Quint has completed his journey to THE DARK TOWER! Review of Book 7 here!!!
Published at: Sept. 3, 2004, 3:27 a.m. CST by staff
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a look at the final book in Stephen King's DARK TOWER series appropriately titled THE DARK TOWER. If you're a Dark Tower nutter like me, then I know that you're looking forward to King's final book with a mixture of excitement, trepidation and sorrow. Excitement about seeing the conclusion of a great saga, but trepidation at whether or not King can pull it off... and sorrow due to saying goodbye to some old, fictional friends. Like my SONG OF SUSANNAH review, I will try to keep this as spoiler-lite as possible, but I am going to go into a bit more detail about the book than I did in the review of Book 6. I will warn you before I tread into anything I'd consider more than a mild-spoiler.
When I got ahold of an Advance Reading Copy of SONG OF SUSANNAH, Book 6 of the series (CLICK HERE TO READ MY THOUGHTS ON THAT BOOK!), I read through it in about 12 hours of straight reading. I noticed as I started reading The Dark Tower that I kept putting the book down and finding other things to do. Sure, I've been a little bit busier than I was when I got the advance of SONG OF SUSANNAH, but there were times when I could have been reading THE DARK TOWER, but I wasn't. And it wasn't because the book is bad or I found it uninteresting. On the contrary, I think THE DARK TOWER has some of King's best writing in the series, maybe of his career. Monsters are abundant and scary, the characters are popping, the cameos are awesome, the losses (and there are losses) are felt to the bottom of your heart and the action is superb.
I realized I kept putting off the book because somewhere deep down I knew this was it. I've been following Roland's adventures for almost 10 years and through most of those years I knew that I still had a long way to go, more adventures to go on with Eddie Dean of New York, Susannah Dean of New York, Roland Deschain of Gilead, Jake of New York and Oy of Mid-World. Very much like when I was reading THE STAND, I got to a point where I liked the characters so much I wished the book would somehow never end, that even though I kept turning pages, the story would go on forever.
So, I was taking my time, but by doing that, reading it in 10-20 minute spurts, I realized was missing the momentum King was setting up. After about 120 pages, I just sped through it and what did I find?
The first 3/4ths of THE DARK TOWER is as good as King has ever been and feels closer to the first three novels than any of his "post-accident" installments. The twists are fresh and unexpected, the monsters pop out of the woodwork (four words: "Spider with human head") and the ka-tet are fighting the fights they have been building up to since Book 2. Then comes an earth-shattering moment about half-way through where the ka-tet is broken. I know, I know... you may be packing up those anthrax-filled envelopes and figuring out the best way to plant those car bombs while muttering "What the fuck, Quint?!? You said you'd let me know about spoilers!!!"
I wouldn't have sprung that on you if King himself didn't set it up well in advance with a fantastic feeling of foreboding by introducing ka-shume, a feeling of dread felt by all members of a ka-tet that means the ka-tet is about to be broken. For chapter upon chapter he builds the tension, driving you nuts, never really giving you any real idea which character we've been following for 20 or so years is about to get taken out of the game. But now's as good a time to announce that from here on out consider yourself in a mild-spoiler area. I will talk vaguely, but for those super-sensitive then you may want to leave now knowing that I love the first 3/4ths of the book, but feel the lead up to the actual Dark Tower and what happens there is a little anti-climactic.
Let's get a little into the plot, shall we? When last we left the series, the ka-tet was separated. Susannah was deep inside The Dixie Pig sharing in the birth of Mordred and in the hands of the low-men. Father Callahan, Jake and Oy were outside of The Dixie Pig ready to bust in guns blazing and 'Riza plates flying. Roland and Eddie were stuck in Maine trying to lock down ownership of the vacant lot in New York where a certain rose is growing. There are losses early on into the book and same crazy mad plate throwin'. Susannah sees the child that is partially hers and sees what horror it hides behind its chubby baby-face. A new battle needs to be waged to free or kill The Breakers who are damn close to severing the remaining beams that hold the Dark Tower up and this proves to be the final great battle that stands between our friends and the Dark Tower itself. We also meet some familiar faces along the way... I won't spoil the appearances, but I will say that Travelin' Jack does not pop up (I know a lot of you were predicting his appearance in the series), but we do get reunited with an old friend and a very eventual dude. I think to say any more would really be a disservice to the story. King does a beautiful job of laying it out, so I will do no more to cock-block the man. Let's get into my reactions from reading the book.
I'm not one to get emotionally involved with books... for some reason horror books never scare me (with the exception of a few chapters of IT -Dead Pipe, anyone?- and THE SHINING -Danny in the concrete cylinder-) and I never really get to the point where I get emotional over the characters. That's not to say I'm not empathetic or don't care, I just am usually not moved to any sort of physical show of emotion.
