“ Genre: Sci-Fi / Fantasy „
I have heard that this series took Stephen King years to complete, with a large gap between novels, but it was definitely woth the wait. These are by far the best books I have ever read. They follow the story of Roland, the last gunslinger, on his search for the Dark Tower. There are three other main characters:
Jake, a young boy
Eddie, a man with drug problems, in need of help
Detta/Odetta/Susannah, a wheelchair bound woman with multiple personalities
They are introduced in a really interesting way. In the second book, 'The Drawing Of The Three,' Roland is alone struggling along a beach when he comes across the first of several doors, in the middle of the landscape. Behind these doors lie other worlds...
The story follows their quest for the dark tower. They travel across many different landscapes, making the reader feel as if they have been transported to a different world. What is interesting is the jump between the land the gunslinger belongs to and our modern world and the similarities between both. For example, the song 'Hey Jude,' is known in both worlds.
For Stephen King fans, it is nice to see a drawing together of some of his books. Roland and his friends wander through a world where the plague has left many for dead, ('The Stand.') It features Father Callahan, from 'Salem's Lot,' and the story of the 'breakers' and the 'beam,' touched upon in 'Hearts In Atlantis,' is told in more detail. There are many other details that I am sure Stephen King fans will note.
I have paperback copies of the first three books and the rest in hardback. The hardback copies are really nice. They have full page colour prints spaced throughout the book, lighting the imagination further.
An interesting point to note is that the author himself features as a character in the story. I have never read a book that has used this technique before but I felt that it worked really well, making you feel the story could almost be real.
The reader is obviously aware throughout the book that the story is going to end at the Dark Tower, however the ending did still manage to suprise me. I also felt quite satisfied with the ending, which is not always the case after reading a series. I don't think he could have ended it any other way!
I have heard that there is to be another book in the series,(released April 2012) set mid way through the story, like a spin-off, and I will be buying it! This is a great series to collect, as I have re-read them many times.
The Dark Tower Series is King's masterwork, written over 30 years and well worth the wait until the end. In my view it is the best fantasy epic series ever. King expertly crafts a tale of romance and epic quest. The seven books in the series combine stunning landscapes (deserts, crumbling cities, toxic wastelands) with King's facility for realism and gut-wrenching emotion. This gives the books elements of both an old fashioned fantasy world (with Arthurian legends) and a modern twist (with New York prominently featured). The idea that the world has moved on from computers and electricity and man has to depend on his abilities and instincts strikes a chord. I loved the characters in this series and it is wonderful to watch their development and friendship between the characters blossom over the series. For King fans an added treat is the inclusion of characters from his other books, such as Pere Callahan and Randall Flagg. This really is his master work and I cant recommend it highly enough.
I am a latecomer to the Dark Tower series written by Stephen King, and as such was able to read all seven novels back to back, which I did rather rapidly when recuperating from an illness. I have never before ploughed through so many words, and I am a big reader!
King is best known for his horror novels and collections of short stories, but here he tries something a bit different.
There are seven books in the series, in order:
- The Gunslinger
- The Drawing of the Three
- The Wastelands
- Wizard and Glass
- Wolves of the Calla
- Song of Susannah
- The Dark Tower
The Gunslinger introduces us to the central character of the septet of books, Roland, the titular gunslinger. He is on a quest to reach the Dark Tower followed by a stranger in black, though we are not told why and what the Tower is at this point. The characters in this book are strangely modern, for those used to fantasy fiction containing weird and wonderful creatures and characters this can take a bit of getting used to. I have to say that the Gunslinger book is the slowest of the seven and used mainly for scene setting and introducing you to Roland and his world, I often found myself "ploughing" through parts of it as the pace was quite slow but I persevered and I am glad I did.
The Drawing of the Three introduces some of Roland's companions on his quest, who are drawn from a world which looks remarkably similar to modern day Earth, through portals into Roland's world. They include a 12 year old boy, Jake, a crippled woman, Susannah and a former junkie, Eddie. The third book in the series continues their quest.
Wizard and Glass is a bit of a funny one, and almost could be read as a stand alone novel. It is mainly written as a flashback to Roland's earlier life and what has made him into the person you have come to know, and what compels him on his journey. It is a fascinating read as Roland is a fairly insular character despite being the main protagonist, and he rarely "opens up". This novel opens him up in his entirety to the reader and you learn what is in his past and the joys and horrors that he has experienced. Some readers don't enjoy this diversion from the main quest, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it an emotional read.
The fifth book puts the characters back on their quest to reach the Tower, though it throws plenty of diversions in their way, the main one being rescuing a little town from being ravaged by wolves. The sixth concentrates mainly on Susannah who has become pregnant but nobody knows if it was a demon that has fathered the child. She gives birth in this book and another thread of story is wound in.
The book does end well in the seventh and final novel, without spoilers I will say that it ended in a fairly predictable way, personally I was a little disappointed with it after some excellent stories along the way of the quest and I felt that it was a touch sappy and sentimental in places. However, it was not enough to take the shine off for me what is an epic series of novels and like nothing else I have read before in its combination of fantasy, futuristic world, parallel universe and modern day life. It swings from wild nursery rhyme lands to nuclear holocaust to shopping in New York.
The only downside for me is that King felt the need to write himself into the story in the latter novels, something I feel was slightly on the self indulgent side and not necessary.
I found the books to be fresh, well written on the whole and unputdownable, and am sad that they are done now!
The Dark Tower is Stephen King's magnum opus - his life's work - his grand finale (without it being the actual end......) - a long project that has finally come to an infuriating end. Those of you who have read the whole saga will know what I mean by infuriating.
The saga comes in 7 parts:
1. The Gunslinger
2. The Drawing of the Three
3. The Wastelands
4. Wizard and Glass
5. The Wolves of the Calla
6. Song of Susannah
7. The Dark Tower
I first read The Gunslinger about 5 years ago. Someone I was working with was reading it, and recommended it to me. I gave it a go, and here is the important thing. It will probably spin you out, and be weird enough to make you unsure as to whether you want to read the rest. I can only recommend you persevere, as it is worth it.
