* Prices may differ from that shown
Stephen King - The Dark Tower Volume Six - Song of Susannah
The Gunslinger and I
I have been a Stephen king fan since nineteen seventy-eight; so basically, thirty-four years. Just sitting back and thinking about that makes me think 'My God, where has all that time gone?' ;and yes, I am forty-five this year for those who question the longevity of my admiration of this superb author.I will be reviewing all of the Dark Tower series and will be using my own story as a base for each one so nothing has been plagiarised here as the only thing being copied from one review to the next are my own words.For the purpose of these reviews I will not give away any main character names or major plot lines as it would spoil the enjoyment of anyone who wants to read. The review of the book itself is a slim-line over-view of the plot and the book itself is quite a thick volume and offers a hell of a good read and a lot more detail than revealed in this review.The story of my reading of the Dark Tower books, of which there are seven in the original series, is an adventure in itself and one which I will share with you now before I move on to review the fifth volume.I have read over fifty King novels and have signed books in my collection. There are many books that I love and many epic tales, such as 'The Stand' and 'It' that will forever be a testament to King's imagination and prowess as a story teller. However, for me, The Dark tower series must go down as one of the best fantasy, horror crossover tales ever told. Tolkien may have created one of the best, if not the best, imaginary world in 'Middle Earth' but believe me Stephen King's 'Mid-World' runs it a close second.I think even Tolkien would've doffed his cap to King for the sheer scope and diversity that us readers are privileged to witness when reading these books.I remember picking up a copy of 'The Gunslinger' (book One of The Dark Tower series) in nineteen eighty-two when I was fifteen years old. I won't go into detail about the book here but will save that for the review proper. I found it captivating and different; something new that to me at the time had not been done before.
Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed the book and could not wait to get my hands on the second volume. I waited and I waited and I waited; several tumbleweeds did there windswept boogie past my much looked upon feet. Five years would pass and then at last in nineteen eighty-seven I heard the announcement that volume two Entitled 'The Drawing of the Three' was about to hit the shops. I pre-ordered a copy from Andromeda bookstore in Birmingham. But wait, I thought, I must read the first volume again as a refresher. So I sat and reread volume one and finished it the night before I went to pick up my new copy of volume two (oh the joyous wonder of the world of fiction). I would not be disappointed as volume two was three times the weight in wordage as the first offering. I found it captivating and enthralling and once again I was away on another plane in the land of Mid-world. The only drawback was the damn four year wait for volume three 'The Wastelands'. Once again when the time came, I felt I needed a refresher, so I reread volume one again and then volume two. Volume three was an even thicker tome than the other two so I would forgive King eventually; that was until the six year gap to volume four. Six years Stephen! What are you trying to do to me man, was the cry from my bedroom with a scowl at the first three volumes sat on my bookcase.
So, nineteen ninety-seven and volume four 'Wizard and Glass' came out and yes, you guessed it, I reread the other three first. Fifteen years between book one and two is a long time and to be honest it only makes the story epic, in the true sense of the word. Now, volume five would be another six years but in no way can I hold this against King as he almost lost his life and in the process would make a decision that would appease every Dark Tower fan to their hearts content. Stephen King was out walking one day when he was hit by a truck. He was hospitalised for months and he was so ill he almost lost his life. He made a decision that he would not or could not write again and his millions of fans would mourn the death of the great writer but be grateful and happy that the great man had survived. While lying in his bed he got to thinking about Roland of Gilead (The Gunslinger) and of the torture he had put himself and the fans through by not finishing the story. It was King's own curiosity about how he would end this story and of whether Roland would find the Dark Tower or whether one of his ka-tet (group) would find it instead, raised his writing muscle from the jaws of literary death and into a new found child-like enthusiasm to finish the tale. That was fantastic for King fans but what would be even more stupendous would be the fact that not only would he write volume five in Two Thousand and Three but he would write volumes six and the final volume seven in Two Thousand and Four. So having had four books in twenty-one years, King fans, myself included, and were now treated to three books in just over a year! Volume Five 'Wolves of the Calla' would be the first, followed by volume six 'A Song of Susannah' and finally, volume seven 'The Dark Tower'. Of course before I read volume five I reread the first four volumes, so now I had read volume one, The Gunslinger, five times. Now my story doesn't end there. In two thousand and four I didn't read the last two volumes because of work commitments and then in two thousand and six I moved from the UK to Holland. It would be two thousand and eleven before I picked up volume six and yes I reread the whole series again; so book one for a sixth time. So volume six was great but I was forty-four last October and my eyes are deteriorating, so I started wearing reading glasses. I was given The Dark Tower volume seven, which is called The Dark Tower as a present in paperback form having left the hardback in the UK. The print was so small that I had to give up after one hundred and sixty seven pages. I know this as it irks me something rotten.
So here we are in two thousand and twelve and my new glasses are ordered and I'll receive them in two weeks. I will restart the Dark Tower volume seven and finally finish a story that has almost spanned my life time thus far. I am a lover of books but am toying with the idea of a Kindle Touch for the practicality. I will always think books are better but a standard English paper back over here is fourteen euros and a hardback anywhere between twenty-two and twenty -six euros, which is horrendous, so having a Kindle makes sense as I can get e-books for nothing and won't have to carry loads on books on holiday with me. Anyway, that's another story; let's talk about volume six 'Song of Susannah'.
