Newest Review: ... 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... more
Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came
The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King in general
Member Name: pmcds
The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King in general
Advantages: Fantastic magnum opus from King
Disadvantages: The digression, but this becomes endearing and essential
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.
Summary: Excellent 7 book saga from Stephen King