The Dark Tower finishes – or does it?

First, two things.

One – I apologise for not appearing more often on the blog! Life has taken over any spare time that I once had…

Two – if you are reading Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, but haven’t finished yet, skip this post! I will be revealing all!!

So – The Dark Tower. As a long term fan of King’s work, I’ve been looking forward to the last book since my brother introduced me to the series when I was a teenager – but negelected to tell me that not all of the books had been written yet! I pounced on ‘Wizard and Glass’ when it came out. In fact, I took it with me on my first field trip as a teacher, and as a consequence remember nothing of the 4 hour coach trip to Edmonton… It was partly that it had been so many years since I had read ‘The Waste Lands’ and needed to re-introduce myself to the ka-tet, but also that the story of Roland’s first love was so powerful – I have rarely resented anything half as much as having to return to reality in the midst of the story when we arrived in Edmonton…

I had a similar reaction when ‘Wolves of the Calla’ was given to me as a Christmas present last year. I think Richard knows the look now – ‘if you bother me in the middle of this book I may do you some serious harm’ – and leaves me alone to inhale the story. ‘Inhale’ really isn’t the right word – ‘drinking in’ isn’t the right phrase, either – it’s almost like I suck it in through my pores. Anyway. So when I received ‘Song of Susannah’ and ‘The Dark Tower’ from my parents-in-law for Christmas this year, I knew that Richard was in for some long, chilly looks and a lot of silence from his wife in the next week or so… Fortunately, I’m an early riser (our furry alarm clock helps – she goes off at about 6.30, even on weekends and holidays…) and he’s not, so I tended to read for about three hours before I heard stirring upstairs, and finished both novels well before New Year. In fact, I was well into book 7 before I realised I was finished book 6 – just picked up the next one and kept reading. (Is that how chain-smokers feel??) Not having read them separately lead to an interesting discussion with a former student the first week back at school. He has only relatively recently discovered the series, and was determined to beat me to the post (I won, ha-ha!!) but we did have good discussion on the quality of ‘Song of Susannah’. Both of us felt that it was somewhat of a transitional story, and that the writing in of King as a main character could have been done differently, and somewhat better. Having said that, I do understand (I think – I wouldn’t dare to presume!!) what King was trying to do. He says himself that it wasn’t until well into his writing career that he realised that most, if not all, of his fiction was interrelated in some way. Some direct links are, of course, ‘Salem’s Lot with Pere Callahan in ‘Wolves of the Calla’, and, of course, the reference to Dolores Claiborne killing her husband in Jessie’s flashback to the ‘incident’ with her father during an eclipse in ‘Gerald’s Game’. But to write yourself into the main story itself… Smacks a bit too much of ‘deus ex machina’ to me, although King does treat it with humour and an acknowledgement of the way in which it might be viewed by fans…

My main problem and disappointment (I struggled very hard not to be disappointed with this, but I haven’t succeeded…) with Susannah is, in fact, the way she goes out of the series in ‘The Dark Tower’. I know the girl has had a really rough life, but to have her end up in a world with both another Jake an another Eddie and the have them perfect, not strung out, not hell bent on gunsliging, and for them to be brothers? Even for someone who gave birth (even vicariously) to a monster and to whom is due some happiness as a reward for all her pain, this seems to be a cheat of a life. She knows it’s not her Eddie or her Jake when she goes through the door, and she goes anyway. I know that options for her survival were limited if she stayed with Roland, and I know that she felt Roland was responsible for Eddie’s and Jake’s deaths and all that, but it felt like cheating somehow, to have her alive and kicking and with her heart’s desire when Roland has to start all over… I just feel that it didn’t end well for her. Roland having to do it all again – I get that. That seems right, for someone so driven to have to do it again and again until he gets it right, but Susannah’s finish doesn’t feel right to me.

Having said that, I was intensely curious as to what Roland would find at the top of the tower. (Well, who wouldn’t be – it’s only been plugged since the beginning of the series…) And to be perfectly frank, I’m not sure any other ending would have fit. Other than, of course, not letting us know, and finishing with Roland entering the tower and the door slamming shut. I do think that it’s fitting that, having written seven books (or more, depending on how you view the body of King’s work) about the journey, that it would finish with a continuation of that journey. And what difference would having the Horn of Eld with him make on this journey? Would it help him to remember the face of his father more clearly? Would it prevent the birth of Mordred? Would it alleviate the need for the Drawing of the Three? And what kind of story would it be without these characters?

I do think that that King’s accident has had an effect on these closing novels – it’s given him a way to kill off Jake, for one – and I’m not sure that it’s been a positive effect. Having said that, would any conclusion to a series with twenty years of cult followers have a satisfactory ending? In some ways, it’s all in its perception by the reader. And what piece of fiction doesn’t have that burden? I look forward to rereading these in the years to come and seeing if my delights and disappointments continue. I do feel that Roland and his ka-tet will be good friends for a long time to come.

Song of Susannah (The Dark Tower) The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower

2 thoughts on “The Dark Tower finishes – or does it?”

  1. So, I finished the Dark Tower Series this morning at 4:00am; my youngest son has been asking me for the last couple of days if this was the last book. In any case, the ending was kind of sad. I mean when you think back to all that Roland had to go thru to get to his destination..Also, I wonder as you said if he will ever get it right. If maybe the “right way” is to to not even finish the journey to the tower, but to stop and enjoy the company of those he has met (the next time thru, does he draw Susannah, Jake and Eddie again ??). Also, somewhat implicit in the story ending is the view that even though the saving of the Beam was necessary, the final approach to the Tower was not ??. I think at this point, I have so many more questions than answers. Oh well. Ka

  2. I totally agree. Specificly, I was not happy about the plot quality in the last half of “Dark Tower VII”. For one MAJOR reason especially…it was Mr. Kings trick of writing himself directly into the plotline as a character more important than even roland… this really destroyed my imagined version of mid-world. After this i was never able to fully get back into the story. It all seemed so fake. (like when you can see the actor under the monster costume in a bad movie)

    I loved this series… but now i feel rather cheated. thats life i guess.

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