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Literature / The Waste Lands

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Preceded by The Drawing of the Three.

The Waste Lands is Book III of Stephen King's The Dark Tower, released in 1991, and has two parts. In the first, the Temporal Paradox the previous book created makes Roland begin to lose his mind. In the second, the ka-tet, now including the recently resurrected Jake continue their journey, get caught, escape and move on.

To see the character sheet for the whole book series, go here.

Followed by Wizard and Glass.

The Waste Lands provides examples of the following tropes:

  • After the End: In this book the results of the collapse of the Great Old Ones' civilization are made apparent in the eponymous Waste Lands. When looking at the horrific landscape and the nausea-inducing creatures that live there, Eddie is dumbstruck:
    "This was no nuclear war," Eddie said. "This...this..." His thin, horrified voice sounded like that of a child.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Shardik, Blaine, and Patricia all went crazy years before the start of the series.
  • Arc Words: Among others, "Blaine is a pain."
    • Also "all things serve the Beam". Or, as Eddie says it, "all things serve the f***in' Beam."
  • Arc Villain: Andrew Quick/The Tick-Tock Man is the third major obstacle on Roland’s quest after The Man in Black and The Pusher. He is the leader of the Grays, operating in the city of Lud and kidnapped Jake Chambers to make him show him how the long-dead machines work as he wants to defeat The Pubes, a rival faction and take over the city.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Shardik, a gigantic cyborg bear attacks the protagonists at the beginning of the book.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Especially 50-foot tall, millennia old parasite-ridden cyborg god bears.
  • The Bermuda Triangle: After encountering a crashed Nazi plane, Eddie wonders if the people who go missing in the triangle end up in Mid-World.
  • Big Brother Bully: Eddie's big brother Henry is revealed to be one. Eddie seems to realize it for the first time.
  • Cargo Cult: The inhabitants of Lud sacrifice people several times a day when what they think is the drumming of angry ghosts is heard. Eddie is not amused to recognise the drums as the beat of "Velcro Fly" by ZZ Top with the lyrics muted, played over the public address speakers. However Blaine, who's entirely willing to take on the role of a mad god if that's what the humans want, later implies that it's sent "angry ghosts" for real if they don't play along.
    "You're killing each other over a piece of music that was never even released as a single!"
  • Cliffhanger: Mighty fine one. Readers had to wait six years for the resolution.
  • Cool Train: Blaine the Mono.
  • Dangerous Key Fumble: Jake has to go through a Haunted House to reach a magical doorway that will take him to the others in Mid-World. Just as the house comes alive and tries to eat him, he drops the key that will let him open the portal and it falls through the floorboards.
  • Driven to Suicide
    • Patricia, egged on by Blaine.
    • Blaine also plans on committing suicide.
    • Many Pubes and Grays when Lud starts going mad.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: The citizens of Lud think it is this when Blaine begins running the city into the ground.
  • Fan Disservice: How the ka-tet holds off the Oracle.
  • Faux Affably Evil: The Tick-Tock Man.
  • Forever War: The gang war in Lud between the Pubes (descendents of the original inhabitants of Lud, which tended to be younger, thus the name) and the Grays (descendants of the army of harriers lead by Andrew Quick to conquer Lud, who were generally older, thus the name) has been going back and forth for Gan knows how long by the time the book takes place.
  • Genius Loci
    • The Plaster Man/Doorkeeper.
    • Blaine, who is actually just an extension of the computer that controls all of Lud.
  • Giving Them the Strip: While in the haunted house, Jake slips out of his jeans in order to escape from the Plaster Man.
  • I Have Many Names: Richard Fannin says something similar to this.
  • Insult Backfire: Jake to Gasher:
    Jake: Go fuck yourself.
    Gasher: Why not? Give me a chunk of broken glass and I'll rip it right off and stick it right in, for all the good it's doing me these days.
  • It Tastes Like Feet: Eddie asks Roland if billy-bumblers make good eating. Roland answers no, they're horrible: tough and gamy, and he'd sooner eat dog. When quizzed, he confirms that, yes, he's also eaten dog meat.
  • Jedi Mind Trick: The key.
  • Jerkass: Blaine. Dear God.
  • Kick the Dog: Gasher kicks Oy, in case we didn't realize that he's a villain.
  • Large and in Charge:
    • The Great Old Ones, who once ruled All-World, were much larger than regular humans, judging by the size of the seats inside Blaine's Barony Coach.
    • Tick Tock Man leads the Grays, and is described as much larger, healthier, and younger-looking. He may or may not be descended from the Great Old Ones.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Tick Tock Man is an enormous, chiseled specimen. When he draws his knife, Jake swears that he's as fast or faster than Roland. It doesn't help him one bit.
  • Literary Allusion Title: To T. S. Eliot's "The Waste Land". Part of the poem is used as an epigraph and in-story Susannah quotes it.
  • Living Lie Detector: Blaine can determine if someone is lying with 97% accuracy by using voice analysis.
  • Meaningful Name: The city of Lud, whose surface inhabitants have forgotten what technology is and now fear it. At one point near the end, the point is made explicit when they are referred to as Luddites.
  • Mordor: The titular Waste Lands, a vast area beyond the city of Lud which Roland and his ka-tet must cross with Blaine's dubious help.
  • Must Make Amends
  • Nightmare Fuel: invoked Charlie the Choo-Choo's smile disturbs all the characters.
  • No Indoor Voice
    • Blaine. The Big Blaine personality at least.
    • Also true of Jake's father.
  • Only Smart People May Pass: Blaine forces our heroes to display their knowledge of... prime numbers! They must also come up with a riddle that Blaine can't solve. They can't until the next book.
  • Pokémon Speak: Oy is given his name because he repeats the word "boy" several times as "oy."
  • Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Deconstructed. Roland remembers two versions of a certain crucial event, and it slowly drives him insane. Jake suffers from the same problem. Jake crossing over into the Mid World solves this problem for both of them.
  • Serious Business: Riddles. Roland takes it personally when Eddie tells a stupid one. Back in the day, he also saw Cort kill a man for cheating in a riddling competition.
  • The '70s: Jake comes from 1977.
  • Shout-Out: Eddie thinks that Blaine's god-drums are almost as loud as the time he saw Anthrax in concert.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The Pubes killing each other to the drumbeat of a song that is essentially about easily-removable clothing (warning: this music video contains dangerous amounts of Eighties).
  • Split Personality: Blaine has the A.I. version. Eddie refers to the two personalities (the aggressive one who TALKS IN CAPITALS and the quiet, sane one who doesn't) as Big Blaine and Little Blaine.
  • Succubi and Incubi: The Oracle. Sex with an incubus here is portrayed as very unpleasant and painful.
  • Suddenly Always Knew That: Roland reveals that he has an encyclopedic knowledge of riddles because they were Serious Business in Gilead.
  • Subverted Kids' Show: Charlie the Choo-Choo is an example of a subverted kids' storybook.
  • Technically a Smile: Charlie the Choo-Choo's. No one trusts it.
  • Temporal Paradox
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The ka-tet come across a downed Messerschmidt with swastika painted on it in the outskirts of Lud. Later, the Tick-Tock Man asks Jake if he's a "Not-See".
  • Wasteland Elder: Eddie daydreams about meeting some of these ("wise fuckin' elves!", he muses), who would give the ka-tet some food and supplies and maybe tell them the best route to the Dark Tower, when he sees the Lud skyline from a distance. He realizes, though, that the chances of them meeting anyone like that are slim to none (though they do meet some decent folk in River Crossing).
  • Would Hurt a Child: Gasher actually enjoys it.