Song of Susannah
The Back-story and Plot
'The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed'
The opening line to the first book in The Dark Tower series is one that has stayed with me for a long time as I constantly came back to reread the first volume over the years.I would like to give those of you who haven't heard of the other books in the series or read my other reviews a little refresher of them before the sixth volume run down.
Book One Refresher - The Gunslinger
Roland of Gilead is the last of an order of gunslingers that derived from a great line of men that started with Arthur Eld. Arthur Eld is revered by gunslingers just like King Arthur in the real world. We learn a little of Roland's childhood and his coming of age as a gunslinger. The western world that Roland and is gunslinger friends live in is a lot like the western world that we know of where cowboys and Indians coexist. The difference being that Mid-world is also a magical world and a lot more advanced in technology than the great western plains that cowboy fans are familiar with. It was in fact a lot more advanced than the world that we live in today but now the world has moved on and things have been forgotten and unlearned. As mid-world is torn asunder and cities fall, Roland finds out that he has to find the Dark Tower. It is fabled to be the centre of Mid-world and control all universes. If Roland is to save Mid-world he must reach the tower at all costs. He knows not what he must do when he arrives there but feels sure in his gut that it will be revealed to him in some way when he does.In this opening novel of the series we don't really know that much about Roland's present circumstances, such as how old he is or how long he has been pursuing the mysterious man in black. We do find out more as the novel moves forward and have more answers at the end; although there are more questions.Roland meets a young boy by the name of 'Jake' who he is sure he knows already. They build up a good relationship and then Roland has an excruciating choice to make when he has to decide whether to keep on after the tower and sacrifice the boy or stay and save him from certain death.Will Roland finally catch up with the man in black and just who is he and what answers does he have?
Book Two Refresher - The Drawing of the Three
Volume two starts with Roland on a beach, almost dying of thirst and starvation. He finds sustenance by the way of giant lobster like creatures that he thinks of as 'lobstrosities'. In an encounter with one of these creatures he loses the shooting fingers of his right hand and has to resort to using his left hand to fire his guns. He is still more adept with this hand than a normal individual would be with their good hand; but he is a gunslinger after all and the last one, no less. As he makes his way along the beach he comes across a door; just a free-standing door on the beach. There is a name on the door. It says 'The Prisoner'. Roland walks behind the door and he can no longer see it; the same from the side. The door is only visible when he looks at it full on. Roland will eventually come across three doors on the beach and each one will open and allow him to see a scene from New York City and different instances of time. Each scene is seen from the point of view of another person. Roland discovers that he can step into that person and communicate with them. He soon realises that he must draw one person from each door; hence the title: The Drawing of the Three. The three people that Roland draws from the doors will form his ka-tet or group and will be pivotal in his search for the dark tower.
Book Three Refresher - The Wastelands
As with book two, volume three takes off exactly where the previous book ended. This is great for those of you reading them one after the other as all seven books read like one long novel; which was King's intention. In this part of the story, Roland and his Ka-tet come across one of the guardians of the beam in the form of a giant mechanical bear that goes by the name of 'Shardik'. We find out more about the path of the beam in relation to the Dark Tower. The tower stands in the middle of twelve other towers or portals, which stand on the edge of the world. There are six beams that all converge at the tower. Shardik is guarding one of the beam paths. Roland and his ka-tet must defeat Shardik to continue along the path. Back in New York in a different time, one of our main characters has stumbled across a rose that emanates a strange glow and a sound so beautiful that it is mesmerising. This character realises that he needs to find a door to get to Roland and becomes determined to succeed. The rose seems pivotal and it makes him feel happy and alive but somehow seems threatened and vulnerable. He must protect the rose and make Roland aware of its existence. He finds a key next to the rose. Back with Roland and another one of the ka-tet starts to carve something out of a branch for no apparent reason other than the fact that he knows he has to. It starts to look like a key. The character in New York must be drawn from that place and time and the ka-tet has a battle on to achieve this and a fight with a powerful demon. Their trek across the Wastelands leads them to a high speed train with a computer controlling it named 'Blaine'. This is where the book ends and the fourth one starts.
Book Four Refresher - Wizard and Glass
Volume four starts the story off exactly where we left it in book three. Roland and his ka-tet are trapped on a high speed train that is going to plummet hundreds of feet off the end of the track when it reaches its journeys end. Blaine has a nasty streak in him for a computer and also a penchant for riddle solving. He sets the ka-tet a challenge and tells them that if they can give him a riddle he cannot solve, then he will let them live. The ka-tet travel to a city that has been decimated by a super flu (The Stand anyone?). In this volume Roland tells the ka-tet his story over many days around the campfire. He recalls his past love and his loss. He recalls great fights and stories of his boy hood friends. You really find out about Roland Deschain in this volume and it makes for a great read.
