashup of Poe, Lovecraft, and X-Men (Hiddleston is in it. No matter how many times I see his butt, I still see Magneto), and planned to see it in the theater.

This movie. This movie, in its entirety, is a dry run for Drood, and it thrills me to no end del Toro took the time to make it. Before I go too far into detail, I’ll sum the movie up as quick as I can without giving too much away: Heroine writer is picked by dashing Hiddleston to be the one in a somewhat rushed romance, but Heroine’s father isn’t convinced and decides to look into Hiddleston’s (and his creepy sister’s) past. Queue Fall of the House of Usher and The Color Out of Time mashup: powerful, gothic symbolism sewn together with a dull, supernatural needle and twine laced with twisted romance.

Pros: enchanting, morbid scenery: a derelict mansion resting on a mound of blood-red, liquefied clay that literally oozes out of the ground and fills the pipes of the house; walls of black moths and murals; leaves and snow fall from holes in rooms. “It’s the east wind. When it blows, it sucks at the chimneys. With all the windows closed up, the house, well, breathes.” Complex, developed characters with solid momentum. Just enough of the grotesque that the enthusiastic observer of horror isn’t terrorized by it. Just enough romance to show Hiddleston’s butt. Just enough intrigue to unfold a shallow mystery that doesn’t steal the show. And the supernatural element is added like spice. It isn’t the steak. It isn’t the deep fried eggplant. It isn’t even the bread with which to sop up the juice. It’s simply touched upon, tasted, and vitalizing.

Cons: This story needed to be three hours in telling. Unfortunately, you can’t make a movie like that unless it’s The Titanic or Gone with the Wind (Or any one of the three extended editions of the Lord of the Rings movies). Given that, some of the dialogue was rushed, some of the interactions not given their fair share of screen time, and those lovingly twisted, deeply developed characters felt somewhat caricaturized by the speed of their exposition. Also, I could simply bathe in the scenery. The double meanings. The symbolism. In a lot of ways, this was a retelling. Especially with the Heroine’s comment, near the beginning of the movie, of, “I prefer to be like Mary Shelley, who died a widow.”  This movie was truly an homage to true gothic literature, and came up short because of screen time requirements.

Also, I’d bet it was over the heads of a lot of people. The moths were literally eating the walls. This movie is art in its highest form, and I applaud del Toro for his dedicated effort.

Now getting back to the idea of this unrelated movie being a “Prequel” to the movie adaptation of Dan Simmons’s standalone novel. Follow me through the journey, if you will. Del Toro began his reign of successful movies with (in my opinion) Mimic, a xenomorphic horror/science fiction about cockroaches that evolved to look like people and then eat them. I’d place this work firmly in horror, with the overarching question of How long can we remain on top of the food chain? being pounded into our skulls. Next came Blade II, a comic book vampire movie. Then Pan’s Labyrinth, a sleeper hit that first caught my attention. It was brilliant, gruesome, beautiful, haunting. Much like Crimson Peak, but much more contained, staved, stunted. He often said it was too heavily produced by outside forces, too many hands involved in the making of it for him to tell the story he wanted to tell. In the “making of” on the DVD, he remarked he wished he could do it all over again.

Yet that movie wasn’t gothic. It was more a German fairytale woven into war. While it was grotesque and in some ways horrific and certainly frightening, it didn’t have any of the romantic aspects, the sublime symbolism of gothic work. Poe is gothic. Lovecraft is horror. Pan’s Labyrinth is much closer to Lovecraftian literature (or Gaiman literature) than anything of Poe’s.

Move forward in this writer/director/producer’s career, you see a bunch of seemingly unrelated movies: Hellboy and Hellboy II, superhero movies that still played on the enchanting aspects of magic, but not the blood-magic of the gothic; Pacific Rim, full of cybernetics, rock-em sock-em robots vs. alien monster godzillas; the three Hobbit movies all awash with CGI and hopeless pandering to money; along with a bunch of mixed teleplays and scripts for episodes of The Strain and games and cartoons and whatnot.

