The Dark Tower

It’s over. Seven books, two countries and just under four months later, I’ve finished Stephen King’s epic fantasy series – the one he sees as the axis on which all his other writing spins.

It was excellent.

NB: I’m going to try and write this without spoilers

After a rather disappointing sixth installment, the final book brought back a sense of adventure, cut down on obscure hard sci-fi-esque lexicon, and wrapped up one almighty quest.

I enjoyed the second half of the seventh book more and more. Although King sometimes seems to shy away from a genre outside of horror, (and the desire to ‘earth’ this story in reality is clear throughout the series) his fantasy writing is wonderful. Those final chapters demonstrate most clearly that the Dark Tower series is a fairytale at heart, albeit an extraordinarily long and complex one.

There are elements of the books I did not like. King’s meta-writing does become tedious, and doesn’t seem as necessary as he thinks it is. However, it does show just how much the Dark Tower has meant to him.

And disgust took over any interest or fear I had for much of book six.

There are, probably, too many characters. But the main ka-tet are so detailed that it feels like you know them; Susannah in particular is one of the best drawn and most interesting characters I’ve read in a while. And Roland, of course, is pretty unique as heroes go.

One of the best parts of the Dark Tower is the different societies and communities we come across. King does this in plenty of his other books too – he has a knack for local dialect and customs that ring with truth. While the number of words which require translation does grow over-large, there are some which sit nicely within the story, and serve to strengthen it.

This love affair with language runs through the repeated use of riddles, made-up brand names, songs and jingles. Playing with words this way certainly appeals to me. It makes you think harder, about meaning, and what it says about the people who use it in their speech.

And the ending made me immediately think about reading them all over again; a neat trick.

Long days and pleasant nights.