I think I’ve spent about seven years in the hands of Stephen King and on the quest for the Dark Tower alongside Roland of Deschain. Sure, I’ve read other books by other authors both good and bad, and there have been long periods where Roland just walked onwards, but I’d always wait, and he would be there again.
I bought the first book in the series The Dark Tower 1: The Gunslinger when it had not long been released in paperback and at a time when I had left Mr King. I was a fan for a long time, collecting all his early works, but something happened either to me or his writing and the bond broke. I have a number of unread hardbacks my Mother would still buy me when she still believed I was a fan, but at that time I was slipping away. Rose Madder, Desperation, Insomnia and Four Past Midnight to name but a few.
I came back his way for the Black House, an excellent follow up to the most amazing Talisman, a book which I feel is very close to the world of Roland and his ka-tet. Then I wandered away again. Always though, the call of Rolands quest took me back.
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunsligner followed.
I can’t remember why I bought the original book, considering how I felt about his writing at that time, but something made me buy it. Perhaps it was the fact that it looked so different and the blurb on the back of the book is so enticing, so wonderfully written, you are just pulled right in, and that first line. I had to buy it.
That was me, hooked from the opening line – yes you did well with that line Mr King, you’ve said you think it was the best ever opening line, and I might just agree with that – and from the opening book all the way through to the seventh and final, which I have just completed but more of that later.
So began Roland’s quest to the Dark Tower. Each book shows quite a different part of the quest and slowly reveals more and more of the character of Roland and the other characters involved.
Roland is a gunslinger, the last of a long line that defended their world to the last, but it fell. So he is journeying to the Dark Tower to try to save all the worlds that join there, and to climb the Tower and open that last door.
Now, I’m not going to talk about the stories too much, I’d rather you joined the stories as I did and learn and ride along with Roland, but I will talk about my experience with the books, and how I found that journey.
The stories start off much in a western feel, but very soon you see the tell-tale signs that this is not our world in the western times, but another world where the influences are mixed from ours, and I think that’s where I always found my biggest problem.
These little links with our world were fine, but often they were glaring and heavily contrasting to the world that I’d come to, and jerked me back out of the story with a jolt. I grew to accept these dips and read through them, but they were very difficult for me to get through. It was easier for me when the group were in another world, but the mention, for example, of a Beatles tune right in the middle of Roland’s home-world knocked me off track.
Still, I think can see what Sai King was doing here, if there were none of these links then the world would seem totally different, and perhaps be mistaken for a truly western or truly alien world. Plus they were necessary to show that all the worlds are linked and that there is seepage of songs, stories and even of people. For me, if these links had been made less obvious, less jarring, then I would have slid gracefully over them without so much bother.
The storytelling is excellent throughout. There is no doubt for me that during these books Sai King is on fire and I doubt his writing has ever been better or more enjoyable. You are gripped and dragged through the stories, sometimes running with him and sometimes with your hands on either side of the door frame pulling back from his grip and trying not to be ripped through the door with him. You can’t though. You can’t stop that pull, much the same as he writes that he couldn’t stop the pull of the telling of the tale, you can’t stop reading of it.
I was amazed how much I longed to digest the book, longed to have him write the next book and longed to get it. Usually a stickler for buying the paperback rather than the hardback that rule was thrown out the window and I purchased the next hardback like Eddie would make a purchase before he became Eddie – you readers will know of what I speak.
The characterisation is so good I believed in these characters, and I know this will sound totally pathetic to some, but I began to love them as friends. When the inevitable sad points of the story arrive, and in various of the books, I would be surprisingly unhappy and in the case of the final book I actually cried a number of times.
Now that to me is an excellent book, and it’s never happened to me before, really, never. Without giving anything away, I shed so many tears both happy and sad, throughout that final book, and nowhere so much but the closing chapters.
I’m really not going over the top when I say the following day I was downcast. I woke my girlfriend after completing the book at 2am – I had to keep reading, I was so close to finishing I could see the Tower myself – and get hugs because I was in huge sap mode and had been weeping for some time.
That’s not to say the series has an unhappy ending, there is both happiness and sadness, and in equal quantities, and I’m not disguising anything by saying that. There’s a beauty in the ending that I thought was perfect. Much the same as sai King thought the opening line was wonderful, the final chapter beats it hands down. It is perfect and completes it perfectly.
For me as well it was the ending of my own quest, one of following these characters for seven years, and holding on to the release of each book. Then, suddenly I realised that it was over, I would never read something new of these people and walk beside them, running close to them in battle and feeling the certainty of their quest. It was over.
I can’t say enough about the final book; it is absolutely perfect but only so because of the journey. I totally agree with what sai King says at the end of the book, talking about how the journey is the most important thing, and leaping to read the end of the book has no impact without following those characters on the journey.
I will be reading this series again and again, and pausing for a short while to let the final book pass by me and read a few different ones I shall return again to the Gunslingers tale and follow him once again on his quest.
My most humble thanks to Mr Stephen King, and if ever he should read this, I do hope he doesn’t baulk at the bad keymanship or grimace at some of the complimentary things said. I just truly believe this is one of the most amazing stories I have ever read.
Please, if you haven’t already, read the first book and join the quest. I really can’t recommend it highly enough or do it justice.
Stephen King: Dark Tower series
|II:||The Drawing of the Three|
|IV:||Wizard and Glass|
|V:||The Wolves of Calla|
|VI:||The Song of Susannah|
|VII:||The Dark Tower|