King’s new Dark Tower book may be a misstep
Stephen King has often said that The Dark Tower series is his magnum opus, the great work for which he has been striving his entire life.
Set in an epic background, the story and characters are a strange compound of the Browning poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” and Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns.
Roland Deschaine of Gilead is a wandering gunslinger, seeking a legendary edifice known only as The Dark Tower, said to provide the underpinnings for the fabric of reality itself.
At odds with Roland is a mysterious figure known as the Crimson King. His agents are working to bring down the Tower, and plunge the universe into a dark abyss of evil.
Fighting at Roland’s side are three companions – a young boy named Jake who Roland was once forced to let die, but has returned, an ex-junkie named Eddie who, though young, has the gunslinger fierceness and toughness of mind, and his lover, Susannah, a black paraplegic and veteran of the civil rights movement, who is sometimes possessed by the spirit of an evil woman.
If this sounds like a hodgepodge, you’d be right on the money. There are enough different influences here to keep the average reader thumbing back and forth. Since the action takes place over six (so far) novels, it can be daunting to keep pace with who and what some of the terms and
King does a fairly good job of juggling these for the reader, and often provides back story where he deems it necessary, but you would not want to approach this novel without having read the previous five, under any circumstances.
In this novel, Roland and his compatriots seek to locate their companion Susannah, who, possessed by an evil spirit, has absconded with a frightful artifact and escaped through a magic portal.
Save one big gunfight, the book does not harbor a great deal of action for a gunslinger novel. Most of what occurs is in the minds of the characters, or in dialogue.
The settings and tone of the book are sufficiently creepy, and if you’ve followed these characters through the five previous novels, you’re likely to have built up some concern for them.
Where King may have made a crippling mistake was in introducing himself as one of the characters. In fact, he plays a major role in the book, as the author of the characters of the story.
There are many literary critics who already despise King, and this will do nothing to endear him to them. The trick is hokey; it’s been done before, and never to good effect.
However, having already built up a great deal of anticipation with his previous books, King’s fans will probably love it.
People who adore self-referential humor will find it at least cute, and King does a deft job of blending his own reality with the fiction of his characters.
Expect the critics to revile King for it, and expect his fans to adore the effect.
The ending may come as a bit of a shock, especially when King begins to pull in headlines from our own world – with a not-so-subtle twist.
In all, it will be a satisfying read to fans of the series, and this reviewer is one.