Book Five Refresher - Wolves of the Calla
The fifth volume is a wondrous tale of different times and quests, which all come together and begin to make Roland's search for the tower, seem like an impossible one. Back in nineteen seventy-seven New York, the rose is in danger. Our ka-tet must split and some must travel back in time and save the rose in order for the tower to survive. They come across the Calla, a town of rice growers and cattle herders in a county called Calla Bryn Sturgis. Most of the pregnant women in the Calla will give birth to twins and have done so for generations. Also, every generation a group of hideous wolves will come and steal one child from each set of twins between the ages of 4 and 13. They return the child months later and the child is mentally retarded. A messenger robot by the name of Andy has told the villages that a visit from the wolves is imminent. It is up to Roland and the Ka-tet to stop them with the help of the local holy man. The holy man will be a surprise to you if you are an ardent King fan. This volume is a fantastic story of a battle against the odds and brings up many moral questions and provokes much thought within the reader. As mentioned earlier, this volume gives the reader a little more clarity as to the scope of Roland's task and the very real notion that it may not be Roland who gets to the tower in the end.
Book Six - Song of Susannah
The sixth book, as with the previous books, starts off exactly where book five ended, which gives you a great feeling of being in the now with the series, no matter when you happen to read it or how long after the others. The illustrations in the book are provided by Darrel Anderson and are exceptional. It does feel great to get back into the story again and I was excited about getting back onto the path of the beam and wondering where the story would take Roland and his ka-tet next. The sixth book is probably the most exciting of the series yet and there are lots of side stories and off-shoots to keep the pace moving nicely. For me, this novel is the defining one in the series to this point and it tells us so much about Roland, his ka-tet and the world or worlds they inhabit. It is a complex tale, rich in plot and keeps you on the edge of your proverbial seat. The story really comes to a head and sets up nicely for the final seventh book. At four hundred pages it is not a small book but the pace is such that it doesn't seem like a long book. King's imagination is second to none when it comes to a book like this. Many will argue that some fantasy and science fiction writers create worlds with even more scope but what makes King unique is the fact that his characters are real and even in a world such as this they are believable and interesting in their many layers. This book is a great continuation of a fantastic series.
The sixth book, for me, is the one that starts to bring the story together and starts to answer some of the questions a lot of readers had from the first five books. I am a big fan of time-travel books and there is an element of time-travel in this and the other dark tower books. Again, the book takes place in different times and runs in tandem with itself until the stories come together at one place.
This volume gets you thinking even more than the other five, if that is possible.
King has always had a way with characters and dialogue as I have mentioned before and Wolves of the Calla really does give you a feel for the group and you feel like you know them all a little deeper and Song of Susannah adds to that and compliments it so well.
I love this book and the series even more. It doesn't end with the seven books either as eight years later in two thousand and twelve, King has penned another Dark Tower book called 'The Wind Through the Keyhole', which is a story that slots in between volume four and five. King has also been rumoured as saying that the seven or now eight books are only a small part of and uber novel.There are also comic versions available and each set of comics is available in a hardback version in graphic novel form.A woman named Robin Furth has also penned a couple of books called 'Stephen King's The Dark Tower a concordance, volumes one and two. Each one has been endorsed by King himself and they are a must for all Dark Tower fans. They act as a reference for everything that Mid-world contains and tell stories of all the characters involved in the series, of which there are many.A lot of the characters in the Dark Tower books are from other King novels and a lot of them tie up loose ends from other books rather nicely.It is the ultimate fantasy series; with bits of Science fiction, fantasy and horror delightfully mixed in by one of the best imaginations there has ever been.What I would say to anyone thinking of reading them is give the first book a chance. It is a little slow at times and has to build a back story of huge content. When you get into the second book you will be glad you continued and then it is a case of not being able to read the rest because they are just so good.Once the first three books were in print a special run of them was produced with art work by Bernie Wrightson. They are superb and a great part of my collection.
Wrightson was a horror comic illustrator from the sixties and seventies. He worked on such titles as 'House of Secrets', 'House of Mystery' and 'The Swamp Thing' series, some of which I had in my early collection of comics myself.
I would highly recommend this book and the series, even if you're not a King fan. If you are a King fan and haven't read them, then you simply must; not doing so would be sacrilegious. It is also wise to read the first, second, third, fourth and fifth books before this sixth volume.
King has really outdone himself with this series and the different places he has created in his books all come together full circle. It is not just his life's work but his life. King has been on his own journey, in search of his own tower and I think he can rest a little easier now knowing that his story has been told and so has Roland's; but knowing King there will be a lot more to come from Mid-world in the next decade or so.
I would also like to mention the TV series and three movies being made in which Javier Bardem is to play Roland, the gunslinger. Originally Viggo Mortensen was up for the part and I think he would have been great but there is the fact that he may have been thought of as stereo-typed after playing Aragorn in the three The Lord of the Rings movies. I think Bardem may surprise a lot of people and I for one cannot wait to see what it is like. We may see the first appearance in 2013.
Dark Tower 6 - Song of Susannah
I'd heard bad things about this book, from it's slow pacing to the introduction of a certain writer as a major character, but as always I approached it with an open mind, particularly as I'd already committed myself to reading the whole series.
