Blaine the Mono

Blaine the Mono is a fictional demented monorail train appearing in the books The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands and The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.

Roland Deschain and his ka-tet hear rumors of a monorail train as they approach the vast and crumbling city of Lud. This seems to be connected to the children’s book found by Jake, Charlie the Choo-Choo. As they draw nearer the city they see a monorail track and, crashed into the River Send, a smashed blue monorail train. Jake, however, is convinced that this is not Blaine. After Jake is kidnapped and Roland sets off to find him, Eddie and Susannah move through the not-quite abandoned city to find the Cradle, the Mid-World equivalent of a train station. They reach the Cradle and discover that Blaine is still there, waiting in his berth.

Although Blaine seems to be a sentient train, he is really much more, a “ghost in the machine”, the artificial intelligence that resides in Lud’s mammoth underground computer systems. Over time, as the world has moved on and the computer system slowly breaks down, Blaine becomes more and more deranged.

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The crashed blue mono seen from the Send bridge is revealed to have been named Patricia, apparently possessed of a separate sub-personality within the Lud computer. The Patricia personality lapsed into a depression, and could not stop crying. Blaine “liberated” her by removing certain blocks in her programming, and once freed, she committed suicide, derailing herself in the river. It is a sign of Blaine’s cruel personality that he finds this amusing.

Blaine also has a smaller counter-mind called Little Blaine, who represents the weaker partner in Blaine’s dissociative processor mind. Little Blaine speaks in the voice that once was used to make cabin announcements onboard Blaine in better times. He is, unfortunately, of no help.

Blaine promises a method of escape to the outside via his route. He requires the ka-tet to answer several riddles in order for them to board him (although an ‘it’, he thinks of himself as a male) and then pulls a surprise: He plans on following Patricia’s example and destroying himself, and in the process crashing the mono with the tet trapped inside. He proceeds to demand Roland tell him riddles to keep him amused on the trip. Roland refuses, infuriating Blaine who threatens to derail in the terrible Waste Land outside of Lud. Roland faces Blaine down, and convinces Blaine to let them try to save themselves. He proposes to riddle Blaine and if they can stump him, he must let them go. If they can’t present a riddle Blaine is unable to answer, he will kill them. Blaine agrees, and the riddling contest begins.

It becomes clear that Blaine has a huge library of riddles from many different levels of the tower at his disposal, and programs to decipher the riddle’s wordplays or hidden clues, so the game seems doomed. Roland is unable to pose a riddle that Blaine can’t answer, and neither can Jake or Susannah.

Finally, Eddie figures that the riddles he can’t solve are the unsolvable and exceedingly stupid jokes humans sometimes make, one such riddle is:

Why did the dead baby cross the road? Because he was stapled to the chicken.

This forces Blaine to try and “lower” his intelligence to levels necessary to answer, which ends up driving him completely insane and causes his computer to crash. When he finally comes to a stop (he actually crashes), it is in a version of Topeka, Kansas that correlates with King’s The Stand.

The ka-tet later spot Charlie the Choo-Choo in a zoo outside the Topeka train depot. He later reappears in Cell.

Technology

Blaine is a very highly advanced bit of technology, and is at least several thousand years old. He was built by the Great Old Ones, the advanced society that strove to replace the magic of the world with technology. The Great Old Ones then destroyed themselves in some cataclysmic battle, and the technology that survived has begun to deteriorate over time. Blaine is no different.

The train itself runs on Slo-Trans technology, a highly advanced engine system that can travel faster than the speed of sound and is, supposedly, immune to all defects or bugs. However, in the millennia since the Great Old Ones vanished, even Slo-Trans technology has begun to break down. The engines on board the mono run on the energy of the Beams themselves; the track that the mono travels on is suspended a thousand feet in the air by the force of the Beam, with no pylons or columns to hold it up.

In addition, Blaine makes use of several other technologies to impress the Ka-tet. A, possibly, holographic projection technology is displayed that makes it appear that the walls, floor and ceiling are completely transparent giving the effect of flying ~800 miles per hour just above the ground (as Blaine can edit out the visual of the track as well). Some method of manipulation as displayed by the presence of an ice sculpture depicting a gunslinger resembling Roland and a horse.