Monday, October 24, 2011

Novella Investigation: "The Little Sisters of Eluria" (1998) by Stephen King

"The Little Sisters of Eluria" is a fantastic novella prequel to The Dark Tower series of novels by Stephen King. It was published in 1998, and then republished in Stephen King's Everything's Eventual collection of short stories and this novella in 2002. It introduces so much of what that series does so well, with Roland ever moving towards his Dark Tower, ready and able to take care of himself, even in the face of the most terrible of things. And what are the terrible things that Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger from Gilead, has to face? Doctors and nurses.

That sounds silly, but in this post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, fantasy, Western, and dark-styled setting, nothing is what it seems. There is no real medicine, at least not of the type that we know of in our world. So, the "doctors" are much less the doctors that we know of, and much more ominous. And the nurses are not exactly nurses as much as terrible creatures that feast on flesh and blood, semen and fear. And that is what this novella is primarily about: fear.

We are introduced to the Slow Mutants, which feature heavily in the first novel of The Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger. They can be seen in the bottom left-hand quarter of the poster that starts this review off. They are green and one wears a bowler hat. That about all you need to know.

Okay, that isn't. They are leftovers from a bygone age. They are mutants because sometime long ago in the history of Roland's world, atomic war occurred and it destroyed so much. Mutants were the leftovers. They are vicious semi-intelligent things, more like animals than people, but some do have intelligence, and that is actually how Roland ended up in his predicament in this novella. he was attacked by an especially intelligent group of these mutants.

Eventually, over the course of the novella, which runs more like something out of psychological horror than a Western, Roland befriends and perhaps falls in love with one of the vampire-nurses, Sister Jenna, who is not well-liked by the others because she is much more pure than they are, and also much younger. Their relationship intensifies over the course of a novella full of bitter dreams, bad memories, and a hospital that Roland cannot move from.

Everything comes together in the story, from beginning to end. Everything builds upon everything else. The dog that Roland sees in the earlier parts comes back to help take out the evil sisters of Eluria, all while Sister Jenna uses the doctors against them. It's a good ending to a weird and oft-times creepy story. The problem is that we already know, or those of us who had read the first Dark Tower novel know, that Sister Jenna isn't going to go far with Roland. He is alone when his journey begins on the edge of the desert seeking the man in black, and so the ending of this novella is bittersweet. Roland finds himself falling in love with a girl for the second time, and for the second time it ends painfully for him, in heartache and heartbreak, as the first night that they are together, she slips away in the darkness, most probably because of what she truly is. And Roland, again, has to continue on alone, his never-ending journey to the center of existence, seemingly never coming closer to a finish.

I like this novella quite a bit. It's a fun read, fairly short, and really expands upon The Dark Tower  universe of which I am a gigantic fan. I love all of the novels. It is easily my favorite series of all time, book, movie, video game, or otherwise, and I'm glad I can finally start some reviews of the material.

Anyway, I suggest checking the novella out. It's a fun read, and probably a good place to start The Dark Tower series, and also to try it out and see if you could like it.

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