So. He’s written a lot in the horror, a lot in the superhero, a lot in the science fiction area of writing. It’s his bread-and-butter. Yet he’s never written true gothic, although his “to be developed” projects include At the Mountains of Madness by Lovecraft and Frankenstein by none other than Shelley (I love when projects overlap. Like that time Johnny Depp said “savvy?” in Once Upon a Time in Mexico most likely as a slip-up from his parallel project Pirates of the Caribbean).

This movie has all the trappings of the Drood atmosphere. Powerfully developed characters, a narrator who sees things in the night, a Hiddleston-esque Dickens with his own Dark Passenger in Drood, an environment quite at home in the same Victorian atmosphere of the movie, and most of all, practice in the writing of gothic screenplay. A lot of the characters in Crimson Peak run with similar motivations in Drood, although the Heroine would have no place in Simmons’s novel. This movie needed about ten fewer jump scares–the environment itself was enough–and the supernatural element would be near parallel to Drood, as well.

It seems like practice, practice, practice. (Or, perhaps, the Drood project is scrapped in entirety and del Toro wanted to direct/produce/write something in the same vein, and instead of Drood we got Crimson Peak. Quite possible.)

If you love American Gothic, if you love Poe, or Shelley, or Hawthorne, or any of the other greats, if you love the idea of a story that incorporates aspects of the supernatural, of romance, and intrigue, and mystery, and horror (instead of a horror movie that incorporates aspects of a story), Crimson Peak is definitely the movie for you.

Even with the poor on-screen development of the characters and gratuitous jump-scare numbers, you can be darn certain I’m purchasing this movie as soon as I can get my hands on it. Especially if this is the closest I’ll get to a del Toro Drood adaptation.



Book Cover Ideas



So I’ve recently seen some other fantasy writers’ cover art (Aurian and Jin, among others) and it’s got me actively thinking about my own.

I’ve spend the past four years considering this book cover idea, and I’ve had several “THAT’S IT!” moments. To be perfectly frank, if this book were a baby, I’d’ve had two false labors and two botched C-Sections. Yeah. Nothing about this enjoyable piece is coming along smoothly. Actually, I’ve come to think of it more as a Pinocchio than a real boy. I redid that poor boy’s left forearm more times than anything else…

So the title was a really, really long process. The words themselves took half of Mr. King’s so-called million words, and the cover art is no better than anything else. I’m not sure if I have many followers, or watchers, or whatever, still interested in this webpage, but I want to run it by people, and if interested, you could leave your vote on your favorite book cover idea.

The tagline for the book is “Soren has run from his demons all his life, but when a priest begs him for help, he can’t help but take up arms against those in the Astral who would go to war against him. And this time? The demons are real.”

Three sentences. Yeah whatever. Given it’s book one in a series of seven (I like series of seven. I don’t know why.), It’s got a few themes. Titles, for instance. This novel is named “Of Salt and Wine,” because those are the symbols/tools most connected with the evil he fights. Book two is “Of Earth and Blood,” and so on. It’s taken from one of the lines he says in the book, 2/3rds of the way through: “Those of Salt and Wine, I come for you.” Kind of like a war cry, I guess. It was originally called “It Gave Me a Name,” because his darkness, yes, a character, gives him the name of a demon. I liked the rhythm, but it had too many words. People would get confused, I thought, so I strived to be more and more simple in my idea. It perhaps could even end up as “Salt and Wine,” although I absolutely love the “Of” at the beginning, as if it were part of a much larger thought. Which it is.

