Wolves of the Calla was one of those novels that it took me a while to actually “get into” (A four month hiatus between reading attempts to be precise.), but once I did, it was enjoyable. Not a masterpiece like several of the preceding Dark Tower novels, but interesting enough for me to continue the journey to the Dark Tower with Roland Deschain, Eddie Dean, Susannah Dean, Jake Chambers, and Oy.
The story itself begins with Roland and his ka-tet moving slowly but steadily along the Beam towards the shadowy edifice of the Dark Tower. Now, however, there is an undercurrent of desperation beginning to rear its ugly head among the group, since time is passing more quickly than earlier in their journey and the Beams, which hold the multiverse together, are beginning to deteriorate more rapidly. So it is while dealing with this growing sense of impending doom that the five friends are unexpectedly approached by a group from Calla Bryn Sturgis.
The “Callas” – as the locals call their region of the world – is the final bastion of humanity before one enters the death and doom of End World. Calla Bryn Sturgis itself being one of the small farm town in this tranquil region. Here farmers, merchants, and ordinary folk live their lives to the fullest, slowly forgetting about the world that was before and focusing on tending their fields and raising their children, who always seem to be twins. Yet even in this land of idyllic farms, the horror of the world “moving on” cannot be completely forgotten, because every twenty years or so the Wolves come for their harvest of horror as they reap the children of the Callas!
The Calla folk do not know why the Wolves come. They just do. Nor do they understand what the wolves do with their stolen offspring. All that they know is that the Wolves take them into End World to Thunderclap, and when they return by train, they are near mindless caricatures of themselves, fated to grow into huge adults that die young and in pain. And soon the Wolves will return to Calla Bryn Sturgis. At least, that is what Andy the Robot says, and he would know, because he has lived among the farmers from their grandfather’s grandfather time and, somehow, Andy always knows when the Wolves are destined to return.
Yet knowing the date of their children’s abductions does little good to the common folk of the Calla. They are not warriors and cannot hope to stand against the wondrous weapons of their persecutors. But now, Roland has led his gunslingers among them, and it must be fate that has brought such an unlooked for group to the Callas when the Wolves are soon to reappear. And so, the people of the Callas come to the ka-tet begging them to fight off the Wolves and save the children of the Callas!
From this The Magnificent Seven beginning, Stephen King concocts a tale that has a pinch of western, a dash of scifi, a dollop of apocalyptic, a splash of fantasy, and a drizzle of horror. He takes his “Constant Reader” from the green fields of the Come-come-commala Calla, say thankya, to the dream-like visage of 1970s New York City. He introduces them to the gunslingers as diplomats and protectors of the defenseless while reintroducing us to a vampire killing companion from old, Father Callahan: a former Catholic priest last seen in Salem’s Lot. There are talking robots, zombies, and vampires as well as references to popular culture such as Harry Potter and Marvel comic books. Indeed, this novel is a psychedelic wonderland of variety; sure to fit the fancy of most any reader of speculative fiction. Do ya ken?
But while Wolves of the Calla is a novel that excels in its lively, creepy and fun narrative, it did not live up to its promise as the book to begin the process of straightening out the mess that was The Dark Tower series plot line. In fact, there were more new plots begun in this story than old ones finished.
Does that mean, this book is “bad” or not worth reading?
It is a fine tale that was a joy to read. But . . .
The problem with this book, in my opinion, is that due to Mr. King’s ending of the series this novel has no meaning.
Like an old song says, this novel is a “Cab fare to nowhere.”
A story that is a “White line to an exit sign.”
A “Locked door on a candy store.”
So if – like me and the kid from The Incredibles movie – you are hoping for “Something amazing, I guess” that begins to wrap up The Dark Tower series and shed light on all its mysteries, this one is probably not going to satisfy you. If, however, you are merely hoping to be entertained, then Wolves of the Calla is definitely up to the task.
Buy Wolves of the Calla (The Dark Tower, Book 5) at Amazon.