The Drawing of the Three begins roughly seven hours after Roland's confrontation with Marten in the bony golgotha at the end of The Gunslinger. At the very beginning of the book, we sense there is something different. There has been a shift in tone, less sparse than that of the previous novel. There is a certain richness in description and action, which seems appropriate for the volume which follows. In The Gunslinger, Roland is travelling mostly alone, save for the presance of the doomed boy Jake. Now, he will draw three, as told by the prophecies of first the Oracle and then Marten himself.
Before he can draw the three, however, Roland awakens by the edge of the beach, in pain and wet. Things which become known as lobstrosities subtract two fingers and one toe from the gunslinger, and the tide wets his bullets, rendering many of them duds. As an added twist, venom from the lobstrosities' bites make Roland very sick, and if he doesn't get medicine soon, he will die.
He trudges north along the beach until he comes to a free- standing door. On the door are written the words The Prisoner. Roland opens it, enters it, and finds himself posessing the mind of Eddie Dean, a heroin junkie from the city of New York, mid-1980's.
Eddie and Roland are forced to work together, for time is short for both of them. Eddie's life revolves around two things: his drug addiction and his obsessive love for his brother Henry. After a series of harrowing trials, both the gunslinger and Eddie find themsleves in the middle of a violent shootout (reminiscant of that in Tull in the first book.) After Eddie dscovers his brother is dead, he discovers he has no reason to live in this world, and joins Roland on the other side with enough medicine to bring Roland's fever down substancially -- but not entirely.
The second door they come to is titled The Lady of Shadows. Here, Roland enters the mind of a schizophrenic woman who is not even aware she has two seperate personalities: Odetta Holmes, a rich urban black woman who is active with the Civil Rights movement, and Detta Walker (ironically named), a racist, violent woman who hates all whites and everything that belongs to or stands for the "honk mahfahs." Both personalities share the same brutal fact: the are legless from just above the knees. As Odetta explains to Eddie (when she is Odetta), someone pushed her in front of a moving subway train years ago, severing her legs and condemning her to a wheelchair. What they also learn is that when she was five, someone dropped a brick on Odetta's head, which seems to be the cause of her schizoid personality.
Odetta/Detta causes her own problems for the two men, slowing down their progress as they travel toward the third door. She is Detta long enough for them to fear and distrust her, but she is also Odetta long enough fro she and Eddie to fall in love with one another.
The third door does no read Death, as prophecized, but The Pusher, a word that has hideous dual meanings for both Eddie and Odetta. As Roland enters it, he finds himself in the mind of Jack Mort, a serial killer who likes to push. When Roland enters him, he sees that Mort is about to commit the act that precludes much of the action in The Gunslinger, pushing the boy Jake in front of a car. In the first book, this act birthed Jake into Roland's world, but the gunslinger finds he cannot take part in the boy's death again, and he stops Mort from killing Jake. The dark paradox this creates is not fully examined until the third book, The Wastelands. For now, Roland is more occupied with three things: one, getting medicine. Two, getting good shells for his guns. And three, the disturbing not-coincidence that Jack Mort is the man who both dropped the brick on Odetta's head and pushed her in front of that subway.
Roland completes his first two tasks, and then delivers Mort into the very subway in which he pushed Odetta. At the last moment before he send Mort to his death, he looks back at the door to his world and forces Detta and Odetta to see one another. Her third, a merging of personalities named Suzannah Dean, is drawn.
The Drawing of the Three is the best of the Dark Tower novels so far. It is replete with a action and suspense, as well as enough mystical intertwinings of lives to make one's head spin. Although very little actual travelling is done in this one, it is much more complete and satisfying than the first, and moves the story into a realm which we welcome and look forward to reading more about.
And the Tower is closer.