Many of you already know that my obsession with the Dark Tower series began when I read and reviewed the graphic novel adaptation, The Gunslinger Born, back in the summer. I’ve been steadily plugging away at the books ever since. Well, I just finished the 7th novel and I have a lot of feelings! 8D
“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”
So begins the tale of Roland Deschain of Gilead, last of the line of Eld (that would be King Arthur to the rest of us). He has been chasing the Dark Tower his whole life. He’s sacrificed much for the road… family, friends, even the love of his life. No matter. What does matter is the road to the Tower. He means to climb to the top and see what lies within.
Oh yeah, and the Crimson King and his lackey, the man in black, are screwing with the Beams that hold up the Tower. If the last of the Beams are destroyed and the Tower falls, it means the end of the universe. For there are other worlds than these.
Though Roland is a gunslinger – sort of like a knight of the Round Table, but with guns instead of swords – he cannot stop the Crimson King alone. He draws three people from our world to aid him on his quest. One is Eddie Dean, a heroin addict from the late ’80s. Next is Odetta Holmes, a schizophrenic black woman missing her legs from the knee down in a freak accident during the ’60s. The last, a child named Jake Chambers, whom Roland has met before, and they didn’t part so amicably…
This band of misfits, lost in time, come together to form a ka-tet. One from many, with Roland as their leader. Under Roland’s tutelage, they become gunslingers themselves, seeking out the Dark Tower, following the ever-turning wheel of ka, of destiny…
Will they climb to the top of the Dark Tower? Will they even find it? Will those they encounter on their quest help them, or do they mean to kill them before they reach it?
I was held completely in thrall from the first sentence of the first novel to the last word of the seventh. Say whatever you want about Stephen King, the man knows how to write. The story has so many layers and intricacies to it that you take the time to savor every detail. Now that I’m done, I want to go back and see what I missed… maybe after a short break =P
The characters go through tremendous growth through the course of the series, but none more than Roland. At the start, he’s a hardened warrior, single-mindedly pursuing his quest at full speed, blinkers on and blind to all else. As the series goes on, we see him soften, open himself up to love and friendship. It’s not without consequences, and what happens to him is cyclical. Ka, destiny, time, is a wheel, and that’s the message at the heart of this series.
What’s most fascinating about the series is that it’s not one genre. Throw a little bit of Western, fantasy, science fiction, horror, along with a good dash of tongue-in-cheek pop culture and a sprinkling of supernatural and romance in the blender, and you end up with this series. I’m a librarian, and I could recommend it to just about anyone:
- Love fantasy? The characters are on an epic quest, and there are multiple books to boot. The tone is atmospheric, like you would find in many fantasy novels, and there are elements of magic.
- You read science fiction? Technology is rampant (though rapidly deteriorating) in this world. For instance, there are robots, both of the benign and killer variety, along with discussions of the theory of time travel and the multiverse.
- Western reader? Roland himself is very much like a hero cowboy, and much of the setting is reminiscent of the Old West. There are no shortage of shootouts or action scenes either!
- Horror connoisseur? First of all, I must ask you why you haven’t read this series yet, written by the King of Horror, and containing references to many (if not all) his previous works. Then I’ll tell you that there are monsters of multiple varieties, and passages that truly make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
- For those of you who hate horror, however, I’m right there with you! There wasn’t nearly enough in this series to turn me off to it. You can also predict many of these scenes coming so you can skim if you need to.
See how easy that was? I’d also tell anyone that this is easily one of the best book series I’ve ever read. The literary quality is unparalleled: it’s just written masterfully. The story, action, and characters will keep you entranced from start to finish. I laughed, I cried, I cheered at Roland and his ka-tet’s triumphs and I despaired with them in their losses. It was truly a wild ride and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I really don’t know what to do with my life now, though… I’m totally at a loss for what to read next!
King, Stephen. The Dark Tower series.