The first book really just sets the scene, introducing us to the main character: Roland of Gilead. The character, and indeed the premise, is based on Robert Browning's poem: Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came. It is included in full at the end of the 7th book.
We see Roland on his quest to reach the Dark Tower. The Gunslinger doesn't really tell us much about why or what the tower is or signifies, merely sets the scene and introduces us to a small number of quirky characters. It gives the impression of a world crossed between Sergio Leone's wild west and Tolkien's Middle Earth, with characters from both styles flitting in and out of the story.
The second book, The Drawing of the Three, is all about Roland's companions, and how he extracts them from secret doors that appear in his 'world.' Here, I fear I may lose you, both in terms of interest in the saga, and also in terms of what on earth I'm going on about. You see, King's imagination has a habit of digressing, and this is why his books tend to be so long. A lot of people criticise him for going off on tangents, and in this second book, he kind of does the same, dragging things out a bit, to make you wonder what you're reading. I had to restart quite a bit of this in order to fully gain comprehension.
The third book, The Wastelands, is a lot clearer, as Roland and his companions, his 'ka-tet', travel towards his goal, his target. We're still unsure why they're there, or if anyone else is going to join in, and it's not really until you reach the end of the saga that everything starts revealing the reasons for everything. In all honesty, the easiest way of explaining the whole thing is just to say that it's about destiny.
Book number 4, Wizard and Glass, is curious. Having confused us in many ways for 3 books, King takes Roland as the central character and gives us a history lesson. He takes us back to when Roland was a lot younger, when the stories he has recounted during the first 3 books all took place. King explains many things, but does so in nearly 1000 pages, which just seems too long. I would even go so far to say that this book can be read as a separate novel, if you miss out the parts around the campfire where Roland is telling his history to his companions.
However, it's still as much a compelling read as the other books, and as long as you take your time and trust King knows what he is doing, you will be justly rewarded at the end of the saga having read all the books. As such, the fifth book, Wolves of the Calla, satisifies the Western in the tale. Up until this point, the Sergio Leone element, and that of Clint Eastwood's The Man With No Name, had been just bubbling there under the surface. This 5th book gives us a bit of a Western feel, as Roland and co stop off at a remote town which is being ravaged by vicious enemies. The book reads very much like an OK Corral style Western, with the buildup to the defence of a lone desert town hiding the subtle continuance of the saga.
This subtle continuance reveals its ugly head towards the end of the 5th book and reverts our attentions back to the matter at hand: Roland's quest for the Tower. And are we any clearer on things by now? Well, yes and no. And the 6th book doesn't really help. What I consider to be the weakest of the books, Song of Susannah seems very much like a developmental book that attempts to link a lot of the previous 5's questions together, to provide answers that make the 7th book that much easier to read. In reality, it is nothing more than filler, and poses as many questions as it answers.
And then we reach the 7th and final chapter in King's saga. I had long anticipated this book, gazed at it on my shelf for a while, and wondered what I would feel upon opening it for the first time. I have to say that, despite the confusion and misgivings the previous 6 books had given me, I found the experience to be emotional. It was as if King had included me in his story, that I was really there and felt personally involved in the whole thing.
The 7th book, for the most part, tries to avoid the inevitable: that it has to end the tale. There is no 8th book, no further installment of Roland's quest for the Dark Tower. So long has he quested that the end is a worrying prospect: will it be an anticlimax, or will it sustain the expectations that no doubt millions of readers had?
King had a bit of a break in the middle of the saga. This was extended to the point where he received letters asking him if and when would he be finishing what he had started. One old lady wrote, worried that she didn't have much time left, and would he please finish his saga, or please tell her at least how it ended.
Whatever King's thoughts, he finished the saga, and I have to admit, I was thoroughly impressed. I was very emotional when it ended, as although King digressed quite a lot throughout the tales, it added to the personal and realistic nature of it. It made it feel as if someone was actually telling a tale, or that you were living it with them. And the ending is absolutely fabulous in its conception. I don't know whether King planned it or whether it just came to him, but it is top quality, and makes you not want it to end.
In fact, he even gives you an option. A few pages from the end, he stops, and offers an early ending to the reader, stating he would be happy to finish it right there and then. But this is, naturally, too tempting, and he says that if you must continue, then okay, here we go, here is how it progresses. In all honesty, I felt like stopping, I felt that I would be devastated by the finale, the last throw of the die, that I would have wished to have stopped where he offered the 'out' at the time. But this deliberate ploy of temptation is what it is all about, and that book would still be sat there on my shelf with me staring at it, the temptation of 'I wonder what would have happened' would still be lingering day and night.
So I finished it......and it was awesome.
There has been much speculation about ego in this saga. King has included himself in some of the books, and no doubt there is a part of him in Roland, in Jake, in Eddie, maybe even in some of the other characters. Indeed, the characterisation is immensely complete, with his digressive nature enabling us as readers to really gain a mental and emotional image of each and every main character, thus helping to understand and visualise those who only appear briefly.
King even created a new language, called 'High Speech', which has some relevances and similarities to English, but gives it an ancient tweak and feel. It is said that ancient Egyptian language had a hand in his creation, although whether this is true or not, I'm not sure. Were I to meet King, I'm sure it would not be the first question on my lips.
The group of books is a marvellous tale, a brilliant example of storytelling at its finest, most digressive, and most enthralling. It is annoying and enticing. It is hard to read, yet hard to put down. It has the power to take over your life, to make you want to be there, and it also has the power to make you glad you are not there, that you have what you have. It is finely crafted, and well worth a read. I must say, I cannot recommend it enough. It is by far and away the most poignant and effective saga or series of books I have read. I preferred it to Lord of the Rings, in a way, although the two are rather different.
The Dark Tower series is available to buy, as individual books, from most booksellers. Each book generally retails at £6.99 or £7.99. I was lucky enough to find the majority of them as a deal in a second hand bookshop, and truth be told, may not have persevered to the 2nd book had I not found them. Ultimately, they're worth owning, having there on your shelf, and every now and then, I pluck one down from its perch and just flick through it with a glimmer of a smile on my face, my mind once more becoming lost in Roland's world. Nice one, Stephen King - you've bagged a fan for life.