The Dark Tower is arguably Stephen King's finest hour, a seven volume urban-fantasy masterwork. However, if you look at the reviews for the books individually, it appears that the quality of the series begins to wane towards the end. Having read the first six back to back I'd have to agree. The Gunslinger was a sci-fi western masterpiece, The Drawing of the Three dropped Roland of Gilead into the fast-paced world of contemporary New York, The Waste Lands was a kind of steampunk action adventure (and up in the top five books I've ever read) while Wizard and Glass, despite being almost solely concerned with backstory, was a rollicking western adventure. Then came Wolves of the Calla, and the pace began to slow. It felt bloated, nothing much happened, and it was filled with annoying references to King's other works and contained pages and pages of uninspiring backstory. Song of Susannah, unfortunately, while shorter, is more of the same.
Set now in New York in 1999 and Maine in 1977, the characters have been divided. Susannah is now struggling to keep her alter ego, Mia, in check, while Roland and Eddie hunt Calvin Tower and Aaron Deepneau. The Susannah/Mia parts are, for want of a better word, a mess, a mixture of dream sequences, internal dialogues and poorly expolated and unbelievable back story. Even Wolves of the Calla kept me pushing though but I really struggled through the first 150 pages of this book. Once it flicks back to Eddie and Roland though, the pace picks up, with some decent action set pieces. However, the characters spend way too much time standing around not doing anything, and fifty pages of action can't save the book from it's quagmire.
I've read a lot about how King shows up in this book but really it wasn't so bad. If anything, it was confusing, but I didn't really see it as an ego trip like some reviewers have. In short, it wasn't great but it's far from the worst part of this book.
Overall, if you're a fan of the Dark Tower and you've got this far you'll probably read the last one as I intend to, even though it clocks in at over 1000 pages. This one is mercifully short (for King) at around 500. However, if this is the first Dark Tower you pick up it's unlikely that you'll be back. Which is a shame, because books 1 to 4 are really very good.
Copyright Chris Ward 2012
My ebook, Ms Ito's Bird and Other Stories, is now available for Kindle download from Amazon.
Song Of Susannah is the penultimate Dark Tower novel and kind of bridges the gap between the last few novels with an episode that feels more like an interval than a book in its own right. It carries on from the end of Wolves Of The Calla with three members of the Ka-Tet travelling through a doorway to modern-day New York in pursuit of Susannah-Mio, pregnant and about to give birth to a demon-half-child, with the other two members travelling to Maine to catch up with Calvin Tower and secure the vacant lot from him that holds The Rose; the symbol that represents one of the last remaining Beams that hold up The Dark Tower and which must be protected in order to continue the quest.
After getting caught up in a heated gun-battle and acheiving all they set out to do, Roland and Eddie then find themselves meeting a certain author of popular horror fiction and begin to realise that their lives are even weirder and more mixed up than they at first thought! Meanwhile, Susannah struggles to keep control and hold back her labour until members of her Ka-Tet can reach her and discovers much of importantance about the woman fighting her for control of her body!
And all the time, The Low-Men fight to prevent any of the Ka-Tet from achieving their goals for at stake is a prize known as The Dark Tower........
This is the least popular of the books for many of the fans though it is also amongst the shortest, matched only I think by Book One:The Gunslinger! Personally, it is amongst my least favourites also but that is more because much of the action is set in a version of our own world and I have always found the Mid-World stories to be better and more in keeping with the original theme of the series.
The decision by King to cast himself as one of the characters and as a contributing factor in Roland's quest is also in question. Though it does kind of work, it does feel like it is smacking of more than a little arrogance and is not something I really think is nessecary to the story. For me, I think The Dark Tower would have been far better had he left this whole story-arc out! I know I am not alone and a quick look at message-boards indicates many fans feel the same. Still, this is the way that King wanted to go so who am I to argue with Ka?
In many ways, it is better that this is relatively short as that means it is over quicker and we can return to Roland's own world but there is strong indications that this is not the last we are going to be seeing of Sai King and this kind of worries me! Still, this aside, the rest of the story is quite good and those parts set in almost-present-day New York have a chilling presience to them of things that we know will soon come to pass! One thing of paticular note is a reference made to The World Trade Centre Twin Towers and a throw-away (or is it?) comment made by Jake. It is King's clever way of indicating that though all this is a clever work of fantasy, it very much has a possible effect on our own world.....
I love Stephen King and I love most of his work (Gerald's Game and Dolores Claibnourne being a couple of rare exceptions) but the closer this series comes to its end, the more I begin to wonder if the author has bitten off more than he can chew and is desperately trying to finish this before he is unable to! Certainly reading this, I get the sense that King would rather end this series a little poorly and rushed than leave someone else to finish his epic after his death a la Robert Jordan (to name just one) who died before completing The Wheel Of Time series and who now has left his estate to complete the epic he was writing!
With one more book to go, one only hopes King can redeem himself in the final hour and bring his dream of The Dark Tower back on course. Certainly Song Of Susannah is a very bumpy ride and doesn't quite flow as smoothly as long-time fans might like. And if you are only a part-time fan, then I would reccommend you walk away now as to fully enjoy these last two books you really need to be dedicated to all that King has written before...and even then, liking the last two books in The Dark Tower series still feels something of a struggle....
It's still worth four stars but only just and only because I cannot give it 3 1/2!