So the book cover should be as important. I began this project with the idea of a layout of symbols or tools, a la Game of Thrones or Guy Gavriel Kay’s novels. Book one would have a series of thirteen horizontal staves, or several pieces of jewelry, or better yet, a vintage 1800’s tattoo of skulls and vines and whatever the evil looks like. Several experts added their thoughts, stating the best way to sell a fantasy is to depict a scene from the book on the cover, with Magic: The Gathering-esque card art for the cover, similar to the Wheel of Time books. It would most likely have Soren standing in a septagram on the altar of a church while a big read, Diablo-inspired demon pours green liquid into a played priest’s throat. I like those ideas, but I’m thinking a little more traditional. Something I could lay out for all seven books in the series, with small but connective variations. In fact, I’ve already rough-draft finished book two. I’m that serious about this stuff.

So, I’ll run through a handful of ideas. If any single one presents more of a visceral response, please please please say something about it. I don’t mind if you’ve never been here before and are never coming back. I’d absolutely love the feedback.

1) Horizontal (or vertical) staves, all of different woods, straight, like prison bars

2) The “O” of “Of Salt and Wine” being Soren’s personal symbol, while the S of Salt is actual salt and the dot of the i in Wine is actually a goblet of wine

3) The wall of masks Soren has in his home, all looming down

4) A tattoo of Soren’s, laid over polished hardwood floor (he has twelve)

5) The Blackwood Shillelagh, his Modus Operandi for the book and most important item he uses, glowing at the bulb

6) Vintage 1800’s art in the form of a tattoo, possibly using a human or demon skull as the focal point, with dandelion leaves spread out (think this, only inked and not so 3D)

7) Closeup of a man in a suit, tightening his tie, with his sleeve cuff charred or burned or even aflame

8) Closeup of a man in a kurta, signing a mudra, the head of a snake tattoo stretching across his wrist

9) “Evolution” type silhouette, with the four demons, Jack, Olivia, and Soren, walking down the street one behind the other

10) Demon symbol for Ferrulous (circular and striking)

11) Soren at the top of the stairs, wailing at a door half-covered in tar

12) Soren in the septagram, hands up pleadingly, in the classical pose like daVinci and other Reformation artists, toward a demon

13) Soren’s childhood door, half-covered in tar, with Soren’s symbol scratched in chalk

14) A goblet of wine, ringed in salt like a Margarita

15) A man in a top-hat, face obscured, standing off-kilter to a backdrop of brick

16) A man playing chess alone in a park


That’s all I got. Any thoughts? 



I Dreamed Hard-Boiled

(Apologies for the constant Blog name-change. I’m looking for my voice, a little)

75% of the inspiration for my writing comes from my dreams. This is 98% why I write fantasy. Since I was 2 years old I’ve had vivid dreams and vivid nightmares, and I remember most of it. You can understand my confusion toward labeling my work fantasy vs something else simply because, in a way, I’ve lived it.

Movies are great. Books are great. I don’t write based off books (except for Dresden and an Animorph fanfic when I was a kid) or movies unless I’ve dreamed about them (which has happened).

Last night I dreamed I read (in the dream) a hard-boiled, gritty detective novel and, simultaneously, lived it through flashes of “real” characterization of the novel. Talk about esoteric; I dreamed that I dreamed about a book I never read.

I’ve always wanted to write hard-boiled (Dresden as example). I’ve always wanted a dark, brooding, antagonist main character in a world of absolute truths shrouded in layers of the socio-psychological and an animalistic need for survival. To try and find inspiration, I read historical fiction like Angel of Darkness and detective-heavy Sherlock Holmes and, even, Lovecraft’s dedication to the scientific method in his Meta sequence. Yet I’ve never succeeded in writing it. I chalked it up to not ever meeting, or knowing, a lover of detective fiction that could bounce ideas around with me, and tell me where I’m screwing up (if I even am! I might be writing it perfect, but getting all the negative feedback to convince me otherwise).

