Before I launch too far into this, let me warn you now. This review will contain huge SPOILERS for the last installment of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series, The Dark Tower
. If you've not read it and don't want to know some things--such as how it all ends--then I urge you to turn back now.
In a lot of ways, it's hard to really crystalize how I feel about this book. At this point in my reading life, I've spent thousands of pages with the quest to reach the Dark Tower--both within King's seven book series about Roland and company trying to reach the Dark Tower and in all of the other King books that touch upon his Dark Tower universe. For me, this novel was almost bittersweet in a lot of ways--there was going to finally be some type of closure and ending to the series, but I was also going to miss looking forward to when the next novel would come out and the eager anticipation I got from reading each one. After all, there can never be another first time for reading the books in the series and even though King has stated he's going to go back and tweak some minor things in the editing, from now on, the quest for the Dark Tower is complete.
I'll say this--there were so many expectations for how this series would end that I think no ending could have lived up to them. That said, I think King did a pretty decent job with ending it. Whether you like the ending or not is up to your preference. But I will give King this--it ended in pretty much one of the only ways it possibly could have ended without being having fans rushing to his doorstep with pitchforks and torches.
The final chapter of the Dark Tower saga has a lot happening in it. It' s a bloody saga to the end, high body count--both for the bad guys and our heroes. Along the way, King has the reality of our world and the fictional world of the Dark Tower cross paths. The book roughly breaks down into thirds. The first third is bent upon resolving the cliffhanger from Song of Susannah
with the ka-tet working together to stablize the Beam and thus, prevent the destruction of the universe . This portion of the novel works fairly well, but it's not the speediest of reading. King brings in lots of characters from other books that have touched upon the Dark Tower saga here and a lot of my time was spent going, "Oh yeah, that's this character from this novel." King gives some explanation and background so if you've only read the Dark Tower novels, you can pick up on the storyline, but he also leaves some nice gems in there for "constant readers" to discover for themselves. The next third of the novel is devoted to the breaking of the ka-tet and the saving of Stephen King from his death at the end of the last novel. This part is the portion of the novel that flew by the quickest for me as King pulls out all the stops. It goes from breathless suspense to abject horror in just a few pages and its done with ease. I won't give away a lot of the events of these two sections because it's a lot of fun to go in without knowing what will happen to any of these fictional characters. The final third of the novel is Roland and company pressing on to the Dark Tower. It wraps up some of the threads from the series and this novel in a pretty nice package, though the resolution to the Mordred subplot seems a bit anti-climatic.
The Dark Tower is really all about the conseuqences of the quest--about what the cost of doing the "right thing" is. Make no mistake--there are prices to be paid here. We see how obsessed Roland really is in getting to the Tower and the price he must pay for that.
And the ending....
As I said before, it's one of those you either love it or you hate it. Personally, I found that while I wasn't jumping for joy about it, in the context of the series, it makes a lot of sense. In some ways, it was the only way the series could end and feel not like a cheat. So, on that level, I like it.
It's one of those endings that I am sure brings up a lot of debate among fans...and maybe that's the point. Good literature should have us sitting down and thinking about it...debating it. Not just being merely entertained by it and then forgetting about it five minutes after we've read it (Dean Koontz novels anyone?) So, on that level, the Dark Tower succeeds, bringing us an ending that isn't necessarily what we thought it would be (how can it be since we've had all these years to imagine our own?) but instead is what it needs to be.
So, I guess by that reasoning, this is good literature. Good literature and it's popular? Who'd've figured that Stephen King could pull that off?
posted by Michael Hickerson at 10/21/2004 01:06:00 PM