Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review: Song of Susannah

I apologize for the recent dearth of content. Bad plumbing, school, work and football playoffs have all joined forces to suck away my free time.  Fear not, I continue to read and pile up material for the blog.  So, without further time wasted let's take a look at the penultimate Dark Tower novel...

Right after the battle with the Wolves from Thunderclap, Susannah Dean, Gunslinger and member of Roland's ka-tet hightailed it to the Doorway Cave and traveled to the New York City of 1999.  Susannah unfortunately, isn't in complete control of her own body.  She has been possessed by a former demon named Mia.  Mia has made a deal with the Man in Black to give up her eternal life as a demon in exchange for being able to give birth to a baby and raise it for part of its life.  All Mia has to do is deliver Susannah's body to a restaurant called the Dixie Pig, and into the clutches of the Crimson King. 

While Susannah is battling mental demons in the New York City of 1999 the rest of her ka-tet must split up to make two equally important things happen.  The first task is to save Susannah, and the other involves traveling through inter-dimensional doorways to East Stoneham, Maine of 1977 and buy a Manhattan vacant lot from Calvin Tower. 

In a strange twist of fate, Eddie and Roland, who were hoping to rescue Susannah wind up in Maine, while Jake, Oy and temporary ka-tet member Father Callahan find themselves in New York City of 1999.

I read this book over the Holidays thinking it would be a great curl-up-and-read-for-a-day book, but I had a hard time getting fully into this one.  It was a little bit frustrating to see King go back to that whole Susannah-battles-with-split-personalities thing again.  I felt like I was revisiting material that has already been covered.  Roland, easily my favorite character of the series, played a smaller role in this installment, but the shootout he and Eddie get into is easily one of the most memorable and bad-ass scenes of the entire series.  I'm also always intrigued when an author inserts his or herself as a character into a work of fiction.  Reading King write about a 1977 version of himself was pretty cool, and a bit mind-bending given all the cross-world, space-time continuum stuff that goes on in this series.  

I think what was most frustrating for me in this book was the amount of teasing that went on, and the lack of forward movement towards the Dark Tower.  I don't want to spoil anything for readers who haven't gotten this far in the series yet, but goddamnit, there were some things in this novel that took up a shit load of pages, were a dominant factor in the last novel as well, and still didn't come to a close in this novel despite all signs pointing to that very thing happening.

 In a long series the author must tie up the lose ends so the series can come to a clean, well packaged finale.  It felt like that was one of King's aims here.  Aside from a bloody, fiery shoot-out, the East Stoneham, Maine story thread was a bit dull.  Really, how exciting can you make a real-estate deal?  Yeah, this was probably as exciting as they get, but still, not the best use of Roland and Eddie. 

 Maybe my expectations for the book were too high, but I sort of assumed, given that the goal of this series is to finally arrive at the Dark Tower, and given that the final novel is called The Dark Tower, that the ka-tet would at some point in the penultimate novel, uh, like head in that direction.  Ok, yeah, metaphorically they did make headway, and accomplished some (somewhat) important things, but I feel like less time could have been spent accomplishing the things that did happen, and more time could have been spent moving the story towards the finish line.

My feeling at the end of this was that the book came very close to the edge of a great climax, had the reader riding high on a wave of rising action that promised great things, and then stopped short, delivering a brutal cliffhanger ending that left me 1) cursing Stephen King for being such a damn tease and leaving me on the hook like he did at the end of The Wastelands. 2) Hungry for that final slice of gunslinger pie.  I mean, shit, there's no way I not finish this series now.  I gotta find out what happens next.  Overall, probably the weakest installment in the series, but magically, good enough to leave me thirsting for more.

Grade: C


the Weasel said...

There you go, Ryan, a review absolutely stinking of perfection! ...and on my birthday, no less!

Ryan said...

Well, happy birthday sir! Thanks for the comments!

the Weasel said...