When I first picked up the box set of the first 4 of this series I had no way of knowing how long it would take me to get to the end.
I have always been a Stephen King fan, and a fantasy fan, so imagine my delight in finding the two combined :o)
This is his attempt to do his own Lord of the Rings (he says as much in the preamble bit of the four paperbacks) only with a cowboy twist and a bit of King Arthur thrown in for good measure. King Arthur, another of my favourites, so how could this set of books go wrong in my eyes? It couldn't really, but it did get weird towards the end.
It also has been influenced by the Robert Browing poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came, but as I was unaware of this poem before starting the books, it doesn't have much meaning to me, but will to plenty of others I am sure.
King first had a short story from the first book published in 1978, so he has spent most of his writing life on this story (in more ways than one, but see later in this opinion for that) and I am glad I chose when I did to read it, so that the new books were available before I managed to finish the last, or I might have had to go back and read them over just to remind myself of what happened.
Right, I won't bore you with run downs of what each book is about, no long plot doodahs either, just me telling you about it as a whole. I am sure others will and have already told you all you need to know in those areas anyway.
This is a basic story.... man goes in search of a tower and picks up some help along the way. Thats all there is to it. Roland (the man in question) is what is known in his world as a gunslinger, sort of a knight in shining armour, only his armour is a shirt and jeans and his sword is a couple of guns. He goes from place to place righting wrongs and following a man that betrayed his family in his youth. OK thats probably a bit too basic, but it gives you an idea. The world isn't our own, but it keeps popping back to "reality" now and then to get more characters and plot twists.
Ok, so what exactly are these books that make up the set.....
ISNB 0-340-82975-3 (238 pages)
The Drawing of the Three
ISBN 0-340-82976-1 (455 pages)
ISBN 0-340-82977-X (584 pages)
Wizard and Glass
ISBN 0-340-82978-8 (845 pages)
Wolves of the Calla
ISBN 0-340-82715-7 (616 pages)
Song of Susannah
ISBN 0-340-82718-1 (430 pages)
The Dark Tower
ISBN 0-340-82721-1 (686 pages)
The books themselves take up 31cm... that's a foot of bookshelf! Thats 4 paperbacks in a little box sleeve type thing and three whomping large hardbacks... sorry but I thought you needed telling... suppose all in paperbacks will be smaller, but I couldn't wait that long :oP
What I like about the books themselves (this has nothing to do with story, content or anything else) is that the paperback box set each starts with a forward by Stephen King about the whys and wherefores for writing the books and ends with the first chapter of the next book (which is handy if not in a box set, and redundant in one) but I liked anyway. The hardbacks come with their own ribbon bookmark (very posh and drove me round the bend as my new kitten tried to eat them every night as I read) and some excellent colour plates. No not dinner plates! Or Orizas (thats throwing plates with a wickedly sharp edge that appear from book 5 onwards) Of course the pictures look nothing like the ones in my head, but they are nicely done. Also they all look good next to each other on the foot of shelving they take up, with the tower on the spine of each one. And for once (this maybe just me) but all the writting faces the same way, is in same style and order (don't you just hate it when they suddenly change the spines of books halfway through a set!... You should see my Pratchett collection... it's all up and down and pictures on the spine all over the place! OK that is just me then).
Also the tower on each spine changes to match the story in the book (my youngest son is facinated by this) but stays the same.
There is artwork throughout the whole set, all done by Michael Whelan, but it really comes into its own in the hardbacks. :o)
Right back to the content....
Roland picks up some help along the way in the form of three people from New York . Help isn't always the best way to describe what they give him, but overall it is in the end. It could get very confusing as they all come from different time periods but it is handled very well and I managed to keep up with what was going on 99% of the time anyway :o)
But it does get very egotistical towards the end, some may call this clever, I call it a tad annoying. King desides it's time for him to be in the book, so he brings in characters and bits from other books, Maine of course is mentioned and he even brings himself into it. I won't say how or where, thats for you to find out if you want to. Maybe this is the masterpiece, the piece all the rest have been leading upto, maybe it really is partially true. It's hard to say where writers inspiration really does come from when all is said and done.... where ever it is I know I don't have the ability to tap into it yet (but I'm working on it) King has often said that stories come to him in the form of dreams. So maybe this is the masterpiece.... ah maybe he has just sucked me into the hype, who knows, best not think about these things too deeply or it starts getting into the realms of dolalliness, and people will always read more into things than are there anyway. But enough of that before I need locking away for thinking to hard :oP
Also the writing style of the last book changes,not sure if this is on purpose or not, but suddenly King is talking directly to us, the readers. Maybe it has been there all along and it only started getting to me towards the end, but it did start to lessen my enjoyment of the books.
I am not trying to put you off reading them, it's just King did seem to lose the plot slightly towards the end. They are still good books though, but only as a set. No way could someone read one book half way through the set and know what is going on.
Also I should point out there is a fair bit of swearing and sex in this series, so it wouldn't be suitable for too young a reader, just like any other King book really. Which I have just had to tell my 9 year old, the pictures on the spines really have caught his interest it seems.
Overall I say I have throughly enjoyed the extremely long trek through Mid-World and am slightly sad its all at an end now. I haven't quite finished the final book yet, as I didn't want to write this knowing the ending, just incase I accidently gave the ending away.
So I will leave you and go back to my last few days with Roland :o)
So, Stephen King eh. "I won't read anything by him because he only writes dodgy horror novels."
A common misconception is that King is a horror writer. However, those who know anything about him know the man is capable of writing in a variety of fields. Although, predominantly known for books such as "The Shining" and "Carrie" due to the hugely successful films, an increasing number have been following his Dark Tower series myself included. The Dark Tower series consists of seven books all of varying lengths and scope.
King got the idea to write this series of novels from a poem by Robert Browning called "Childe Roland to The Dark Tower Came". I will let those of you with the patience read it in its entirety at the end of this review as it is a truly wonderful piece; but for some idea on the inspiration behind the books here is an excerpt which sums up the massive undertaking King has taken on.
