The Dark Tower by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I set out to read the Dark Tower series with an open mind. In the history of fantasy epics, it ranks near the top. However, the subject matter tends to be far-fetched at times while brilliant in others. Applause is deserved for this quality piece of work. While far from perfect, I felt satisfied and admit the ending made me think even now after over a week since I finished.
As I’ve said in previous reviews on the Dark Tower series, Stephen King’s insertion into the story as a key character came across as forced and in his own words ‘pretentious.’ I understand he wanted to illustrate the romance between art and reality, but this was too much. He could have just used another author’s name instead of his own and his point would have been made. Instead he looked like an egomaniac.
As a writer myself I understood, but did not condone his argument between art and reality. As a fan I can see why this tactic comes across as arrogant. The story should be about the story and the characters involved, not the author. There are other ways he could have made his point.
The use of language was downright annoying. It reached its height of frustration in ‘Wolves of Calla’ and mellowed from there. Side note: play a drinking game where you take a sip every time “say thankya” or “sai” is uttered and the story will take on a whole new meaning. This nonsensical phrasing was induced almost as an OCD tick more than meaningful dialogue.
So with all these black marks, why the 5 star rating? Well, despite its weaknesses, the strengths of this book more than makes up for its shortcomings. The pace and action is intense, a number of story lines finish up unpredictably and satisfactorily, and you feel every emotion and sensation with Roland as he experiences it firsthand.
Overall, if you’ve finished the Dark Tower series then you should feel a certain level of accomplishment. You can see why ‘epic’ is a term that doesn’t do it justice. It’s easy to read and you have to admire King’s story within stories.
Read more for the spoiler:
This theme is particularly noticeable throughout the series. I believe King was trying to play on the concept of literary heroism. Heroes become legends and thus live forever while villains are mostly remembered by their ends and those who vanquished them.
Since book one I felt that Roland lived in a purgatory of sorts. The ending only reinforced this belief. However, I really didn’t see the wheel of ka turn back to the beginning of his quest. I felt that King setup the finale for a happy ending where Roland would be reunited with all of those he lost along the way. If Mid-World was purgatory then Heaven must be attainable. Perhaps it is, but not so in this book. That I suppose is the true frustration of purgatory.
As Roland’s memory is erased he is left with the horn of Eld, an important artifact that was not present in his first journey. If he has done this trek hundreds of times then does he gain something or someone after every stage of his travels? Will the next quest feature another chance at redemption or an important character willing to enter the Dark Tower and stop his madness? I wonder if King will go back and write this quest again. He certainly left it over for that.
I for one hope there is more to the story of Roland.
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