Wolves of the Calla was just a slog. Which is not good when The Dark Tower is supposed to be my favourite fantasy series since ever.
The fifth book in a septet, Wolves sees Roland and his ka-tet stumbling across a township in the middle of nowhere. In Calla Bryn Sturgis, vastly more twins are born than singletons. Once a generation, the Wolves come riding out of the east to take children, one child from each set of twins, and send them back months later mentally handicapped and fated to die an early death. When Our Heroes arrive, the Wolves are only a month away, and the gunslingers agree to help the townsfolk take a stand.
There are many, many things wrong with Wolves (not the least of which is its somewhat disturbing attitude towards mental illness), but what most of it boils down to is its length. It's over 700 pages long, yet its story could be told in perhaps half that. There's just too much stuff here: endless conversations about conversations, a whole host of bad dreams, long and rambling tales from irrelevant characters - was it really necessary to spend 200 pages on The History of Donald Callahan, He of 'Salem's Lot? I doubt it. I'm not even entirely sure why King felt the need to do the whole meta thing of putting himself in the story; it doesn't add anything, and it veers dangerously close to self-aggrandizement.
Also, I was more annoyed than intrigued by the constant insertion of pop culture artefacts into the story: snitches, lightsabers and Doctor Doom robots all make very obvious appearances. The pop culture thing worked in The Waste Lands because everything was just on the edge of recognisable: the bass line from a Z. Z. Top song, a bear called Shardik, fragments of T.S. Eliot. They were strange because they were broken, whereas in Wolves things are just lifted whole, and it feels exactly that, like lifting; like King couldn't be bothered to write his own cool stuff so stole someone else's. It all feels too familiar.
And how angry am I at the novel's treatment of Susannah? Very angry. See, it turns out that Susannah is pregnant with the child of the demon she had sex with in The Waste Lands in order to let Jake through the speaking ring. This is Bad News, obviously, because demon, but Roland and Susannah's actual husband Eddie make the terrible decision not to tell Susannah (her pregnancy isn't a human one, so it's not obvious in the usual way, and it's implied that she's repressing the knowledge of it). Also not to let her have an abortion because the Catholic Callahan thinks they're evil. Also they stand around discussing her hips and breasts and how they've got bigger which, I'm sorry, is just fucking creepy when Susannah herself isn't there. UGH. HATED this storyline.
Yeah, I'm not going to be reading Wolves again. How did something so good get so terrible?