After Roland, Eddie, Susannah and Jake manage to defeat the 'Wolves of the Calla', the celebration is short-lived when they discover that Susannah has disappeared.
Possessing a split personality, Susannah has been taken over by Mia, the mother figure within her who desperately wants the baby that Susannah is carrying for herself. The baby, strangely, does actually belong to Mia, and in order to eventually hold it in her arms, Mia will gladly sacrifice any of the gunslingers... which she does in order to keep her side of the bargain she made with Walter, the evil wizard that works for the Crimson King.
Managing to steal 'Black 13', the magical orb that powers the door capable of opening onto a multitude of dimensions and times, Mia hightails it to 1999 New York where she plans on giving birth to the baby Susannah is carrying... with the assistance of the Crimson King's acolytes at the Dixie Pig.
Quote from 'The Dark Tower': "Oh Susannah-Mio, divided girl of mine, done parked her RIG in the DIXIE PIG in the year of '99."
Roland of Gilead - legendary gunslinger, the last of his kind - is on a quest to find the Dark Tower.
Eddie of New York - ex-junkie, pulled through to Roland's world via a magical door - is desperate to find his wife.
Susannah, wife of Eddie - who was also pulled through to Roland's world by way of a magical door - suffers from a split personality disorder. In this book, she has been taken over by Mia, and finds herself in 1999 New York about to give birth to a 'demon' child.
Jake of New York - Roland's adopted son - is only 12 years old, but he's already an extraordinary gunslinger, and he possesses the 'touch', an uncanny ability to read people's minds.
Oy - a Billy Bumbler, a furry creature that is a cross between a large squirrel, a raccoon and a possum - is Jake's constant companion.
Don Callahan - who first appeared in Stephen King's novel entitled 'Salem's Lot' - literally 'fell' into another dimension while attempting to extricate himself from the hands of vampires. Having assisted Roland and the gang in their quest to rid Calla Bryn Sturgis of the 'Wolves', he has become a part of the gang and now accompanies them on their quest to find the 'Dark Tower'... as soon as they find Susannah/Mia.
COMMENTS - OPINION:
Unlike the previous book in the series, 'Wolves of the Calla', this sixth book in the 'Dark Tower' series, 'Song of Susannah', is a major disappointment.
Containing only 434 pages, nearly half the size of the previous book and the next book [final book] in the series, it possesses just over 300 pages of brilliant storytelling material, but a good 100+ pages is total drivel. These 100+ pages absolutely spoiled what had been, till then, a superb story.
[WARNING - contains what some might consider to be spoilers]
Roland, Eddie, Jake, Oy and Callahan finally manage to open the magical door in order to make their way to Susannah, but, as fate [or ka] will have it, Roland and Eddie are sucked through the door and spat out in 1977 Stoneham [Maine] where a veritable army of thugs are waiting for them with machine guns, while as Jake, Oy and Callahan are sucked in through the door and spat out in 1999 New York where the 12 year old boy, accompanied by the elderly ex-priest and a Billy Bumbler will have to fight off a horde of vampires and monsters in order to save Susannah from becoming the next dish on the Dixie Pig's menu.
There is just so much happening during the first 300 pages of 'Song of Susannah' that it becomes virtually impossible to put the book down. While Susannah is fighting for control of her mind and body from Mia, Roland and Eddie are fighting for their lives. The tension is incredible, and there's such a fantastic atmosphere as page after page the story comes to its ultimate conclusion... and boy does it promise to be a hell of a conclusion for book VI. Unfortunately, as is often the case with Stephen King, promises are broken three quarters of the way into the book when Mr. King decides to write himself into the story!
Taking the spotlight away from Roland and the gang, Stephen King literally takes over the last part of the book, playing himself as he was back in 1977, a promising new writer with an alcohol and drug problem. Playing himself, King is confronted by Roland and Eddie, who are characters from the 'Gunslinger' story that was written when he was nineteen, and then stuffed in a box somewhere and stashed in the garage. This portion of the book, including the final chapters with its 26 pages taken from a supposed diary King kept, are absolute and total rubbish. The very worst part of all this nonsense is the part where Roland is said to look like an older version of King... this totally destroyed my image of Roland. Never had it occurred to me that Roland and Stephen King were look-alikes... the image I had created was destroyed, and if that wasn't bad enough, being told that Eddie sounded like Stephen King was a total disillusionment.
Yes, I know Stephen King wrote the books and subsequently must have included much of himself in his work, but there was no need for him to detail which parts, especially not after the reader has read thousands of pages and has already formed an image of the characters within their mind. The unfairness of it all is disheartening, yet there is much worse to come for the reader upon reaching the final chapter - where the story should have been about Jake, Oy and Callahan attempting to save Susannah [after all, a previous chapter ended with the trio on the steps of the Dixie Pig, prepared to enter through the doors], we find, instead, pages from a supposed diary that summarises Stephen King's life from 1977 to 1999. These pages allow a glimpse into his life, much like a timeline of events, from his problems with alcohol and drugs, his arguments with his wife, his sadness at how quick the children are growing up, the books he's published along the way... all the way through to the accident he was in that nearly killed him.