If at his counsel I should turn aside
Into that ominous tract which, all agree,
Hides the Dark Tower. Yet acquiescently
I did turn as he pointed, neither pride
Now hope rekindling at the end descried,
So much as gladness that some end might be.
Confused? Don't be. What this poem is about is a man's ceaseless quest to reach "The Dark Tower" (although there are several underlying meanings within) and as such this is the main focus of King's books.
This is all well and good Dave but what is the
The Dark Tower is the centre of all worlds. It is what binds them together. Represented by a single red rose it joins all worlds together by its "beams" of light. However, the Dark Tower is crumbling, the twelve original beams have failed and there is just one left. Hence, one man's quest to reach the tower and find the cause of the decline.
And who is this man on this unshakeable quest?
Roland of Gilead, last in the line of the famous gunslingers. The world has moved on, things are changing and Roland wants to know why. Bound by Ka (fate) Roland must reach the tower.
Imagine a gunslinger as a knight with guns. In this series a gunslinger shares the same nobleness, code of laws and honour within a Western environment.
The shortest of the series to date and perhaps this is good. It gives a good introduction to Mid World where the majority of the books are set and introduces us to our hero. The action is fast paced and perhaps due to it being an early work of King (first published in 1978) is short on characterisation. We learn little of our main protagonist and the emphasis is definitely on plot.
It reads like an old fashioned Western and is none the worse for it. It is a story well told and has an ending, which makes it almost impossible to resist reading the next one in the series. Therefore, though not one of King's most polished works,it is definitely the most exciting.
Roland is in hot pursuit over a never-ending desert for the man in black, a sorcerer named Walter. Roland blames Walter for the death of his mother and his exile from his homeland.
Along the way Roland stumbles across an old fashioned town and meets a woman called Alice whom he falls for. Unfortunately, Walter has already poisoned the minds of the people in the town and Roland must flee for his own sake.
In a strange place called "the way station" he encounters a young boy called Jake, a kid from New York with his own tale to tell. With his unlikely companion they continue their quest.
Roland is left with an agonising choice. Jake or the Tower?
The Drawing of the Three
A slower pace than the first book, the Western feel is replaced by a barren, rocky beachhead. We learn much more in this book about the thinking of Roland, his motives and his ruthless nature. We are also introduced to three major characters Eddie, a heroin addict, Odetta Holmes and Detta Walker a lady of shadows.
The advance in characterisation is probably due to the lengthy gap between this and the first novel as this novel was published in 1987, almost ten years later.
Roland, anguished by the choices he has had to make finds himself washed up on a beach. Attacked by "lobstrosities" , maimed and poisoned Roland walks, limps and crawls his way towards the tower.
Upon finding a doorway to a strange world Roland enters the mind of Eddie, a Heroin addict and brings him into mid world. Will Eddie kill Roland or join him on his quest?
They come across another doorway this time "drawing" an unaware schizophrenic black lady known as Odetta, a rich dentist's daughter or Detta Walker a vicious killer. Will these women help or hinder their quest? Why has Ka chosen to bind this band of misfits together?
This is a departure from the other books as it centres on the lives of Jake and Eddie and the roles they play in the quest for the tower. Less action and more background orientated this book is less focused in mid world and more on New York. First published in 1991,with a post apocalyptic feel, this book successfully blends old-fashioned ideals with new technologies and thinking.
Roland is going mad. He remembers two lives and can't decide which one is true. In another time and place Jake remembers his death but is clearly still alive. And what is the beautiful rose he sees in an abandoned lot? Which reality is true and can they figure out a way of coming together before they both go insane?
Meanwhile Eddie and Susannah (for Odetta and Detta have joined) are on their way to becoming gunslingers themselves. Shardik, one of the twelve guardians from times gone by, tests Eddie on this. Can he defeat this strange mechanical monstrosity?
Wizard and Glass
This book acts as an interim, call it a toilet break if you will. There is little progress in the quest for The Tower. Instead we get the story of Roland. We are given information as to: where he comes from; what he is about; and what happened before he started his pursuit of Walter. This book reads strangely, as it is told in the past tense throughout but this makes it all the more engaging. It is nice to finally get to know what Roland is all about instead of the mechanical killing machine we were previously led to believe. First published in 1997.
After making it through the wastelands onto Blaine, the mono, they realise Blaine is insane and will run itself of the tracks to kill them all. Will Eddie and his illogical thinking save them?Roland finally tells his story of love and loss as they are all now ka-tet (one from many).
The Wolves of the Calla
The quest halts for a time here due to the plight of a group of farmers. It is in this book Jake becomes a man and Susannah once again becomes a lady of shadows. The most recent of the Dark Tower Books (2004) this is a novel in its own right which blends old and new seamlessly while harking back to the Western feel of the first novel.
Roland and his ka-tet are asked to assist a group of farmers who are under attack by a group of "wolves". These wolves take their first-born child and return them retarded. Who are these wolves and why do they sound so familiar? Why is Susannah getting stomach cramps?
Meanwhile, the tower is under threat as the lot in which the rose stands is to be bought by an evil corporation. It is here that a familiar face to King readers turns up in the form of Pere Callahan (Salem's Lot). In this book he tells his story.
Song of Susannah
The paths of the group seperate as Roland and Eddie search for Stephen King who they think is the link that binds them and The Dark Tower. However, this book centres on Susannah, her pregnancy and the demon possessing her. Who is Mia?
Roland of Gilead continues in his quest towards the Dark Tower along with his friend and fellow gunslinger Eddie Dean in an attempt to stop it being destroyed. Meanwhile, Susannah is looking for somewhere to have her "chap" in New York while pursued by Jake and Father Callahan, from another King novel Salem's Lot, who are trying to get to save her from what could be a fatal birth.
So, after all that rambling why should you read the books. The Dark Tower series read like a modern fairytale. It is the closest you will ever get to a present day Lord of The Rings and in many ways surpasses it. King effortlessly blends the old world into a shattered new one and his storytelling is constantly engaging (unlike this review!LOL!).
The genius with this series is that you can enjoy any one of these books individually or all together.
King has also written these books with his other books in mind. There are several references to characters from other books including Randall Flagg and Jack Mortimer as well as the welcome inclusion of Pere Callahan from Salem's Lot. It is not essential you have read his previous works but it certainly adds to the experience.