The dream was complicated, but as my subconscious often does, put me in an entirely different mindset than what I’ve been used to: it showed me what “it/I” liked while showing me a detailed writing style I’ve never had. Or, I’ve only had in my subconscious? In fact I had a conversation with the MC. Looking back on it now, it seems silly, but we were on a boat in the Hudson River (setting: Noir York?) after dumping a body and I asked him what he’d do next: pursue prosecution through the police or fighting through to the truth?

He looked at me, square jaw and four-day growth of stubble on his face, and said, “I’m not some emotional pussycat that fumbles around with personal motive and what I’m eating for dinner. I don’t stare into the bottom of my coffee cup and whine to myself how unjust this world is. I chew on the coffee grounds, I smoke cigarettes, and I sacrifice my body and hone my mind. You don’t reach this state without systematically removing all motivation, and motive, from your own life. My life is a mirror of my job; it has to be. Otherwise I’d be the body on the bottom of the river.”

Terrifying realization, this, because I had spent my writing life dedicated to busting the mystery’s balls instead of the character. It’s twisted, and possibly sick, but I have to work my MC to the bone before I can work my mystery to the bone. In fact, the mystery will write itself if the MC is carved away enough before the story starts.

I’ve never thought this way.

The reason I’m writing this post is because, in the past, I spent so much time trying to explain to people how I’ve come to the insights I have through sleep, and they laugh and say it’s impossible. Yes, I’ve read a few detective novels. Yes, I played Max Payne. But my thoughts wouldn’t have clicked the way they did without the vivid dream.

I know it’s unconventional. How do you work through your uncertainties?

All Jacks of All Trades…

Yet it seems, none are masters.

This blog might seem odd: I don’t exactly know where I’m going with it, except all the social media explosive SuperSites like Twitter and Facebook and even this site, WordPress, is diluting information at an incredible rate. I am officially inundated, and have come to a crossroads. A Hecate of the mind. A Genius Loci…

…Forsake actual research and dive into the humdrum of posting three times weekly, constantly retweeting or reposting or updating barely-thought information like some ADD child on Pixie Stix? Or keep things simple enough to speak about what I truly understand, and what I find as truth, beneath all this craziness?

I want to be published. In fact, I want to be published more than anything else in the world. More than getting married. More than winning the lottery. I want it so bad that I’ve been biting at the bit since fifth grade. Advice says (as they say in the Stock world): Diversify. Diversify diversify diversify. But the masters of the Market don’t. They play the market. I’m no master at the writing market, but I know enough not to diversify in areas I know little.

I could tweet ten times aday, re-posting writings from other bloggers that I found pertinent or poignent, filling the CHeisserer airwaves with… stuff… while trying to garner respect and support from the masses. I could burn out. Or I could continue writing and branch out only when I feel ready for it. I could be a jack of all trades, having a little experience here/a little there. I could, but I wonder if it’ll get me anywhere.

This might seem strange given my previous entry on Inventing Yourself. This entry goes hand-in-hand: a living resume is one thing, and preaching about things you know little about is another entirely. I am no master. I have no PhD, nor Masters from college. (Not that these titles seem to mean anything anymore: masters in their fields are often marginalized by the general populace for the inflammatory extremist, no? Or the florid exaggerator. Or the study that says Big Business Cured Cancer But Are Hiding The Truth, instead of the much more mundane truth of… no. The experiment failed, but it held promise.)

Wag the Dog or Research?

I feel you can go too far in this play at extending knowledge and be absorbed into a pingpong game where you’re a spectator who wants to win the game by himself: it’ll never happen. The truly successful people are those who step out of the established norm and create a market, or bring the market to them.

I personally feel there is too little new knowledge, or insight, out there on the web, and too many people are passing it around. Too much Infotainment. Too much vivid exaggeration that tugs at heartstrings and rams invisible talking-points home.