Not so here. Maybe it's because I've been following this series for so long and from such a young age, but there were a few moments where I literally had to stop reading because my vision was too blurred to continue on. And when that first ka-tet member steps into the clearing at the end of the path... I was torn up something fierce and in a depression for a day or two. I actually give a lot of credit for King in how he handled this section of the book. He could have handled the breaking of the ka-tet in a very different way, but he did it with a perfect mix of love, respect and tension. I honestly believe that in set up, tension and emotion THE DARK TOWER is some of King's best writing.
Where the book falters a bit is after King's final appearance in the series (well... final appearance as King himself)... there's a horrific chase scene shortly after that bit that'll have you on edge and wide-eyed when reading, but after that it just kind of lumbers. I think King was trying to drive home the feeling of loss at that point, which I understand. I think he made it purposefully uncomfortable, but that doesn't mean I liked it. Then there comes a Stephen King classic villain appearance that made me extremely happy. If you've got a sharp eye, you'll be able to figure it out just ahead of the game.
Unfortunately, one of the things that bothered me a little bit was just how easily taken care of some of these villains who have been built up since the early '80s in both THE DARK TOWER and other King novels. That also ties into the appearance of the Dark Tower itself... Maybe it was just me, but I had it in my mind that there would be a huge battle at the steps of the Tower. The ka-tet (or what was left of it) in the field of roses against the armies of the Crimson King and/or Randall Flagg (Walter), but as you'll find when you read it the finale comes a little easier than that. I don't know, I was just hoping for it to take a little more to win the Tower.
That brings us to the Tower itself. The reveal is perfect. I won't say anymore than that, but I would like to touch on the ending a bit, without getting specific enough to spoil anything, of course. About 10 pages from the end, King actually stops as the writer and suggests to the reader that we may not want to read any further because we might not like what we see. In many ways I wish I had taken his advice because what is found in the Tower is... well, let's just say that it almost makes you ask if it was worth the losses and the crazy emotional roller-coaster ride we've been on.
That's not to say the ending's a cop-out. It most certainly isn't. King makes a point in the Author's Note that he fully expects the fan reaction to be a little peeved, but he asks us to consider that the story was more about the journey than the destination and also that he himself didn't 100% like the ending, but it was the only one that "fit". While I'm not so sure about all of that, I do agree that the ending fits and you may even be able to predict it by really taking into consideration one of Roland's favorite sayings. So, while not a cop-out, the ending will piss off some of the fans. There is a lot to consider about the final 1 or 2 pages, though. So look closely. More than that I can not say without giving something major away.
I'm not sure what else I can say besides that I love, with all my heart, most of this book and besides some serious pacing issues I have with the final third of the book it's one of the best in the series. I could even accept the ending a little more if there was really a huge build to the conclusion. It didn't need a Pelennor Fields, but it did need that little something, that oomph or moment of hopelessness before Mordor is destroyed or, in the case, the Tower is gained, to really make the series pay off.
All in all, this is a damn good, but not perfect, conclusion to one of my favorite series ever written. The greatness of the book only adds to my enjoyment of the series as a whole and the disappointments in no way take away from what came before, which in and of itself is a small miracle in this age of disappointing additions to beloved series.
The Artist Editions of THE DARK TOWER should be shipping in a week and a half from GRANT BOOKS, who are running a great combo deal if you wish to purchase the Artist Edition of THE DARK TOWER, but didn't buy the Artist Edition of SONG OF SUSANNAH. The Artist Edition is bound with Smyth sewn binding, probably has different cover art and is limited to 5000 copies signed by the artist, Michael Whelan, who did arguably the best work of the series in THE GUNGLINGER. If you go to Grant Books' website, they're offering a bulk deal. If you get the BLACK HOUSE/TALISMAN gift set (which is signed by Author Peter Straub and artist Rick Berry and has new illustrations by Berry) you can also order the Artist Edition of THE DARK TOWER. I paid $65 for my reserved copy of the Artist Edition of THE DARK TOWER and the BLACK HOUSE/TALISMAN set usually sells for $150, but you can get them both together for $165, which is damn nice deal as some of the Artist Edition of THE DARK TOWER are already selling for almost that price on Ebay. CLICK HERE TO ORDER ANY OF THE ABOVE FROM GRANT'S WEBSITE!!!
That about wraps it up for this wordslinger. I hope you Dark Tower nutters like me enjoyed the early look at THE DARK TOWER. It took some doing to wrangle that beautiful blue ARC, but Ka was kind to me. Thanks for reading and if you wish for any more detail on certain small things in the book, feel free to email me, but I'll tell ya' now that I won't give away the ending or who makes it to the Dark Tower. Also, I don't know anything about a cinematic telling of this series... As far as I know, nothing is moving on this because of King's trepidation of letting the Dark Tower series out. BUT, I recently did an interview with Richard Kelly (which should pop up here by next Monday) and I found he's a huge King fan and huge Dark Tower fan. He may be testing the fences on this series and that's pretty exciting if you ask me. More info on that, words straight out of Kelly's mouth, coming soon. 'Til then this is Quint bidding you all a fond farewell and adieu while leaving you with the best illustration from the entirety of the series.