cover image The Drawing of the Three

The Drawing of the Three

Stephen King, Bram. Plume Books, $16.95 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-452-26214-0

Elaborating at great length on Robert Browning's cryptic narrative poem ``Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came,'' the second volume of King's post-Armageddon epic fantasy presents the equally enigmatic quest of Roland, the world's last gunslinger, who moves through an apocalyptic wasteland toward the Dark Tower, ``the linchpin that holds all of existence together.'' Although these minor but revealing books (which King began while still in college) are full of such adolescent portentousness, this is livelier than the first. Roland enters three lives in the alternate world of New York City: junkie and drug runner Eddie Dean, schizophrenic heiress Odetta Holmes and serial murder Jack Mort. If King tells us too little about Roland, he gives us too much about these misfits who are variously healed or punished exactly as expected. Typically, King is much better at the minutiae and sensations of a specific physical world, and several such bravura sequences (from an attack by mutant lobsters to a gun store robbery) are standouts amid the characteristic headlong storytelling. BOMC alternate. (Mar.)