This may be an exaggeration: I might just be overwhelmed and frustrated. I see no use in a lot of what I see on the airwaves: most of it is discussing self-help from people who say it works. And the help does work. For them. For us? The rest? It’s a work ethic issue: we work hard, hard hard, instead of working smart. We’re all inundated to saturated desensitization. Why work when you can watch pandas masturbate on YouTube? Why pursue being known online when the Internet Denizens are dancing around with every blip of a thought on their sleeves? The internet is a place of centric thought-gathering: how does one change that?

You’re popular for a moment, then the popularity dies. Then you fight to find that popularity again, then it dies again. It feels almost like an addiction. And I get a feeling this is what being a professional writer will be: the fight to show the world you’re important. Or the fight for the world to see you’re important, and place value on your ability. And then, the next day, ReInvent Yourself.

I just don’t know how to wade through the lovers of sleeve-knowledge and find the creators, inventors, masters–for one, I wish to be one. For two, I believe I’m there, in my own right. At least partially: I love writing about writing. But that’s not all. I’m a diabetic cook. But that’s not all. I’m… psychological, interested in the occult (and study/research it), very well-educated with some very well-educated friends. So should I have multiple blogs? One for writing, one for paranormal research, one for diabetic cooking? When do I spread myself too thin? In the end, what is the point?

This blog is an experiment. When I find my voice I’ll focus on a single topic and dive. I’m fairly certain this will be for writing: I need it. I have an obsessive need to connect with everyone. I want to be a part of the writer spiderweb; I want to connect; I want to grow. I just think I’m doing a disservice to anyone reading by posting a writing entry, then a wine entry, then a diabetic entry, then a religious one. It’s all important, of course: I’m certain I’m not any more multifaceted than anyone else out there. But simplification is key, here. Not diversification. Anyone can get a Twitter account. Not anyone can consistently focus on a single topic.

I don’t want a simulacrum. I don’t want a fetish. My father said, when I was young, that if I study half an hour a night on a single topic, at the end of two years I’d be a master at it. I’ve studied a lot more than that on certain topics. Now what?

I apologize if this was disjointed. I had a stream-of-thought I had to type.



Religion Isn’t Personal.

Spirituality, on the other hand, is.

Two things I will never talk about to the average joe/acquaintance: religion and politics. Why? They’re institutions, not personal belief systems.

I know a lot (A LOT) of religious people who don’t understand spirituality. Who aren’t spiritual. Some of them are the most religious people I’ve ever met, but don’t have a lick of the “Holy Spirit” in them.

On the other hand, I know a lot of spiritual people who don’t understand religion. Who aren’t religious. Some of them are the most spiritual people I’ve ever met, but don’t have a lick of “God the Father” in them.

Now. I feel the best way to live life is a c-c-combo of both, but if one is to err, one should err on the side of spirituality. Why?

Spiritual people don’t kill people in the name of their beliefs very often. Religious people wage war in the name of their beliefs.

Spiritual people can be very religious. Religious can be very spiritual. Take my Great Aunt for one: incredible woman, nun for 25 years, high school principal for 20 years, incredibly well-read and educated, delightful to talk to. If you smoke she frowns in your general direction. If you have a negative attitude she tries to raise it up. She’s a renaissance woman: equal parts psychology, religion, academia, spiritualism, and respect. She and I share a special bond: she sends me Kalil Gibran books and I send her religious questions, from time to time.

I speak to some of my other religious friends, and they’re warmongering against the president, against “the left” or “the right” or “the Other,” basically, and judging everyone up and down as if they had the power of Christ within them.

Unfortunately the power of Christ is forgiveness, love, acceptance, and sometimes rage at the pharisees who deface the name of God through greedy, money-hungry enterprising.

I think this blog entry is excited (inflamed?) by the recent “political” debates from the GOP. Religion/Politics are interchangeable. Same with spirituality/philosophy. It’s not a matter of knowing best. It’s a matter of respecting others.

I will dive, at length, into the spirituality of a person. I will swim in the oceans of the self, and the selves of others. I will embrace the wholeness (or parts) of the individual so trusting to open up.

