If you have not read the first four books in the Dark Tower series, you don't even want to begin reading WOLVES OF THE CALLA: The Dark Tower V. There has been quite a history built up over the previous four volumes and WOLVES OF THE CALLA is not the place to jump aboard, believe me. There is a preface entitled "The Final Argument" that provides an excellent summary of what has gone before, but it is, by the nature of the beast, incomplete (how do you summarize 1,700 pages in only six?). By all means, purchase this volume, all 700 plus pages of it, with its gruesomely lovely illustrations by the incomparable Bernie Wrightson, as your investment will at this point and late date inspire you to read what has gone before and whet your appetite for what is to come.
And once you have done that...
WOLVES OF THE CALLA continues the saga of Roland the Gunslinger and his quest for the Tower, but the withal of this volume is a divergence. The assistance of Roland, Jake, and Eddie and Susannah Dean is sought by the residents --- at least some of the residents --- of rural Calla Bryn Sturgis on the borderlands of Mid-World. Roughly every twenty years, a raiding party known as The Wolves of Thunderclap ride through Calla, taking one from each set of twins who have come of age. The abducted twin is returned a few weeks later, horribly changed both mentally and physically. There are those who want to stand and fight and those who fear the worst if they should do so. The Wolves are due in thirty days and Roland and his party, deadly but outnumbered, must devise a plan.
Susannah, in the meantime, has a darkness growing within her that she only dimly senses, an evil that is tended to by Mia, yet another personality, and this one perhaps is the most deadly and dangerous of them all. Roland is aware of the personality; indeed, its manifestation is vintage Stephen King, and I assure you that the description could gag a maggot.
The most interesting manifestation in WOLVES OF THE CALLA, however, is that of Reverend Donald Callahan, last seen catching a Greyhound bus for New York City in SALEM'S LOT, now a resident of Calla Bryn Sturgis. Callahan has some tales to tell. And indeed, if there was to be a sequel to SALEM'S LOT (supposedly planned, rumored to be written but ultimately abandoned) it may well be contained within the pages of WOLVES OF THE CALLA. King continues to join the tapestries of two world continuities while joining yet a third. Does the name Richard Bachman ring a bell? Additionally, more of the destiny of The Rose is revealed, paving the way for THE SONG OF SUSANNAH and THE DARK TOWER, the final two novels in the series.
The tale of The Dark Tower requires substantial investments both materially and temporally; it is understandable, in a sense, why the volumes comprising this tale tend to be less read than King's other works. Yet The Dark Tower may well be the key, the Rosetta stone if you will, to King's entire mythos. Individuals with more time and intelligence than I possess will undoubtedly ferret out each and every reference and cross-reference between the Tower works and the remainder of King's bibliography.
Taken on their own, however, The Dark Tower volumes and WOLVES OF CALLA are spellbinding in their own right for the way that King has constructed this other world that may or may not be our own down to the last nuance. The colloquialisms employed by the inhabitants of Mid-World are also close enough to our own that they can find themselves being slipped into ordinary conversation (I absentmindedly told my wife "Thankee!" over dinner last night and she almost dropped a casserole). If you have yet to jump onto the epic that is The Dark Tower, the time to do so is now. Just don't use WOLVES OF CALLA as a point of departure.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 4, 2003