Friday, May 23, 2008
The Dark Tower
OK, so I'm finally going to post something about... anything. Been long enough, hasn't it?
Much of this past spring has been spent with my friends Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy. For the first time since 2004, when Stephen King finished his epic Dark Tower saga, I read all seven of the books in one go, relishing my time spent with the characters. This is a series that I talk about to (and pretty much push upon) everyone I know, and yet very few have actually taken me up on this journey.
Time and again, I argue that it's one of the greatest series of recent years. And yet, despite King being one of the most famous authors out there, almost no one has read it. Even a lot of hardcore King fans are intimidated by it or think it won't be their cup of tea.
The first book, The Gunslinger, is a big part of why some people won't read the series. Out of all the books, it is the most heavily based in the Western genre - rinky-dink towns in the desert, nameless gunslingers just passing through, the not-quite-innocent woman. You can practically feel the sun beating down on your neck as you read. And yet, it contains one of the most epic sentences ever written - "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."
As the books progress, more and more of King's supernatural tendencies show up, and the references to his other books begin to pile up as well. But it's Roland and his ka-tat that hold the story together. They are a family, a tight-knit group, and what happens to them is almost more important that what is happening to the world around them.
**Here be spoilers**
The wait between books 4 and 5 was 8 years, and King was really only pushed to finish the series after his almost-fatal accident in 1999. As a result, that accident plays into the books (especially book 7, The Dark Tower), a fact that apparently caused many readers a good deal of grief. Not me, though.
That's not to say I wasn't pissed when King showed up as a character in book 6 (Song of Susannah). But with book 7, it became clear that that was the only way the story could have happened. Had there been no pressure for him to write the stories, they never would have been written. Had he not come close to death on the side of a road in rural Maine on June 19th of 1999, he might never have had the guts to finish Roland's story.
**There be spoilers**
The Tower took up so much of my thought process while I reread it this year, it even invaded my other blog.
If you've already started the series (or have finished...but then, you're really never done with the Tower, are you?), there are a few great additional resources out there. Robin Furth's Concordance is an encyclopedia of Tower tidbits, sure to entertain and enlighten the most hardcore Tower fans. Bev Vincent's The Road to the Dark Tower is also fantastic, and he sums up all of the books while pointing out useful trivia or important themes.