After a five-year lapse, King's gargantuan cowboy romance about Roland of Gilead (the Gunslinger) hits volume four, with three more planned. King's behemoth was begun in 1970 and published serially as The Gunslinger (1988), followed by The Drawing of the Three (1989) and The Waste Lands (1992). Volume one was portentously sophomoric, volume two prime King, volume three slack. Though this latest begins where The Waste Lands leaves off, with Roland and his four companions, Jake, Eddie, Susannah, and Oy, a half human/half animal with limited speaking ability, in a verbal gunfight to the death with Blaine, the homicidal supercomputer that lives on riddles, the story doubles back on Roland's youth and his grand love for Susan Delgado. The roundabout narrative leads us to Wizard of Oz territory--more particularly to a horribly transformed Topeka, Kansas--which the quintet must pass through as they seek the Dark Tower, the hub of creation, where Roland will discover some knowledge that will halt the quickening destruction of his post- technological Mid-World. In 1986, Topeka and the nation are huge graveyards struck by the superflu from The Stand. Roland retells the story of his youthful adventures in Gilead and of his teacher Cort, of star-crossed Susan, and of his companions Alain and Cuthbert, while reading portents in the wizard Maerlyn's glass ball . . . . Will the Path of the Beam from the Dark Tower be from the lighthouse in King's Castle Rock film logo? In Roland's quest tale, which King calls "my Jupiter" among the solar system of his published works, the bleak cosmology of self-assurance versus wrongness is as compelling as ever. But seven rambling volumes of bemusedly wry storytelling? This will be The Ring Cycle on top of The Lord of the Rings.