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
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..."
Holder "The Review's the Thing"
what happened...? *
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
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.