The man must have an amazingly logical mind as well as a wild imagination as he managed to include references to Star Wars and even Harry Potter!
Why do I read these books?
Well I have a penchant for fantasy mixed with reality and this succeeds on both fronts. The post apocolyptic vision King gives truly makes you think and the story is a compelling one. It is the presence of friendship, trust and loyalty which is evident in all King's books which make my favourite set of books with the right amount of humour and emotion throughout. It is one of few books were you care what happens to the characters. If you don't like King you should still read this. I promise you will not be disappointed.
I could write so much more but I have bored you all enough already. For those who want to know even more here is the official website http://www.stephenking.com/DarkTower/
Prices are from £5.99 to £17.99 for the current hardback of Wolves of the Calla (£11.99 on e-bay) and all books are available in WHSmith's Waterstones etc.
Thanks for reading. Dave
Book seven, the final book in the series, has been released and I will complete this review when I get my hands on a copy!
And as promised for those of you who liked the earlier excerpt here is Robert Brownings Childe Roland To the Dark Tower Came in full.
My first thought was, he lied in every word,
That hoary cripple, with malicious eye
Askance to watch the working of his lie
On mine, and mouth scarce able to afford
Suppression of the glee that pursed and scored
Its edge, at one more victim gained thereby.
What else should he be set for, with his staff?
What, save to waylay with his lies, ensnare
All travellers who might find him posted there,
And ask the road? I guessed what skull-like laugh
Would break, what crutch 'gin write my epitaph
For pastime in the dusty thoroughfare,
If at his counsel I should turn aside
Into that ominous tract which, all agree,
Hides the Dark Tower. Yet acquiescently
I did turn as he pointed: neither pride
Nor hope rekindling at the end descried,
So much as gladness that some end might be.
For, what with my whole world-wide wandering,
What with my search drawn out thro' years, my hope
Dwindled into a ghost not fit to cope
With that obstreperous joy success would bring,
I hardly tried now to rebuke the spring
My heart made, finding failure in its scope.
As when a sick man very near to death
Seems dead indeed, and feels begin and end
The tears and takes the farewell of each friend,
And hears one bid the other go, draw breath
Freelier outside ("since all is o'er," he saith,
"And the blow fallen no grieving can amend;")
While some discuss if near the other graves
Be room enough for this, and when a day
Suits best for carrying the corpse away,
With care about the banners, scarves and staves:
And still the man hears all, and only craves
He may not shame such tender love and stay.
Thus, I had so long suffered in this quest,
Heard failure prophesied so oft, been writ
So many times among "The Band" - to wit,
The knights who to the Dark Tower's search addressed
Their steps - that just to fail as they, seemed best,
And all the doubt was now--should I be fit?
So, quiet as despair, I turned from him,
That hateful cripple, out of his highway
Into the path he pointed. All the day
Had been a dreary one at best, and dim
Was settling to its close, yet shot one grim
Red leer to see the plain catch its estray.
For mark! no sooner was I fairly found
Pledged to the plain, after a pace or two,
Than, pausing to throw backward a last view
O'er the safe road, 'twas gone; grey plain all round:
Nothing but plain to the horizon's bound.
I might go on; nought else remained to do.
So, on I went. I think I never saw
Such starved ignoble nature; nothing throve:
For flowers - as well expect a cedar grove!
But cockle, spurge, according to their law
Might propagate their kind, with none to awe,
You'd think; a burr had been a treasure trove.
No! penury, inertness and grimace,
In some strange sort, were the land's portion. "See
Or shut your eyes," said Nature peevishly,
"It nothing skills: I cannot help my case:
'Tis the Last Judgment's fire must cure this place,
Calcine its clods and set my prisoners free."
If there pushed any ragged thistle-stalk
Above its mates, the head was chopped; the bents
Were jealous else. What made those holes and rents
In the dock's harsh swarth leaves, bruised as to baulk
All hope of greenness? 'tis a brute must walk
Pashing their life out, with a brute's intents.
As for the grass, it grew as scant as hair
In leprosy; thin dry blades pricked the mud
Which underneath looked kneaded up with blood.
One stiff blind horse, his every bone a-stare,
Stood stupefied, however he came there:
Thrust out past service from the devil's stud!
Alive? he might be dead for aught I know,
With that red gaunt and colloped neck a-strain,
And shut eyes underneath the rusty mane;
Seldom went such grotesqueness with such woe;
I never saw a brute I hated so;
He must be wicked to deserve such pain.
I shut my eyes and turned them on my heart.
As a man calls for wine before he fights,
I asked one draught of earlier, happier sights,
Ere fitly I could hope to play my part.
Think first, fight afterwards - the soldier's art:
One taste of the old time sets all to rights.
Not it! I fancied Cuthbert's reddening face
Beneath its garniture of curly gold,
Dear fellow, till I almost felt him fold
An arm in mine to fix me to the place
That way he used. Alas, one night's disgrace!
Out went my heart's new fire and left it cold.
Giles then, the soul of honour - there he stands
Frank as ten years ago when knighted first.
What honest men should dare (he said) he durst.
Good - but the scene shifts - faugh! what hangman hands
Pin to his breast a parchment? His own bands
Read it. Poor traitor, spit upon and curst!
Better this present than a past like that;
Back therefore to my darkening path again!
No sound, no sight as far as eye could strain.
Will the night send a howlet or a bat?
I asked: when something on the dismal flat
Came to arrest my thoughts and change their train.
A sudden little river crossed my path
As unexpected as a serpent comes.
No sluggish tide congenial to the glooms;
This, as it frothed by, might have been a bath
For the fiend's glowing hoof - to see the wrath
Of its black eddy bespate with flakes and spumes.
So petty yet so spiteful! All along
Low scrubby alders kneeled down over it;
Drenched willows flung them headlong in a fit
Of mute despair, a suicidal throng:
The river which had done them all the wrong,
Whate'er that was, rolled by, deterred no whit.
Which, while I forded, - good saints, how I feared
To set my foot upon a dead man's cheek,
Each step, or feel the spear I thrust to seek
For hollows, tangled in his hair or beard!
