Thursday, November 5, 2009

CRII: Book 1: The Dark Tower (book 7) by Stephen King

Well, I picked a hell of a week to read an 800+ pager. But... it is DONE. Don't know if this is necessary, but *spoilers ahead*:

Stephen King's Dark Tower series is his "magnum opus," as he calls it. It is, to be brief, the tale of gunslinger Roland Deschain of Gilead, son of Steven, of the line of Eld, and his quest to reach the aforementioned tower. It is his ka, his destiny, to do so. In his travels, he draws three others to him - they become his ka-tet - and they fight not only to help him reach the tower but also to save existence itself.

Yeah, I'm glossing over the first six books a bit... but this is all about the finale, right? Say thankya.

I knew, going into the series, that Stephen King had written himself into the series. I recall reading a thread on Pajiba that talked about an upcoming movie adaptation. I read the comments and decided that I wanted to read the series for myself, but not before I caught that King had made himself a character. So I was expecting him to make an appearance... but I wasn't expecting him to use himself in such a meta fashion. And, to be honest, I found his presence rather frustrating. As I read the first 5 books, I found myself becoming engrossed in Roland's world(s), becoming invested in these characters, and wanting to know what would happen when Roland's ka-tet finally reached that damn tower. But King's presence took me out of that world. And then, in the final book, King steps in and saves the characters from a villain named Dandelo by introducing a deus ex machina... that he specifically calls out as such.

Talk about breaking the glammar.

But what about the tower, you may be asking? Well, Roland does reach it, and I actually wasn't too surprised at what he finds. Ka, after all, is a wheel.

And he reaches it without his ka-tet at his side. I found myself tearing up as one character after another reached the clearing at the end of the path... but the epilogue turned those tears into ones of joy.

I have my quibbles. King can be incredibly loquacious and blather on and on for pages, like when describing the journey the characters went on to reach Odd Lane, but then be frustratingly vague about other things. Like the Crimson King - all that build-up about this hugely important villain, only to have him undone by a f*cking eraser? And who the hell was he? This entire time, I expected him to be revealed as Merlyn, in line with the whole "Arthur the Eld" theme.

But King would probably say I was missing the point. To me, it seems the whole idea is that he has no control over what he writes, but that it controls him. Like poor Roland, who is fated to make that long, treacherous, and lonely trek to the tower ad infinitum... until he gets it just right. To King and his gunslinger, it's all about the journey, not the destination... no matter how much it calls one's name.


  1. I quit the series after King wrote himself in. Not only because I thought it was an incredibly frustrating event and lazy, but because I felt that by that point in the series he'd gotten way too impressed by his own writing, if that makes sense. Honestly, from what I've read about the 7th book, I have yet to regret my decision.

  2. I read the first 4 of them, and loved them. The fifth one took so long to come out, and I wanted to wait for the trade edition, so even longer, that I had pretty much entirely forgotten what goes on in the first 4. My Thimothy read 5, 6, and 7, and liked them well enough, I suppose, but I'm going to need to re-read the entire series, I think, in order to get through those last 3. I'm thinking of putting them on my list, only because I really am interested in seeing how it all comes out in the end.

    Nicely done, MelBiv!

  3. I also picked an 800+ page book and am kicking myself in the ass for it.

    I adore Stephen King. I really do think he's nothing short of brilliant. So you can understand just how hard I fell when I read the last book in the series. Rusty's right: it was lazy. He could have done so much better. Yes, Ka is a wheel and the whole idea worked, but it was the easy road just the same.

    Good luck on the next book!