There are certain things that I can say have been with me most of my life. The Dark Tower series is one of them. (The Wheel of Time series, Star Wars, comicbooks have as well. Likely baseball too now that I think about it.)
So last night I’m paying ish attention to twitter while watching the world series and see this flit across my stream.
Wow! Finally finished Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. Those are long books. Enjoyed it, and liked the ending.
— Corey Haines (@coreyhaines) October 28, 2012
Which got me thinking about the whole series. Yes, the whole series. This is the point where my world-builder’s-disease kicks in. See, the Dark Tower is not just the ‘core’ seven books. It is in fact pretty much all his books. If it had a wizard, it is a Dark Tower book. If it had a lost puppy sign, it is a Dark Tower book. If it happened in Derry, it is a Dark Tower book. And yes, The Stand is absolutely a Dark Tower book.
But does the Dark Tower deserve all the praise it gets? I dunno.
For pure scope and intent, absolutely. But that almost feels like it was added after the fact. Or at lease communicated afterwards. Anyone reading King long enough understood his ‘universe’ held Derry near its center, but then suddenly it was part of something else. And his books would have asterisks next to books that were part of the Dark Tower. If it was always his intention to have things part of a larger epic, how come they were not there in the books that came out in the 80s and early 90s?
As for the individual books, on the whole I didn’t really enjoy them. The Gunslinger is a decent read, the next two feel like they are just moving the plot along and the flurry of the last three after his accident feel like a person’s sudden response to facing their mortality and fearing their epic won’t get completed. His inclusion of the accident in the final book seemed heavy handed and too breaking-the-fourth-wall ish. I literally stared at the page in disbelief when that happened. It is an interesting thought experiment to see how it all would have turned out had it not been for that fateful day…
‘Wizard and Glass’ however is an outstanding book and likely my favourite King book (with The Stand (unabridged) being a close second). Its enough of a standalone story that even if you have no want to read the whole series, it is worth a read. ‘The Wind Through the Keyhole’ is much the same tone and feel as ‘Wizard and Glass’ though outside of the main series. Chronologically it takes place before ‘Wizard and Glass’ but is another standalone book.
The more I think about it, the more I feel like the Dark Tower series proper has failed yet the world it has setup has succeeded greatly. ‘Wizard and Glass’ is character backstory set in the world. ‘Keyhole’ is character backstory about the world. ‘Hearts in Atlantis’ is secondary character backstory, etc. Similar to how the Terminator and Star Wars franchises were flushed out through Dark Horse Comics in the 90s, the Dark Tower is being flushed out by Marvel Comics.
What I think I would like to see however is more ancillary stories come out set in the Dark Tower world. Maybe not even by King, kinda like the Star Wars universe. (See The Thrawn Trilogy for instance to see how other can expand a universe while still staying true to it.) But now that Roland has been eight years since Roland reached the top of the tower and ‘Keyhole’ only came out this year gives me great hope that the world will continue to produce things to consume my money.
Other random bits in my head around the Dark Tower…
- ‘The Stand’ is a pretty ambitious book to choose for your first highschool book study
- I read ‘The Drawing of the Three’ (or started at any rate) during a school trip to Stratford to see ‘As You Like It’ and was listening to The Cure’s ‘Mixed Up’ so certain songs are forever associated with the book (such as ‘The Forest’)
- After reading the last page of ‘The Dark Tower’, I immediately went to this page