These final pages are as boring as boring gets, and it felt like an advertisement for all the other books he's written. I have no idea why Stephen King decided to play himself in this book, calling himself a 'wordslinger' [the other characters are gunslingers], and I have no idea why he decided to be Roland, Eddie, Jake, Oy and Callahan's 'God' within the story... their ultimate creator... if Stephen King is their 'God', then why bother finding the 'Dark Tower'? Roland wants to know who lurks in the room at the top of the tower... sometimes he wonders if it's God. If Roland's God is Stephen King, and King also created the 'Dark Tower' in his mind, then, logically, King himself would appear in the top room of the Tower.
I have no idea how all this is going to end, the final book being a major brick-of-a-book, but I suspect, as people have professed thus far, that I will be disappointed with the final ending... Roland will burst through the door of the room situated at the top floor of the tower, and find Stephen King waiting for him with that silly grin of his and yet more pages torn from his diary.
Once again Stephen King has managed to disappoint by inserting a 'twist in the tale' that is not only impromptu but also totally insignificant... not to mention the fact that, once again, he has given us a book without an ending. Although this book is called 'Song of Susannah' and should be all about HER adventure, I will have to read the final book in the series in order to discover the ending that should have been in THIS book.
'And the tower draws nearer!' was the first sentence that entered my head. However, it was immediately followed by a feeling of complete disappointment. The previous 5 installments of Stephen King's epic saga impressed me, despite numerous digressions and a completely twisted tale. There has always been something intense and intriguing about everything the King (no pun intended) of digression, but sadly, the sixth hurdle has proven to be a bit of a momentum stopper for me.
If you're reading this having not experienced The Dark Tower as yet, then I advise you to turn back and read the first 5 books before attempting to undergo this analysis, or even attempting to read the book. Song Of Susannah is not a book that can be easily read as a stand alone book. It relies heavily heavily on previous events to further its plot, and is very much an extension of Book 5: Wolves of the Calla, a sort of link before the 7th and final chapter finishes the story. As such, this review will contain elements that may spoil any of the first 5 books, so be warned!
Following on from the events at the end of the 5th book, Gunslinger Roland Deschain or Gilead once more finds his ka-tet split up, as Susannah is possessed by Mia and take off to give birth to the demonic child growing inside of her. It is nearly a whole day before Jake and Father Callahan are able to follow in hot pursuit, along with Roland and Eddie, who pair up to go in search of answers in the form of a tenuous link to the Dark Tower - the book's author, Stephen King.
And it's here that things get a bit weird. The book's title suggests that Susannah is the main focus, and this is very true. Her previous schizophrenia is nothing compared to the varying forms of subconscious conversations, and here, King actually does very well with creating four different characters in one person, making us believe that they are completely different people as he slowly reveals the intentions behind the pregnancy and how it happened and what its aim is. The book is indeed about Susannah above all else, but King's insertion of himself in its pages borders on arrogance, even if the intention is to give explanation and quirkiness more than anything else.
I'll admit, it sent my head spinning a bit, trying to work out where everything fits in with the previous books. There is yet another minefield of information to sort out here, but what annoyed me wasn't the extra confusion, but more the fact that events don't seem to take much of a big step in this book. Previous books had huge events, with major changes, whereas Song of Susannah merely edges the characters closer to their destiny: The Dark Tower itself. Susannah's character(s) is the biggest advancement, while the others seem to have smaller parts, and this is frustrating.
The writing style takes a little change, too, with King presenting the book as a series of stanzas, with 8 rhyming lines marking the end of each 'chapter' as it were. The final part of the book gives us a chronicle of King himself, and his stages of writing the saga, following the visit he receives from Roland and Eddie, and it is almost worth not worrying about the ins and outs of how things go around in time and space. King has almost opened a can of worms here by going off on too much of a tangent. He does manage to reel it back in to a certain extent by the end of the book, but I can see the 7th and final installation having to do a lot of hard work to pick things back up to the expected level I had following Wolves of the Calla.
The Dark Tower: Book 6: Song of Susannah, is currently available at a retail price of £7.99, although it's quite easy to pick it up for a lot less if you can find a copy on amazon or in charity shops. It is around the 430 page mark in length, and the version I have contains the first chapter of the last book. Perhaps an apt way to finish this and to provide an example of the dip in quality is at the beginning of the book. Previous books contained an introduction as well as a brief synopsis of the previous chapters. This book has King's intro just like the other books, but it lacked the plot summary to bring us up to speed, which I found rather disappointing, as there is a lot to remember, especially if there has been a bit of a gap between reading each book.
I still recommend reading this, though, and my negatives and criticisms don't take away the fact that it is still an incredibly riveting read. There is a certain quirkiness to the book that is sometimes missing in the others, and it is almost as if King is testing us to see who the true Dark Tower followers are by providing a sort of interlude book, linking the previous languid travelling books by increasing the potential danger through the Song of Susannah. So, I guess the question is, do you have the resolve and faith to continue along the path of the Beam and finish Roland's quest for the Dark Tower. I'm going to give it a whirl, and I have the feeling that Book 7 is going to make me glad I bothered.
Those of you who followed the Dark Tower from the beginning had to wait more than 20 years for him to actually finish the damn thing.
The longest gap came between books 3 and 4. King himself said as book 4 was to be a love story he was scared to start it!
