Warning, there be spoilers ahead!
It’s been about a year since I finished reading Stephen King’s Dark Tower series and I wanted to finally share a few thoughts on it. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it, although it is a long series (7 books), and most of the books are rather lengthy. But worth it. And you haven’t read it and plan to, avoid this post so you won’t read any spoilers. I was really careful not to read anything until I was done with the series because I hate spoilers.
I actually came to the Dark Tower series differently than most people. I first read the graphic novels about Roland as a young man, and I saw his friendship with Alain and Cuthbert and his love for Susan. While some people found The Gunslinger (book 1) a bit slow, I was riveted because I was already invested in Roland’s world and couldn’t wait to find out what else had happened since I’d last seen him as a teenager mourning the tragic loss of Susan. (Side note, I don’t think I ever finished all of the graphic novels but I would like to someday.)
There have been lots of books and articles that analyze the Dark Tower. I’ll be brief and list a few things I loved about the series:
1. The world. Worlds within worlds, some like ours and some not. Pretty amazing and mind-boggling stuff. I read the books almost one after the other with a couple breaks in between, so by the end I felt like walking around saying “thankee sai” because I was so caught up in the world Stephen King had created.
2. The characters. Roland especially. What’s not to love about Roland? He has an old world charm and he’s the kind of guy you don’t want to mess with. And yet you also want to take him and shake some sense into him because the damn tower is going to be the death of him and all his friends. And he doesn’t care. It’s his goal and he’s sticking to it. My next favorite character was Oy, because I have a soft spot for animals. His death was the one I feared the most.
3. The action sequences. Wolves of the Calla and The Waste Lands were my favorites in the series. Blaine the Mono and the city of Lud. Facing down the Wolves in Calla Bryn Sturgis. Pure gunslinger style.
4. The ending. Okay, I think a lot of people may disagree with me. I didn’t have to wait years and years to finish the series as people did who were reading them as King wrote them, and I’m not sure if I’d feel differently if that were the case. *SPOILERS* I really liked the idea of Roland finally getting to the top of the tower and… ending up back at the beginning. It worked perfectly for me. The reason is that as much as I love Roland as a character, he was an asshole much of the time. He cared more about the tower than anything or anyone else and he would have sacrificed all of the others in a heartbeat to get there. To me the idea that he didn’t get it right and would have to do it again–and keep doing it again–was poetic justice. Ka, if you will. He needed to learn from his mistakes and do things differently. Having Cuthbert’s horn gave me some hope as a reader that he might have a chance to succeed in his next try. In my mind I was expecting Roland to die when he entered the tower and find some peace, but I also felt like he didn’t really deserve that yet. So the ending worked for me.
Now for the one thing that really bothered me. My main frustration with the final book was with the villains. There was so much build up over Mordred, especially in Song of Susannah, and I was expecting something big. I mean, you have King Arthur references galore and Mordred is Roland’s son. I’m thinking of the legend of Arthur and Mordred killing each other on the battlefield and wondering how that might have some sort of reference here. And I have to admit, as much as I hated the spider (yes, Mordred is half spider and you know how much I love spiders–NOT), there were a few scenes where I had a bit of sympathy for Mordred the starving boy, until I reminded myself he was also a spider that liked eating eyeballs. I thought maybe there would be a big confrontation between Roland and Mordred and he’d be conflicted about killing his son, I don’t know, something. But dying of food poisoning? No last words between Roland and Mordred? What a waste! And I know there’s more of the Man in Black in King’s other books, which I haven’t read, but his ending also seemed anticlimactic. And ditto with the Crimson King. As soon as we learned what the Artist could do with his erasers, I know what was going to happen to the Crimson King. He posed little threat to Roland with his sneetches, which Roland could easily shoot down. Again, lots of build up but little return. I don’t know if Stephen King was trying to say something profound here, but for me it was just annoying.
Still, on the whole, thumbs up for the Dark Tower series. If you haven’t read it, go get the books and stretch out in a comfy chair and be prepared for the ride of your life.
Nice post. I pretty much read the books as they came out so it was a long and frustrating wait between them. Each time a new one came out, I’d start at the beginning and read through the books again to prepare for the new one. I can’t remember which book…might have been the fourth…that, once finished, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I was in a daze for days. I think I still had a dial up connection then, but I found a chat room where I linked up with a group of about twenty people and we “parleyed” about the book, taking on character roles and King’s speech. We’d go long into the night. That lasted for weeks.
I think Mordred and all of the villains in King’s books are usually disappointing. I think he toys with us, making us fear them so much, then when we find out what they really are, it’s like realizing there’s nothing frightening under the bed or lurking in the closet. Like a lesson in how we build up frightening things until they’re monsters when they’re really just a spider or a little boy…monsters we’ve made up in our head. The horror in his books are more about what that fear does to the characters we’re traveling with, than what is really frightening us.
Now you make me want to read them again!
I felt like that after I read the last book. I think I sat there for about half an hour in a daze. It was so intense. Then I finally allowed myself to look things up online and read reviews to see what other people thought.
Interesting comment about the villains in his books. The only other one I’ve read is Salem’s Lot, which I should re-read now because it was a while ago and I don’t remember much about it. I guess in a way Roland is his own worst enemy. He sacrifices everything for the Tower and doesn’t even realize what he’s lost until it’s too late. But I still think there was a wasted opportunity with Mordred.