--It may have been a water-rat I speared,
But, ugh! it sounded like a baby's shriek.
Glad was I when I reached the other bank.
Now for a better country. Vain presage!
Who were the strugglers, what war did they wage,
Whose savage trample thus could pad the dank
Soil to a plash? Toads in a poisoned tank,
Or wild cats in a red-hot iron cage--
The fight must so have seemed in that fell cirque.
What penned them there, with all the plain to choose?
No foot-print leading to that horrid mews,
None out of it. Mad brewage set to work
Their brains, no doubt, like galley-slaves the Turk
Pits for his pastime, Christians against Jews.
And more than that - a furlong on - why, there!
What bad use was that engine for, that wheel,
Or brake, not wheel - that harrow fit to reel
Men's bodies out like silk? with all the air
Of Tophet's tool, on earth left unaware,
Or brought to sharpen its rusty teeth of steel.
Then came a bit of stubbed ground, once a wood,
Next a marsh, it would seem, and now mere earth
Desperate and done with; (so a fool finds mirth,
Makes a thing and then mars it, till his mood
Changes and off he goes!) within a rood--
Bog, clay and rubble, sand and stark black dearth.
Now blotches rankling, coloured gay and grim,
Now patches where some leanness of the soil's
Broke into moss or substances like boils;
Then came some palsied oak, a cleft in him
Like a distorted mouth that splits its rim
Gaping at death, and dies while it recoils.
And just as far as ever from the end!
Nought in the distance but the evening, nought
To point my footstep further! At the thought,
A great black bird, Apollyon's bosom-friend,
Sailed past, nor beat his wide wing dragon-penned
That brushed my cap--perchance the guide I sought.
For, looking up, aware I somehow grew,
'Spite of the dusk, the plain had given place
All round to mountains - with such name to grace
Mere ugly heights and heaps now stolen in view.
How thus they had surprised me, - solve it, you!
How to get from them was no clearer case.
Yet half I seemed to recognise some trick
Of mischief happened to me, God knows when--
In a bad dream perhaps. Here ended, then,
Progress this way. When, in the very nick
Of giving up, one time more, came a click
As when a trap shuts - you're inside the den!
Burningly it came on me all at once,
This was the place! those two hills on the right,
Crouched like two bulls locked horn in horn in fight;
While to the left, a tall scalped mountain . . . Dunce,
Dotard, a-dozing at the very nonce,
After a life spent training for the sight!
What in the midst lay but the Tower itself?
The round squat turret, blind as the fool's heart
Built of brown stone, without a counterpart
In the whole world. The tempest's mocking elf
Points to the shipman thus the unseen shelf
He strikes on, only when the timbers start.
Not see? because of night perhaps? - why, day
Came back again for that! before it left,
The dying sunset kindled through a cleft:
The hills, like giants at a hunting, lay
Chin upon hand, to see the game at bay,--
"Now stab and end the creature - to the heft!"
Not hear? when noise was everywhere! it tolled
Increasing like a bell. Names in my ears
Of all the lost adventurers my peers,--
How such a one was strong, and such was bold,
And such was fortunate, yet each of old
Lost, lost! one moment knelled the woe of years.
There they stood, ranged along the hillsides, met
To view the last of me, a living frame
For one more picture! in a sheet of flame
I saw them and I knew them all. And yet
Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,
And blew. "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came."
The Story: (skip to the next part if you don?t want to know too much) Although Stephen King is commonly known as a horror writer it would probably be more apt to classify the ?Dark Tower? series as sci-fi, fantasy western with aspects of horror, romance, action and even comedy to a certain extent thrown in. Whatever it is, it is definitely an all encompassing tale involving Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger, who on his epic journey through a different world, in ?The Gunslinger? we find him: chasing Walter, an evil sorcerer, who seems to know more about Roland?s journey than anyone, he makes a tragic friendship with Jake, a young boy from our own world and that Roland?s cause in life is to find the dark tower even when it comes to the decision of saving the boys life or carrying on. We know he must reach the dark tower to stop the slow death of the ?beams,? a mysterious force that literally holds all worlds together and what the gunslinger follows the path of for the entire series. These forces are being crippled by ?breakers? people with amazing psychic ability that is being controlled by ?The Crimson King,? an all powerful, evil entity. We discover that Roland became a gunslinger very early in his manhood despite the risk of being exiled if he failed the test. He passed though, mostly due to his choice of weapon, and is sent to the barony of Mejis out of the evil Walters reach. This tale is told in the fourth instalment ?Wizard and Glass? and explains: Roland?s tragic love affair with Susan Delgado, his doomed friendship with Cuthbert Allgood and Alain Johns and the introduction of the witch Rhea and one of the thirteen powerful glass balls. We find him, countless years on with memories of a very colourful past behind him. It is important to mention the links between Roland?s world an our own, the first being Jakes death in our world (1977) and his confusing ?birth? in Roland?s, the second (and most important) being strange doors that lea
d to different time eras or ?when?s? in New York City. It is through this method of other worldly travel, predicted by Walter before he died, that Roland finds more gunslingers to aid him in his quest. This story is told in ?The Drawing of the Three? which shows the introduction of Eddie Dean, a heroin addict from New York 1987, Odetta Susannah Holmes, women who lost both her legs when a madman known as Jack Mort pushed her in front of a subway train. Jack Mort is also the guy that killed Jake previously. Odetta has a violent split personality inside of her, determined to kill Eddie and Roland, but thanks to Eddies love the two personalities are merged into one; Susannah. Roland has also lost a few fingers on his right hand paramount when it comes to his excellent and much needed shooting skills. The book ends and ?The Wastelands? begin with Jake and Roland?s paradox: Jake should be dead, Roland essentially killed him, but he is alive and well in his own world. This causes the two to simultaneously go crazy as they desperately try to find a door to bring Jake to their world. The door happens to be in a ?speaking ring? which is a door or portal linking the worlds. This is guarded by a sexual demon which impregnates Susannah with an evil offspring. Also in ?The Wastelands? they: come across a talking dog-like creature now called Oy, Jake is kidnapped by a dying crazy bad guy from Lud, a torn down almost post-apocalyptic city in which they meet Blaine a crazy monorail intent on killing them unless they riddle him. ?The Wolves of Calla? is the fifth novel and introduces us to the horrible ways in which the breakers get their power from parts of children?s brains and also to a new character Callahan who knows a lot about the vampires he expects they will come across on the epic journey. Normally I wouldn?t take nearly this long in laying out the basic storyline as I like to keep it short and simple to keep you interested but that
is as little as I can do to do the series justice. There is so much in the five books (two more to come) to do with characterisation, plot twists and just sheer brilliant storytelling that it would be impossible and unfair to even try. This is a must for Stephen King fans as it has lots of inter-textualisation going on. Some readers may remember the Walking Dude from ?The Stand? who makes a very scary return as Richard Fannin, Father Callahan from ?Salem?s Lot? or even the breakers from ?Hearts in Atlantis.? The way that these stories link is breathtaking, as if it was planned from the very beginning (which it couldn?t of been) proving King?s great skills as a writer and a story teller not just of horror. An interesting aspect of reading the books one after the other is watching Kings skills as a writer develop over the huge period of time it took him to write these books. The much awaited ?Susannah?s Song? and ?The Dark Tower? are to be eagerly released very shortly and I personally cannot wait. My only complaint (and I?m sure I?m not the only one, especially after the films) is the strong comparisons between this tale and ?Lord of the Rings? these include the crystal ball and the Crimson King two very important aspects of Tolkiens own epic journey. I strongly recommend picking up these books. Don?t be put off if you don?t like Stephen Kings horror writing; it?s not horror. If you don?t like to read then pick it up, it may never come to film and it is one of the greatest stories ever told.