Now none of that really matters as the Dark Tower was worth waiting for. But the problem is when he started writing again he felt pressured to finish the series. And they felt rushed. None more than Song of Susanna.
The first time I read it I was rushing myself, desperate to finish the Tower, and thought it was my fault I didn't like it.
But after re-reading it I decided it was King's fault.
The group of travellers has split up. Susanna has run off to NY to have her (demon?) baby followed by Jake and Rv Callahan. And Eddie and Roland have gone off to meet Stephen King - no really!
* It feels rushed
* The plot is poor, it feels more like he is tying up loose ends from the previous books rather than writing a new one.
* Meeting King, he put himself in the book - and it doesn't work
Don't give up, the Dark Tower is some of his best work. It's such a shame he didn't do a better job with this one, but rest assured number seven is wonderful!
Song of Susannah is the sixth and penultimate book in the Dark Tower Series by Stephen King. This book picks up the story of Roland Deschain and his friends exactly where we left them in the previous book with the dilemma of having to find Susannah whilst still trying to save the Dark Tower.
Roland's ka-tet splits into 2 for this book, Roland & Eddie are sent to Maine, America to ensure Cal Tower signs over the plot of land in New York that contains the rose that is directly linked to the Dark Tower, whilst here they discover that another link to the towers safety could be a small time writer that goes by the name of Stephen King!! Jake & Father Callahan are at the same time sent to New York to search for a pregnant Susannah who is possessed by a demon...
This is probably my least favourite of all the books in the series, King is about the only writer around who would be arrogant enough to cast himself as an integal part of the plot of the story and this to me kinda lowers the brilliance of the whole Dark Tower Series. That said it's still an important read if you intend to complete the series.
The fact is I've been reading Stephen King's magnum opus, The Dark Tower series, since it first started back in 1982. A set of seven books, the epic series revolves around the gunslinger, Roland Deschain and his gang of four or ka-tet, in their quest to save the Dark Tower. The four include: Eddie Dean, Susannah Holmes, Jake Chambers and his strange pet, Oy. This curious combination of former drug addict, legless and now wheelchair-bound, black woman and young boy are brought together in the second volume The Drawing of the Three to help Roland in his quest to save the Dark Tower.
In order to do this they must travel through perilous lands to get to End-world and stop the Dark Tower from being destroyed or else it could signal the end of the Universe as we know it. Standing in the way are the forces of evil led by The Crimson King otherwise known as Randall Flagg, Walter the Man in Black (although Walter may merely be a servant of The Crimson King - it's not that clear so far) and any number of other aliases.
With this being the 6th book in the set then if you are reading earlier books or intend to make a start on the series then I'd recommend turning back now and not reading on. It's almost impossible not to impinge on any of the previous story lines when reviewing "Song of Susannah" and I wouldn't want to spoil anything for anyone.
Right.... OK....still with me? Phew.
"Song of Susannah" naturally carries on where the previous instalment, "Wolves of the Calla" left off. Susannah Dean has escaped the final showdown with the wolves and by using the magic of *Black thirteen (the strongest of all the Wizards Glass's, Black Thirteen is said to represent the Dark Tower itself. It has the power to send someone todash or into the todash darkness for an eternity in a pitchblack hell) she escapes into the world of 1999 New York to have her baby. This is no ordinary baby; held captive by the elemental Mia, Susannah shares her body with the demon that is determined to give birth to her child. Planning to call him, Mordred, Mia knows that the child's destiny is to kill his father, Roland of Deschain.
Meanwhile, Eddie and Roland use the door in the cave back in Calla Bryn Sturgis to return to Maine, New England. The door is a portal between worlds and with the help of the magic of Henchick of the Manni they duly return to conclude the purchase of a plot of land/book store in New York that is closely linked with the Dark Tower and its fate. Unbeknown to them, when they arrive back in 1977 Maine, gangsters who want to coerce the owner into selling the plot to them, await their return, armed with guns and intent on stopping them from buying Calvin Tower's plot by killing them.
I must admit to enjoying this book more than the previous effort "Wolves of the Calla". This seems to fly in the face of popular opinion as most folks prefer the Wolves instalment but I thought that the 5th book in the series was too long and at a more reasonable 430 pages, this King tome seems more compact and has a quicker pace about it as a result.
The story stands up as the odyssey unfolds which is due credit to the author and his editing team (in the main, Chuck Verrill) as it would have been easy to stray from the beaten track in terms of continuity. The cross-referencing to other King stories continues in earnest with a number of references to the low men and vampires from other books like Salems Lot and Hearts in Atlantis. In Song of Susannah, the author takes things on one stage further by including himself in the story and Ill leave it to the reader to explore those bizarre furrows that Stephen King ploughs by using such a significant self-reference.
The fact that King is widely read shines through in his books in general and here again, the homage to both Richard Adams Shardik and Arthurian legend in the shape of the impending birth of Mordred. According to legend, Arthur slept with his half-sister Morgause, not knowing they were related and, as a result, Mordred was born. When Arthur discovered the whole truth, in an attempt to kill Mordred he had all children born on the day of Mordred's birth set adrift. Clearly, the legend influenced King enough to use the name and draw a direct parallel with that story and his own updated version. There may even be a subliminal notion that the legend has something to do with the insidious goings on with the children from the Calla Bryn Sturgis (the children of the Calla are kidnapped by wolves every 23 or so years in the previous book, "Wolves of the Calla", and returned as gibbering wrecks to their families) and this volume makes their intended fate much clearer.
