The Dark Tower

by Stephen King

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The End of the Quest *****

After more than 20 years and 4000 pages, this series ends. Some of the seven books in this series were very good, even excellent. I believe my favorites were the first, "The Gunslinger," and the fourth, "Wizard and Glass." I think the book I struggled with the most was the fifth, "Wolves of the Calla." This book falls somewhere in the middle, with the exception of the ending.

I am loath to speak much of the details of this book. If I do I threaten to reveal things that are better for the reader to discover. Discovery is one of the most important parts of reading a story. In the case of this story, King specifically states in his afterward that this book, and the series by extension, should be read not for the ending, but for the journey, and I agree. The ending has little meaning unless you have taken the journey through the seven books, one, by, one. However, I must reveal a few details to entice you to start and carry on through the series.

We have followed the ka-tet of Roland Deschain, Eddie Dean, Susannah Dean, also known as Odetta and Detta and for a while as Mia, Jake Chambers, and Oy the billy-bumbler, for a long time. The end of all things is, as is often the case in real life, sad. The end of all things is bound to cause some to see the wisdom in the ending, and others to cry foul. In this rare case I must admit that I agree with Stephen King that the story has written itself, and the end is the only way it could have ended. I tried considering other alternative endings, only to discover that none of them worked. I will get back to the ending shortly, because there is a corner that King painted himself into early on in the series that provided the basis for the ending (which I still will not reveal).

This story is long and complex. We pick up the story at the time of Mordred's birth, and the escape from Fedic. The story travels back and forth between New York, Maine and the Tower keystone world. We learn that Mordred is complex. We learn of Ted Brautigan, from the book "Hearts in Atlantis," though it is not important to read that book to understand this story. We also see Roland and his ka-tet stop the Breakers from destroying the beams, as we knew they must. It is from this point that Roland and the ka-tet then go forward to seek the Dark Tower.

Mixed into this story are a multitude of complexities, which I have little time and even less desire to reveal. Roland travels to New York and meets characters previously introduced at the Tet Corporation. We meet other characters with incredible powers, and see potential in them that Stephen King should also have seen, and either needed to explain away, or accomplish. For example, why is it that Patrick did not draw himself a new tongue? Further, Patrick should have had the ability to draw Susannah new legs. While King often explains the weaknesses in his epic story as being ka, I think it shows that King struggled at times with the complexity of his own story.

This book has the most action of any of the books, with some of the slowest interludes of the any of the books. However, the interludes are somewhat necessary to allow the reader to comprehend what has happened, and to allow the reader to consider what might happen next. This book also has some of the highest body counts of any of the books.

Readers have complained about portions of the stories. As one example, King built Mordred up and discussed him for hundreds of pages, and yet his final role was relatively short. Yet, through Roland King revealed previously that most action is lots of preparation with little real action, and the showdown between Mordred and Roland went nearly as much as I thought it would, though I missed the importance of the associated consequences, which is where some disappointed readers missed the importance of Mordred. It was the interaction between Mordred and Roland that lead to numerous consequences for Roland and the remainder of the ka-tet, and thus was the importance of Mordred to the story, not the battle between them.

In the end, each reader needs to recall that the story has always been Roland's story. Roland was always focused on a particular goal, and while Roland sometimes tried to be moral, he kept sight of that goal. Roland's behavior through 4500 pages of story has been consistent.

Recall also that King clearly pointed out that time moves linearly in the "real" world. Yet, time in the keystone world of the Dark Tower does not. Consider also that in one of the previous books that in the discussion of the failing of the beams that King pointed out that the magic that created the beams was failing, and the machines too were failing. The question becomes, or should become, how can the magic continue to survive? King created a clever way for the beams to live forever, or nearly forever, in spite of the potential for their failure.

As for the angry reader, I am sorry that you are angry. I am not angry, because the ending was disturbing, and yet satisfactory. The fact that it causes readers to think, and perhaps even feel compelled to write to Stephen King, means by definition that King reached you. It would have been more disturbing had people cared insufficiently to feel anything. Before you allow your anger to color your thoughts longer, consider the philosophical ramifications of the ending, and then think even longer. It was a very good, nearly great ending.

I leave this review the way it all began, from "The Gunslinger,"

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed..."

Lonni E. Holder "The Review's the Thing"




what happened...? *

Imagine if you had to wait ten years in between each book of the Lord of the Rings. Then imagine after being entranced by the first two books, surprising in their originality, wonder and realistic depth, you wait another decade, pick up The Return of the King, and halfway through, J.R.R Tolkien walks into Middle Earth, shakes Frodo's hand, and proceeds to explain to him how he conceived of the idea of hobbits as a bedtime story for his children.

Then read on for a bit more, and find that Sauron, Lord of Mordor, is in actuality not evil incarnate, but just some pissed off guy, yelling on the balcony of his tower.

Then, just as Frodo walks into the tunnel leading to the Cracks of Doom, there's an interjection BY THE AUTHOR, telling you that it's time to stop reading now.

Imagine all this, and then you begin to get a good idea of how what began as a truly unique and genere shattering epic and potential genuine magnum opus can go out with a groan instead of a bang.

Anybody who loved this series in its entirety, I cannot fault you. But I can say that you were not as dedicated and engulfed in the world of the gunslinger and his new friends as the rest of us were. You are the guys who never watch the ballgames until it's on the news that your team's made the playoffs for the first time in 30 years, and then you go out and buy their hat to wear at the sports bar.

You liked it because you don't care. You liked it because you were expecting just another decent story, and that's what you got. For you it was never real.

The rest of us were expecting a revolutionary epic, because all those years ago when we first found ourselves in the strange world of the gunslinger, we saw all the makings of one.

We saw the potential for something truly magnificent, and we're sad and disillusioned and pissed off as we contrast what could have been with what has come to be. We wonder how something that started so good could end so badly.






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