Book Review: The Dark Tower by Stephen King

Book 20 of 2014

And so concludes my reading of the Dark Tower series.
I can’t believe it’s over. Having been with these characters through all their adventures, it feels strange to have reached the conclusion, to know how it all ended – or did it?

Okay, it’s likely to become spoiler-y from here on in, because I’m going to talk about the ending first, which I didn’t really intend when I started this review, but it’s where my thoughts are taking me so who am I to resist?

The ending seems to divide people greatly. I admit, at first I was a little surprised, and even went back and read the last few pages over again. Time passed, and I thought about it again and again, and the more I did, the more it felt satisfactory.

As the series progressed and the character of Stephen King featured more and more, I had this growing suspicion that ‘King’ would actually be ‘Crimson King’, and that would be who and what Roland would find at the very top of the Dark Tower. I read on, really hoping this wouldn’t turn out to be the case.
And it wasn’t.

Instead – those would do not learn from the past are destined to repeat it (or words to that effect), and so Roland opens the door onto the desert, right back where the whole adventure began all that time ago, and the saga closes with that brilliant opening line from The Gunslinger – the man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.

I loved reading that line at the end, because there was something that frustrated me about Walter’s eventual demise; it all began with him, and so I imagined there would be an eventual confrontation between him and Roland. When he met his grisly end at the hands/legs/other spidery appendages of Mordred I admit I felt a little cheated, for where was the confrontation I’d so hoped for? I thought to myself, ‘it all started with this character, I thought he would be there at the end’ – AND SO HE WAS, not quite in the way I expected, but in a brilliant way nonetheless.

I also like the way the ending opens out a whole universe of possibility, for this time, there is the hint of change, and the possibility that Roland will learn from the past and ultimately find some kind of resolution. This being the case, there’s the potential for a whole new story featuring these characters I came to know so well. Just think how different it could have been – had Roland never let Jake fall, would the adventure have played out completely differently?
Would the ka-tet have comprised the same people? (I really hope so).
Would they have met the same end? (I kind of hope they didn’t, and that they all found resolution in Mid-World, having saved the Beam). I like the idea the ka-tet was never broken, and that their long days and pleasant nights spanned many years in Mid-World.
So, ultimately, a good ending, which leaves plenty open for further adventures.

Now to what else struck me whilst reading. Firstly, I don’t think I’ve ever had so many emotional moments when reading a book. That’s probably partly because, after a whole series, you become so familiar with the characters that following them through to their eventual fates can be quite difficult.

Eddie’s death – It was Eddie’s final words, about waiting for Susannah, which really got to me, as did Susannah asking if he really had to die, and being told he did, and that she must bear it.

Jake’s death – Oy pulling Jake away from the exhaust fumes and licking his face clean was a pretty upsetting moment.

Oy’s death – I guess I should have known, but until it started happening I didn’t see it coming at all, so another tearful moment.

The reunion – I loved the scene where Eddie, Jake and Susannah were reunited in the park, in some other where and when, and the assurance that they did live, and that at some point Oy joined them too, made me tearful but in a good way.

Walter – I’ve mentioned already that his death didn’t come about in the way I was expecting. I thought there would be some final big confrontation between Walter and Roland

Time – Towards the end of the novel Roland reflects on being merely weeks away from the Tower, having spent years searching for it and suddenly that made me think of the concept of time. I came to this series very recently – long after they’d all been published, including The Wind Through The Keyhole – so I could read the whole series straight through, and have spent an enjoyable few months doing just that.

Even over such a short time I came to feel that I knew the characters really well, and found reading of their fates quite touching. Imagine having begun the series way back when it first came out, and reading along over the 20+ years it took for the series to be completed – the waits for each new instalment, the speculation about what would happen next, devouring the next book after a long wait.

Another thing Roland’s reflection made me realise – they’d been questing for so long that they must all have aged considerably in that time, and yet it never occurred to me until then that any of them looked any different than when they first appeared in The Drawing of the Three. I think all the time travel/different time lines element threw me off the traditional idea of aging as time passes.

So, to end this review – I think the series is brilliant, as is the concluding adventure of Roland and his ka-tet. I’m sure I will go back and read the series again at some time in the future because, knowing certain things now, I’m sure there are hints and clues about various things along the way which I will have missed first time around.

Read this series. It’s very long, but very worthwhile.

My Rating – 4.5/5





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