Whilst the main protagonists continue to develop in character, I really liked the clearer depiction of the demon and devil followers of The Crimson King i.e. the low men and other insidious ghouls. The visual image of an open wound in their foreheads full of blood but not bleeding is both graphic and original and really brings home the macabre feel of the villains as well as contrasting with the sci-fi elements that King weaves in to the tale.
I also particularly enjoyed the epilogue. This is a series of diary entries spanning the time period July 12th, 1977 to June 20th 1999. Whilst reflecting the ups and downs of writing some of the earlier Dark Tower books over that period of time, Stephen Kings journal takes the reader through a series of snapshots that reveal bits and pieces about the thoughts behind the Dark Tower series and several other books whilst reflecting on his home life. On several occasions, King mentions his love of drinking, smoking and other vices more soft drug related and its that vulnerability that comes through that makes the epilogue so endearing and fascinating to read.
As far as more negative criticism goes then the overall plot is a little thinner than some of the other books in the series. However, I still enjoyed the ride. This effort is distinctly shorter and all the better for it but the inclusion of King himself along with the cross-referencing to other King works still runs the risk of being slightly arrogant or at least construed by some as being so. Im not sure how effective laying the book out in a sequence of stanzas is or how much the rhymes using the colloquialism "commala" is either but at least the writer is trying something different so hats off for that.
Song of Susannah is a horror/fantasy book that blends nicely with the rest of the Dark Tower series. If you like King, youll like this. If you like fantasy/horror then this wont be the best youve ever read but, chances are, youll still enjoy it. So overall, recommended if you are a fan of the genre but with the rider that you need to decide whether you are reading it as one of the series or decide to start at the beginning with the first book The Gunslinger. Im not so sure that Song of Susannah works as well as a stand alone experience as Wolves of The Calla might for some.
With just one book left to go then Im looking forward to finally finishing the sequence. I polished off "Song of Susannah" in under a fortnight so I'm straight into the final book "The Dark Tower" and eager to savour the finale.
I hope you decide to try the Dark Tower series too!
Thanks for reading
*"Wizard and Glass" is the 4th book in the series and explains more about Black Thirteen.
ISBN ~ 0-340-82718-1
Published by Hodder and Stoughton
The hardback comes with some beautiful colour illustrations by Darrel Anderson.
Original price £20 although you will get better deals via Ebay and Amazon etc.
"Song of Susannah" is the sixth novel by Stephen King in the increasingly lengthy but hugely successful Dark Tower series. It is the penultimate novel of the series and this is both its greatest strength and its weakness. This novel cannot be read without any prior knowledge of the previous five and unlike his previous efforts King makes no attempts to involve new readers in the tale.
The stories main protagonist 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 continuing from his previous novel "Wolves of the Calla" Susannah Dean, Eddie's wife is possessed by a demon who has impregnated her with a child. She 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.
As you can see this tale is by no means a simple one which is why prior knowledge of the series is a prerequisite. This particular novel follows two separate paths that of Roland and Eddie as they try and track down Stephen King who they believe is the link to the Dark Tower and that of Susannah, Jake and Father Callahan and the potential birth of a demon child. This can be confusing even to an avid Tower reader like myself as skipping back and forth between two separate and loosely connected plotlines involves a lot of juggling by both King and the reader.
The action is frenetic and continues to read like a Spaghetti Western with the obligatory shootout but then King spends long portions of the novel explaining the history of the characters. These parts of the novel seem forced and lengthy. Characterisation has never been King's strong point and you can't help but feel the novel could have been cut in half if it wasn't for King's convoluted plot and insistence on twisting to and fro. King has been writing this series of books since 1970 and as such this novel suffers somewhat from padding in what seems like an attempt by King to begin to tie up loose ends.
Roland is great as always as the floored noble knight and Eddie plays a great sidekick. However, Susannah for me remains a weak link as a character. Although multi faceted and complex she is ultimately irritating and I feel little sympathy for her plight. Considering she takes up at least half of the novel this is disappointing. You feel more sympathy for the imperfect but ultimately more human demon possessing her.
In an almost unprecedented step King writes himself into the novel and as yet I cannot decide whether this is a bold or foolish move. I suppose only the final novel will decide this and you could never fault him for being formulaic. He continues to weave previous novels into the tale and in this he is largely successful.
However, I do feel that in this particular novel and perhaps through the whole series King is trying to hard. He has claimed himself that this is to be his epic series and I can't help but think the pressure of trying to write a modern day Lord of The Rings has told in this outing. As always King provides plenty of action and a twisting plot with a story told only how King can but this is by far the weakest novel of the series. One can only hope the climax to the tale is more befitting of what before now has been a great series.
As a collector of the series I had to own this but at £17.99 (£14 on Amazon) for the hardback I would wait for the paperback to come out unless you really love King.
Book Series: The Dark Tower