Okay before I start, a big thank-you to all the Dooyoo crew for letting me do this...cheers. This is for all you people out there still wondering what the craic is with Stephen King's 'The Dark Tower' series. This is going to be pretty long, but I think it has to be in order to explain everything I can. This is not an opinion on it as such, but an explanation for those wishing to read it in the future, hope it helps...Phoenix. ----------------- Roland’s World. ----------------- Described by King himself as being 'related to ours in some fundamental way' Roland’s world is probably the most confusing aspect of the books. What we know is decidedly unclear but so far King has let us into a few secrets of its past and present...and its future, if there will be one. We know that Roland's world - or most parts of it - seems to be recovering from some sort of cataclysmic war of sorts. This war may have taken place many hundreds of years ago, in what Roland calls 'The great burning', but some remnants of the past still remain. Items such as light bulbs, motorbikes, machine guns and oil tankers seem to us as fairly un-modern, but Roland lives in a world much like that of the west - meaning the American wild west. Many of the old items are useless, but some still are in operation - the light bulbs in Gilead’s great hall, for example. Another thing is that this War that presumably has occurred was one of a nuclear nature, King describes in the 4th volume of the series - Wizard and Glass - Roland flying in the monorail over a 'Blasted landscape' crawling with 'Muties'. Roland’s world still suffers greatly from mutations occurring in animals like Horses or livestock, sometimes humans, further suggesting the aftermath of a nuclear war. Also the world before Roland’s must have been one of great technological advancement - Robots powered by nuclear cells, such as the
great bear Shardik, in 'The Waste Lands'. Certainly they must have been some years ahead of our technological level, or close to it. What also is apparent is that these people before Roland’s time were not only very technologically advanced, but were almost spiritual or supernatural in a way. While riding aboard Blaine in ‘Wizard and Glass’, Blaine has to make a pit stop to recharge…what the ka-tet see out the windows of Blaine’s carriage is nothing short of breathtaking. Stretching down into a giant abyss, where a huge waterfall plunges into are two stone statues of dogs. Some sort of energy, like lightning shoots out of their eyes and feeds Blaine…Eddie remarks: ‘Did the great Old Ones build it…Or were they people?’ So far information about these ‘great Old Ones’ is sketchy, but we know that they also built the Tower and the beams that hold it…and destroyed themselves somehow. The geography of Roland’s world is rather confusing - in fact it seems that the world is stretching, another symptom of the weakening of the Dark Tower. His world is arranged into separate sectors, Roland being from Gilead within In-world, Mid-world being next and then obviously, End-world. Roland has travelled from In-World and now is approaching End-World ...a distance of around 2,000 miles he claims; yet he has been travelling for over forty years! His only explanation being 'Time is stretching here'...or 'The world is moving on'. What we know of Roland’s world so far is that it is crumbling around his ears and this is the cause of the Dark Tower weakening. The symptoms of the Tower crumbling become ever more clear within ‘Wizard and Glass’ with the story Roland tells us of his first love affair…and a 'Thinny' – of which I’ll explain later on. -------------------------- The Tower, the beams. --------------------------
Roland, as we know is on a quest to find and stop the destruction of the Dark Tower, but why is it crumbling? This is where a large chunk of information comes from Kings other books. What is clear is that the Tower is the every spindle upon which reality spins and all universes are held. The Tower itself is held together, or stabilised, by a set of inter-crossing beams arranged to pass from one end of Roland’s world, through the Tower, and towards the other side. There are eight of these beams in total and each is apparently protected by what Roland calls a 'guardian'. One of these guardians is introduced to us in the form of a giant cyborg bear named Shardik, which Roland kills. This happens when Roland and his ka-tet reach the end of one of the beams and find a portal. References to these portals or ‘doors’ and constant throughout the series and they serve transportation to other places and worlds and are believed to have been built by the ‘great Old Ones’. This gives us more clues into what Roland’s world was like before the war. References are made to 'The great Old Ones' - and it is presumed that it was these people who started the war...and also built the Tower and the beams that hold it. The Dark Tower is falling, or in danger of falling due to who is referred to as 'The Crimson King', we have met this character in 'Insomnia' before and we know that his intentions are never good. What we know of him is shady. We know that his actual presence - his spiritual presence, has been locked up far in the top of the tower to stop him destroying it - but we find out that he has a physical presence, and that this is set out on destroying the Tower. If he succeeds, he will free himself from the Tower to do whatever he pleases...all time and space everywhere, an eternity of universes, will also crash together. We know that in ‘The Waste lands’ that Jake – w
