Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Review: The Dark Tower

A couple years ago I loaned my brother The Gunslinger and got him hooked on the Dark Tower books.  From there he plowed through The Drawing of the Three, and The Wastelands, surging ahead of my own reading pace with the series and foraging on into uncharted Dark Tower territory. Not long after he got the Dark Tower ball rolling, he had read nearly everything.  When he finished Song of Susannah and found himself with the end in reach.  Then he did something remarkable...he stopped.  Not wanting the adventure to be over, my brother has put The Dark Tower on indefinite hiatus and left Roland and his pals hanging there in limbo.

Well, time passed, and at my brother's urging to carry on with the series, I did just that and found myself in the same spot.  Like my brother, part of me wanted to put off the reading of this one a while longer, but like Roland Deschain, the central character in this series, I found the pull of the Dark Tower too overwhelming to resist.

It has been a long and incredible journey with Roland and his Ka-Tet.  I'm at the point now where I've spent enough time with Roland, Jake, Eddie, Susannah  and Oy that I sort of feel like they are my good friends.  However, after six long, and entertaining books I opened to the first page of this final story, dogged in my determination to reach the end and see what lies at the top of the tower.  The journey there isn't all roses either.  The first half of the book was a bit of a drag, but right at the half way point King picks up the pace and surges ahead...Maybe he started feeling the pull of the tower as well.  Either way, the sense that this incredible journey is coming to an end is powerful.

As much as I wanted this to be the perfect final book, it is not.  As I said before, it comes out of the gate slow, but it has some other problems as well.  I felt that at times King relied heavily on deus ex machina to get himself out of some jams.  I could be wrong about some of that as I haven't read all fifteen of the other King novels that tie in to this series, and might be missing some explanations.  I don't want to give too much big important stuff away but I will say that when some characters head towards the clearing at the end of the path, I feel like some go there too easily.

As much as Eddie, Jake Susannah and Oy are a big part of this series, the story has always been Roland's.  The journey has always been his, and like the other members of his Ka-Tet, I have always been willing to follow Roland up to the very end.  Without a doubt, Roland Deschain is my all-time favorite literary character.  For one, he is cool as hell, he can shoot fast and straight, and he don't take no guff.  But for me, what was most enduring was his slow change from the cold-hearted, emotionless killer to the loving, warm-hearted friend that he became.  I guess I was really taken in by how Roland learned to love again.  I know that might sound cheesy and mushy, but as cool as he was before, he was hard to relate to.  King made Roland not only someone who was cool and bad ass, but also a guy you'd follow to the death. 

My love of Roland made the ending to The Dark Tower all the more spectacular.  I gotta say that while King seemed to falter a bit in these later books, which weren't as good as say, the first four, he really, truly nailed the ending.  Simply said, the ending is perfect.  Does that mean I'm totally in love with the ending, and happy with the way everything turned out?  No. But I thought it worked so well, and fit just right.  I'll add that it also nearly brought me to tears.  I even get a little choked up thinking about it.

Ok, so now I've admitted to loving Roland, and nearly crying over a book.  That's probably as good a spot as any to call it a day. 

This certainly isn't the perfect fantasy series, there are certainly some flaws along the way, but to me it is those less than perfect bits that endeared this series to me.  If you haven't done so already, I strongly urge you to embark on the journey to the Dark Tower.  Sure, these books aren't for everyone, but for some of you, it might be just the right thing.  If you are like my brother, and have been holding off: DON"T STALL ANYMORE!  The ending is worth the journey.

The Dark Tower series will live long in my memory, and I'll likely revisit Roland and company someday down the road, but for now I'll just say 'long days and pleasant nights'.

Grade: A


the Weasel said...

"Without a doubt, Roland Deschain is my all-time favorite literary character." ~Ryan, Battle Hymns. Amen. I'm not all that well read (you have surely read more books than I have and obviously know way more authors) but I don't think I could find a character I'd like more even if my primary residence was the Library of Congress and I had no other obligations than to try to find one.

Strangely enough, I think my second favorite character is probably the blind DJ in Black House (what I like to think of as Talisman II).

I felt much the same as your brother, and I feel his pain ("it can't get any better than it's already been, and as long as I stay here it'll never be over..."), but he owes it to King, to the gunslingers and to himself, probably most of all, to see it through. Please let us know if he decides strap it on.

Ryan said...

Yeah, I hope to convince him soon enough. He's really missing out!