The story begins five weeks after the end of The Drawing of the Three. Roland, Susannah, and Eddie have moved east from the shore of the Western Sea, and into the woods of Out-World. After an encounter with a giganticcyborg bear named Shardik, they discover one of the six mystical Beams that hold the world together. The three gunslingers follow the Path of the Beam inland to Mid-World.
Roland now reveals to his ka-tet that his mind has become divided by the paradox of having let Jake Chambers die under the mountain after finding him at the Way Station in the desert, and yet also, after having subsequently prevented Jake's earlier death in New York City, having an alternate memory of traveling through the desert and mountains alone.
Meanwhile, in 1977 New York, Jake Chambers is experiencing exactly the same crippling mental divide, which is causing alarm at his private school, and angering Jake's cocaine abusing father.
Roland burns Walter's jawbone and the key to his and Jake's dilemma is revealed—but to Eddie Dean, not Roland. Eddie must carve a key that will open the door to New York in 1977.
Jake, in a schizophrenic panic, abruptly leaves school. After purchasing a children's book called Charlie the Choo-Choo at a used book shop, Jake finds a key in a littered vacant lot where grows a single red rose.
Jake is able to pass into Roland's world using the key to open a door in an abandoned haunted house on Dutch Hill in his place and time. This portal ends in a 'speaking ring' in Roland's world. During this crossing over, Susannah has sex with the demon of the speaking ring to keep it from attacking Eddie. Once the group is reunited, Jake's and Roland's mental anguish ends. Roland has now completed the task of bringing companions into his world, which he started in The Drawing of the Three.
Following the path of the Beam again, the ka-tet befriends an unusually intelligent billy-bumbler (which looks like a combination of badger, raccoon and dog with parrot-like speaking ability, long neck, curly tail, retractable claws and a high degree of animal intelligence) named Oy, who joins them on their quest.
In a small, almost deserted town called River Crossing, Roland is given a silver cross and a courtly tribute by the town's last, ancient citizens.
The ka-tet continues on the Path of the Beam to Lud. Before arriving at Lud, the ka-tet hear the drum beat from the song Velcro Fly, by ZZ Top, playing from the city, although Eddie at first can't remember where it is he has heard these drums before. Later the drums are revealed as "War Drums" which Lud's citizens fight to. The ancient, high-tech city has been ravaged by decades of war, and one of the surviving fighters, Gasher, kidnaps Jake by taking advantage of the near-accident the team faced while crossing a decaying bridge that looks like the George Washington Bridge of NYC. Roland and Oy must then trace them through a man-made labyrinth in the city and then into the sewers in order to rescue the boy from Gasher and his leader, the Tick-Tock Man. Jake manages to shoot the Tick-Tock Man, leaving him for dead. The ka-tet is eventually reunited at the Cradle of Lud, a train station which houses a monorail that the travelers use to escape Lud before its final destruction brought about by the monorail's artificial intelligence known as Blaine the Mono. The "Ageless Stranger" (an enemy whom the Man in Black warned Roland that he must slay) arrives to recruit the badly-injured Tick-Tock Man as his servant.
Once aboard Blaine, a highly intelligent, computerized train which is insane due to system degradation, it announces its intention to derail itself with them aboard unless they can defeat it in a riddle contest. The novel ends with Blaine and Roland's ka-tet speeding through the Waste Lands, a radioactive land of mutated animals and ancient ruins created by something that is claimed to have been far worse than a nuclear war, on the way to Topeka -the end of the line.
|The Dark Tower series|
|Novels||I (a-b-c-d-e; f) • II • III • IV • IVS • V • VI • VII|
|Short stories||"Low Men in Yellow Coats" • "The Little Sisters of Eluria"|
|Related works||`Salem's Lot • The Stand • The Eyes of the Dragon • Insomnia|
|Comics||#1-7 • #8-12 • #13-18 • #19 • #20-25 • #26-30|
#31-35 • #36-37 • #38-42 • #43-47 • #48-52
#53-57 • #58-59 • #60 • #61-65 • #66-70
|Characters||Roland Deschain • Jake Chambers • Eddie Dean|
Susannah Holmes • Donald Callahan • Walter o'Dim