I will not abide a terrorist, whether sanctioned by your religion or any other form of government.

(Apologies for all the buzzwords in this post.)

100k Words, and Why Fantasy Bites

If you don’t write HP fanfic or sexy vampires sucking blood and kicking tail, chances are you’re struggling to get published in the fantasy genre.

I’m one of those writers that doesn’t write to be published. I mean, I do. Obviously. But, like Stephen King says (in his prologue to the Dark Tower, heh), all writers fall into one of two groups: those who write to disperse information and those who write to gather. I’m one who gathers my information before trying to get it published.

That’s probably why I’m not published. I could easily write the latest vampire/werewolf romantic sexfest. I don’t care to. It’s been done. As with Tolkien’s publication of LOTR came a handful of successful mimics (Terry Brooks, for one), HP/Twilight is bringing about a handful of successful mimics (and about a thousand and one unsuccessful mimics, of course). But that genre’s saturated.

And it’s boring.

I’ve written my Dresden Files-esque Urban Fantasy (to no avail). In fact, I’ve written two books in the series before I petered out sending the stuff out and trying to get it rewritten/fixed up.

I’ve written my Lovecraft-esque fiction (definitely to no avail). Form letters all the way, if I got a reply at all, and THAT work is about two years earlier than my Urban Fantasy.

Now, I’m 100k words up on a story that I find most accessible to the general audience. Fiancee and brother both believe it’s a YA novel, albeit a little graphic at times. It’s my take on the HP craze: 13 year old boy goes to summer camp at a school of magic. He has issues. Hilarity ensues.

Yet I don’t believe I’m looking at this writing thing correctly. It’s not the genre that isn’t getting me published. It’s not the content within that genre. I think it’s the complication of the writing. David and His Shade is a relatively simple text: no florid prose, no overly complicated symbolism/metaphors, no gratuitous dream sequences that warp or mutate the story (they’re more punctuation marks to the story instead of their own stories…).

I think it’s still too complicated. My fiancee was eyeballs deep in world religions when she returned from India and Korea. She had lived the magic, and knew the magic, and in turn taught me about it. Chi, chakras, totems, Astral Projections, OBE, all that was commonplace in her study, in her life. It permeates my writing. In fact, instead of the stylized British magic incorporated in the HP universe, my writing uses complex systems that are already in place: Christian magic, Pagan magic, Hindu magic, Earth magic, Faeries and elves and demons and vetala and angels and Genius loci, and a thousand things in-between. Werewolves, and vampires, too.

I wonder if that’s a turnoff for anyone in the publishing industry: specific embracing of all religions, and positing character viewpoints that disagree with major religions (such as an anti-Christian mentality in a teacher, for instance).

It’s a touchy subject, but I don’t feel like anything, in any genre, should be censored for the sake of political correctness.

If anyone knows the overall viewpoint of the Fantasy publishing industry on this whole thing, I’d love to know.

I’m (at most) 20k off from finishing this beast. I have a lot to cut. Next chapter is the climax. I’ll be finished with a rough draft by Sunday.

Can’t wait to start getting more rejection letters. ~x

Drawing Of The Three, Stephen King

Before I go into my critique/review of a horribly outdated book (1989, I think), I just want to say…

When you translate Absinthe from its original French, you get Wormwood. I found an book called Wormwood at the local antique store, and now, no matter how dry it is, I want to read it. (Get the pun!?)

Okay. Second book in Stephen King’s Masterpiece du jour, The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three was crap.

I could end it there, I guess. I’m not much of a critiquer of the things I don’t like. There’s a lot. Perhaps it’s just dated, and that’s why I dislike it so. Perhaps it’s the amateurish writing that made me infinitely jealous that he got this stuff published, while I’m constantly polishing my work on a barber’s belt and still getting form letters of rejection–if I get anything at all. Perhaps I’m spoiled on his later stuff.

