Little Sisters of Eluria: An Oddly Satisfying Weird Western
An Oddly Satisfying Weird Western
Stephen King’s The Little Sisters of Eluria
Okay. I haven’t exactly been striking gold with my novel reading lately. The last two actually been a couple duds, so I thought it was time to turn to a short story. I went to the next short story in Stephen King anthology Everything’s Eventual called The Little Sisters of Eluria.
So what is it about? Well, it actually is a seventy page long gunslinger story. It’s set before the beginning of the Dark Tower book series where Roland is crossing the terrain searching for the mysterious man in black. So thankfully no prior knowledge needed as my attempt to read the Gunslinger in the Dark Tower series have been either failed attempts, usually because it got too weird. But I made through the second one, so that must count for something. Anyway, back to the point. It starts off with a young gunslinger named Roland wandering through the desert. He’s starving, tired, and thirsty as his horse is skin and bones, walking with every bit of life left in him. They run across a town. The town is empty and abandoned. The only person he sees is a dead teenager with a medallion around his neck. Roland takes it but soon encounters these barbaric, monstrous green men who come out of nowhere to attack him. (No. I’m not making this up. My mind does not operate on this level of weird.) They quickly get the better of him.
He comes to in a hospital covenant. There, everything is a bright white, and he is suspended by various straps from the ceiling as these strange black bugs crawl on him, curing the wounds. Too weak to move, he is first helpless. He finds nuns are taking care of him as well as other patients. But their purpose of helping others tend to change and he finds has a darker meaning as the other patients go missing. So Roland seeks any help he can to escape, and that happens to be the youngest nun. She is sister Jenna, who does not side with the others and appears to still have her humanity intact.
So the good? I have to say first off the imagery. The bright white hospital, with the stark contrast of the black bugs, upped the level of weird and made an unusual setting for a creepy tale. The story is wildly original and inventive. And most of all, I felt this is more accessible than the Dark Tower series that often takes a nosedive into an acid trip of weird leaving the reader on the edge of “What am I reading?” This felt simpler and more grounded. Also, it’s layered. It has mystery, western elements, horror, and a tragic love story all rolled into one here. So it’s worth the read for a variety of readers.
The bad? Nothing, except for the green guys. Their first appearance in the story seemed goofy. It felt like the arrival of Oompa Lumpa who might break into a song at any moment. They did not seem barbaric mutant monsters they turn out to be. It’s a very good example of how going too far with weird can make things silly at a point. I don’t think Oompa Lumpa is what King was thinking when he wrote this.
Anyway, this is a surprisingly good and dense dark fairy tale. It makes me rethink my opinion on the dark tower series and possibly consider giving it a second chance. But King fan or not, if you like weird, creepy, and dark fantasy tales, this is for you.
Overall Rating: An oddly satisfying weird western
4 smoothies out of four.