This book is better in some ways than the previous installment in this series - there are some high quality sections - Jake is a sympathetic character. The scenes at the village of River Crossing outside of Lud populated by old people are terrific. The idea of following the beams is great. Lud is a menacing scary place. The section crossing the old and crumbling bridge is vintage King writing. King does have talent, he can produce good stuff.
Unfortunately, King writes some really bad stuff too. A giant robot bear called Shardik, with a dish shaped antenna on it's head? Why steal Shardik from Richard Adams? Why, when you destroy the dish, does Shardik collapse - that's the equivalent of snapping the antenna off of your TV and having the whole television set self destruct. The Ticktockman? Why does King steal the name of Harlan Ellison's most reknown character? I kept expecting someone to cry out: "Repent, Harlequin!" All kinds of stuff seems to have leaked from our world into this alternate universe: Blaine the insane train seemingly knows everything about Earth culture. Where does ZZ Top music come from? The riddle game seems too much like a copy of Bilbo's and Gollum's meeting - but it doesn't make much sense here - why would a computer like riddles? Why would someone write down the password to Lud for Gasher, when Gasher can't read??? The Wastelands feels like lazy writing by King, he can plot better than this, he can be original, why steal so blatantly from other writers?
The worst part of the book describes Jake's transfer from our world to Roland's world. Every paragraph the evil house is getting CLOSER and CLOSER - yet it never seems to quite get to Jake. Most unforgivable is the demon that guards the dimension door - it can be trapped with sex - ugh, this is just an awful mistake by King, this part of the story is super bad. Maybe skip over some paragraphs.
The sense of "epic", done so well in the first book, and missing from book 2 in this series, is also missing from The Wastelands. Are our heroes traversing ten miles or hundreds of miles? Is the journey taking days or months - it is hard to tell - it doesn't SEEM all that far, after all, the wheelchair is still rolling along just fine over the wilderness terrain.
I have more complaints, but I will not list them here. The book ends with a cliffhanger ending. Our heroes are left in peril! So I guess I have to read book 4, but this series is not what I hoped or expected. Is this how the readers of Jordan's Wheel of Time series feel - they are disappointed, but they read the next volume any way because they already have so much invested in the story?