book review: the dark tower

book review: the dark tower


back when i was young and stupid and thought i wouldn’t like stephen king, i heard a lot about his “dark tower” series from a lot of people. number one thing being that it isn’t like his other books, and i would probably like it. (this before i realized he didn’t write horror all the time.)
so, in effort to get over my stupidity a few years ago (and GLAD I DID!!!), i bought my first king book, “the gunslinger,” and promptly read it. i was not entranced by the plot, but i was intrigued by his storytelling. a few months later i picked up “the green mile” and then all bets were off. i started reading mr king’s books left and right. WHY HAD I WAITED SO LONG???
but it was another year or so until i picked up the second DT book, and when i did, i was really turned off. i bet if i reread it now, it would be ok, but something just turned me off from that book at the time. i did finish it, but it took me a long time to pick up the third book – in fact, it was the end of this past march. and i flew through the rest of the series in a little more than a month, just finishing the final book last night.
contrary to popular opinion, i did not find anything wrong with the end at all. in fact, this series was the best vampire, zombie, time-traveling, parallel universe, post-apocalyptic, dystopian, auto-biographical, good vs evil, fantasy, sci-fi, literary-lifting, robot, meta, ego-stroking, writing advice/lesson, breaking of the fourth wall, deus ex machina, western, romance series i’ve ever read!
now, i’m going to go into some analysis and thoughts on the series, especially the last book, and if you plan on reading the books in the future, i suggest not reading the jump.

everyone i know hated the ending, while at the same time saying it couldn’t end any other way. i am intrigued by this, because the more i think about it, the more i really like the ending and think it’s appropriate. if you read robert browning’s poem, the one in which king found inspiration for this story, there is nothing in it about what poem-roland found in the tower. the poem ends as he blows his horn and goes to the tower.
king could have ended it like the poem, with roland entering the tower and the doors slamming shut behind him. but i think that would’ve pissed off his constant readers even more. instead, after giving readers their happy ending with susannah reuniting with eddie and jake, king decided to write past the poem. and what do we end up with? another door back to the beginning.

1. he needs atonement. he is still feeling guilty for killing his mother. ka understands this.

2. he needs the dang horn. the POEM-ROLAND BLOWS THE HORN. there is no horn because the book-roland lost it in an earlier battle. when the door/ka/gan spits roland out to the beginning again, guess what? HE HAS THE HORN. ka has decided, after many times of playing out the tower quest, roland is ready (for absolution?).

3. why WOULDN’T there be a door? this is not surprising at all. the entire series has been a series of doors.

4. the poem is all about the journey, not the destination; browning doesn’t even touch on what happens after roland gets to the tower. it makes complete sense that book-roland is once again thrown back for the journey. besides, however satisfying a book’s ending is, you can’t discount the 200/400/2489 pages that have come before it.

i have no beef with the end. there is hope in the horn, it’s consistent with what the book has been about with the doors into different whens and wheres, and it reflects the poem’s theme.
i do, however, have a beef with king putting himself in the books. i think that was a little too ego-stroking, even though he pokes fun at himself quite a bit. i’m not quite sure why, but the gunslingers’ journeys into present day one-world seemed a little off to me as well, and i was happy when they were back in tower territory.
i was pissed when eddie died. he was the best one. i was sad when jake died. but completely fell apart when oy died. WHY THE PETS. WHY WHY WHY.
and even though roland is the “hero” (or maybe anti-hero?) of the story, i did not feel the same connection to him as i did to the others. perhaps that’s why i am ok with the end. besides, not every end to a book needs to be a happy ending, and some of the best endings i’ve read have been the ones that make you step back and think about them. no, this isn’t a “it was all a dream!” ending, and no, they didn’t wake up on the starship enterprise at the end. i was appropriate, thought-provoking, and the only way it could have ended. i really liked it.

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