ithin a vacant building lot in New York – encounters a rose like one other he has seen. He tells Roland of this and how everything seemed to shine around it, and how he heard the wrongness within it…Roland believes that the rose is the Tower – King explains to us that it is in terrible danger…reminding us of Jake’s dream of the rose being crushed by a bulldozer…carrying the mark of the Crimson King. --------- Breakers. --------- Breakers are a relatively new concept in King Dark Tower series. Little of them are known so far but it becomes clear in 'Hearts in Atlantis' and 'Black House', that the Crimson King needs these people to help him destroy the Tower. What exactly do they do? Well...they break things by using their mind. We know that Ted Brautigan (from Hearts in Atlantis) and Tyler Marshall (Black House) are breakers, Ted is the leader of these slaves and has a penchant for escaping, and Tyler is probably the greatest breaker of all. The Crimson King uses these Breakers in some way to help destroy the beams of the Tower and their psychic ability is important to him. Somehow it is through this breaking that time is becoming 'thin' in Roland’s world and that the appearance of ‘Thinnys’ is ever more occurring. Thinnys being like holes in reality where it has worn thin. The Crimson King is also using young children in his operation against the Tower. In 'Black House' we are introduced to 'The Big Combination', somehow a central role in his mission...unfortunately for him it is 'broken ' by Tyler Marshall, freeing these children that trudge upon it's treads until they die. We do not know the function of ‘The Big Combination’ but we know that the Crimson King is not too happy when it is destroyed…This leaves us wondering if Jack or Tyler from ‘Black House’ may in the near future re-appear to h
elp Roland in some way…who knows? ----------- Characters. ----------- Roland: The key character in the novel. Called a 'Gunslinger' by King. The last of his breed, his city - Gilead - was destroyed by a war from which he escaped somehow. When we meet him his only purpose in life is to find the Tower and to fix the wrongness there. A man who seems to know a little bit about everything. A dark soul, and very little is known - apart from what he tells in 'Wizard and Glass'. He became the youngest ever gunslinger by besting his teacher, Cort, with a hawk as his weapon. He did this to kill Marten…the man who is having an affair with his mother, but he is warned off by Cort, saying: ‘Wait until your shadow grows hair on its face and the battle between you is a legend.’ Stephen Deschain: Roland's father, now dead. Also a gunslinger before Roland, seems to have been a wise and closed man - much like Roland. Gabrielle Deschain: Roland's mother - dead by Roland’s own hand when he was only 14. Had an affair with Marten, Stephen Deschain's wizard. Her death has deeply affected Roland and he only speaks of it in 'Wizard and Glass'. Marten: Described as a great sorcerer, and appears to be very dangerous. Goads Roland into an early test of manhood by making him discover him and his mother’s affair. Might also be the 'Walkin dude' or Flagg from 'The Stand' - descriptions of him suggest so. Walter: 'The man in black' which Roland chases across the desert in 'The Gunslinger'. Once served Marten but actually becomes a help to Roland by telling him certain things about his quest. John Farson: Little of this man is known but it is clear that he led the revolt against Roland’s city and succeeded - we do not know if he is alive or dead yet. We first meet him in ‘
Wizard and Glass’. Eddie Dean: Drawn by Roland in to his world, Eddie now is adamant to see the Tower. Once a heroin junkie has now become a gunslinger by Roland’s teachings. A bit of a clown and his constant frivolities can get in Roland’s nerves…until he uses them to save them in Wizard and Glass’. Susannah Dean: Drawn also by Roland into his world. Crippled and in a wheelchair, she is also made a gunslinger by Roland. Certain questions now arises as regards her time in the speaking ring, where she had to sexually encounter a demon to save Jake...she may be pregnant with it's child, Roland knows that this is not good and may change her for the worse. Jake: Loved by Roland and all his Ka-tet, Jake is a twelve year old boy drawn to Roland’s world (with some difficulty) for the second time. He first was drawn by death into his world, but died again...at Roland's hand in a choice between him and the Dark Tower. Already on his way to becoming a gunslinger, one has to wonder about his role in the series…King remarks at the end of ‘Wizard and Glass’ that all may not make it to the Tower but those who do will stand and be true. Something tells me Roland may not actually make it and Jake is to carry the mission form there on in…he will be the one to enter the Tower…who knows? Oy: A billybumbler: described as a cross between a raccoon and a dog, Oy is the mascot of the group. Can also talk a bit...Jakes pet. Roland once saw him in a dream in ‘Wizard and Glass’ impaled on a tree in ‘Thunderclap’…will Oy make it to the Tower? Looks doubtful. The Ageless stranger: A demon of whom Roland has been warned greatly. I believe him also to be the elusive R.F from the end of 'Wizard and Glass' and as we all remember...'The Stand'. Roland is told that he is important to defeat in the quest for the T
ower. Roland in ‘Wizard and Glass’ encounters him and it is pretty obvious that he is Flagg from ‘The stand’…but what purpose does he have and how will he stand in their way? The Beast: Nothing at all is known about this character, only that Roland is told he guards the entrance to the Tower itself and must be defeated to enter it. The Crimson King: The entity who is trying to destroy the Tower by using Breakers to destroy the beams that hold it (see above)...mention of him is also in 'Insomnia' and 'Black House'. Not much at all is known. ------------- Conclusion. ------------- I hope that this is a good enough explanation to most of the mystery surrounding The Dark Tower...I will be adding more as I think of it and as more is released, so be patient. The Dark Tower series does not only serve as a book on it's own - it actually contains almost all of King's books and incorporates them in some fundamental ways. Below are a list of books that mention the Dark Tower or something relating to it, they are not essential reading, but it would be easier to know what's going on with these: The Stand Insomnia The Eyes of The Dragon Hearts in Atlantis Black House (The most useful to-date) 'Salem’s lot The next book in the Dark Tower series is expected in Autumn 2002, an introduction to Calla Bryn Sturgis is available at Kings site. The book is eagerly awaited, only three more are expected, two in Roland’s world and another in ours, presumably New York...can't wait.