The Waste Lands is the third in Stephen King's epic fantasy-western septet The Dark Tower, and it's always been my favourite. So it's interesting to see how it stands up to a re-read.
It sees Roland Deschain, last of the gunslingers, and his new friends, drawn, for reasons best known to Sai King, or possibly ka, from the New York of our own world, crossing the vast plains of Mid-World in quest for the Dark Tower. Why are they seeking the Tower? Because reasons.
Actually, I think the whole "because reasons" approach is one of the things that makes The Waste Lands the best book in the series. It's the last book, really, in which King can get away with "because reasons", with that air of huge and magnificent dislocation and mystery which makes The Dark Tower really good fantasy. The Waste Lands really kicks into gear in the second half, when the gang start meeting people, in the settlement of River Crossing and the vast apocalyptic city of Lud: when we begin to realise, for the first time in three books, just how bad it is in this world. How much the world has moved on. How much used to be, and how much has died. And the fact that The Waste Lands doesn't give us any reasons for this decay is even more terrifying. Because when the reasons start coming (some of them, anyway) later in the series, the whole thing turns out actually quite mundane.
The other best thing about this book: Oy. Oy is a billy-bumbler, a kind of cross between a raccoon and a squirrel (I think), and he makes friends with the gang and comes with them on all their adventures and as unbelievable as this might be he's really really cute, OK? Oy is the hero of this book. He's so adorable.
The Waste Lands features, among other things, an incredibly creepy villain, some weird-ass technology, many lovely scenes featuring Roland and his friends, and plenty of general badassery. If you haven't read the Dark Tower series yet, do. At least until this book. Because it's awesome and scary and dark and utterly compulsive.