No. None of that’s it. It’s the inconsistency of the characters that throw me. The story starts off with a bang. Roland, the gunslinger/knight/Dirty Harry gets two of his fingers bitten off in the first chapter by a nasty three-foot long crablobster. I was excited as you can imagine: an author, cutting off a gunslinger’s two most important fingers in the FIRST CHAPTER? I was riveted and ready.

The story continues with a whimper. I loved the plot. I loved the western themes presenting themselves here and there (in fact, I’m a sucker for it). Unfortunately, the characters and the setting digressed throughout the story. I think Mr. King fell in love with his character Roland somewhere along the line, or else he grew soft–I don’t know, but the gunslinger, a hardened force-of-nature that willingly sacrificed a boy to kill his nemesis in the first book, cries like a pansy for nearly two whole chapters at the end. I’m getting to that.

This book’s got no shortage of guts, violence, profanity, drugs. I liked it. Mr. King doesn’t understand the finer points of sex in this novel, I think, but I can overlook it. Sex does not a good book make.

Quick overview of the book: Roland is given a Tarot reading by the Man in Black at the end of book 1 saying Roland must draw three others from other worlds to assist him if he wishes to succeed in his trek to the Dark Tower, his ultimate goal. So, this book is dedicated to–as the title states–Roland drawing his three. That’s it. He goes to Earth, pulls someone out. Goes to Earth, pulls someone out. Goes to Earth… you get the picture. The plot is weak due to the entire book being dedicated to pulling people out of doors–not with ease, of course, and these characters come with their own baggage–but it’s ALL HE DOES. It’s part of a series, yes–BUT IT’S ALL HE DOES. The plot is New York in different time periods–cool, I guess–and a sandy beach with crablobsters that can eat him in two snaps.

Spoiler Alert. The plot is strong because the characters do all the work. All of it. Roland is strong with his violent, no-nonsense gunplay. Odetta is strong with her multiple personalities (spoiler). Even Mort is powerful in his shell of a self. Every character works its tail off to survive, and in this the plot is strong.

It’s weak because, as I said earlier, the characters are too inconsistent. Roland’s dying most of this book. He has a wicked infection and he’s dying 99% of it. The last 1% he’s crying like a baby. Roland doesn’t cry. Doesn’t say things like, “Even the damned can love.” No. Somewhere, Mr. King decided to get romantic on Roland, and it did something to ruin the character for me. Why is Roland emotional? No idea. He’s no closer to where he’s supposed to be. He’s no stronger a person. In fact he’s weaker because he lost fingers and a toe.

Odetta is apparently schizo (again, here’s where the dated material comes in, perhaps). She acts schizo, she does all the schizo things, and JUST when she’s supposed to do something, she does it on her own and she’s healed. I know better than this. My suspension of disbelief is broken. Too far suspended. ESPECIALLY since upon these characters’ backs the story rolls. And Eddie’s an idiot. He ignores Roland’s commands repeatedly to–as I suspect–simply move the plot forward and draw the tension higher. It ticked me off. Do not give a half-lunatic a loaded gun. He does. Do not let your guard down. He does repeatedly.

He’s untrustworthy (“never trust a junkie”) and he’s weak. Yet I’m supposed to believe he’s strong and composed of Gunslinger steel. I don’t. Odetta, after she is “healed,” becames a total BA, I’d think, but it’s the healing that makes me sad. If I wrote that for my critique group I’d have fifteen people jumping down my throat with an, “Ah-hah! Un believe able! Fix this! It’s weak!”

The themes are incredible. I see where he gets some of his later storywriting ability. The ideas are incredible. The setting is awesome. The idea is fantastic. The execution is something I did in high school.

I judge books based on whether I could write them better. I could write this one better. I give it a 1.5 out of 5.

Yet, I WILL read book 3. I’ve read 4 HP books. I can read this Gunslinger series.