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-By Caleb Jones
Plus, much of the story took place on our Earth. Also, instead of a medieval setting, the fantasy in Dark Tower is set in an old west, cowboy setting. This is fine I guess, but was outside of my interests.
Yet, since everyone kept screaming at me about how great the Dark Tower series was, and since Stephen King considers this his magnum opus, I finally gave it a shot. I read every one of the original, primary seven books (I skipped the novellas, short stories, comics, and later-published ‘shove-em-in-the-middle’ books). I also knew a movie was coming, and wanted to read all the books first, since I didn’t want the movie to poison my view of the books. Books are always better than the movie or TV versions anyway (Game of Thrones being the one and only exception; those books suck, but the show is pretty good).
Here are mini-reviews of all seven primary books in the series. I will do my best to keep them spoiler free, but no promises.
Much of the book takes place on Earth, which I thought would bother me. However, the book is so creative (the most creative one in the series) that it really kept my attention and I ended up loving it. It is an extremely unconventional story. In the very first chapter, the hero gets some of his fingers and toes permanently lost (bitten off by giant lobsters), and it just gets crazier from there. It’s one of the best books in the series.
Wolves of the Calla – This book is okay. About a third of the book is told in flashback form from many different characters. What was most interesting to me is how the structure of this book is duplicated in the TV show Lost (which happens to be my favorite TV show of all time). The head writer for Lost, Damon Lindelof, cites The Dark Tower as one of his favorite things ever, and the series’ influence on Lost shows very strongly in this book (long, detailed flashbacks for characters, strange numbers that reappear in odd places, lots of discussion about fate and purpose, etc).
Most of the stories are interesting and entertaining, but there were times during this book when I just wanted Stephen King to get on with it. The entire story leads up to a giant battle at the end, most of which is just mildly okay and doesn’t meet expectations. I still liked the book; just wish it could have been better.
This book is a great example of combining deep character study with fast action and a plot that makes sense. Many other fiction authors could learn from Song of Susannah. Well done.
One complaint is that the primary villain of the entire series is dispatched somewhat easily at the end, at least in my opinion, which was sort of a letdown. There’s also a lot of dark shit that happens in this book, and the ending is also dark, but Stephen King doesn’t go full bore with it, and I think he should have. It’s more “dark, but with hope” rather than dark. He should have gone full dark or full happy ending; one or the other.
Overall, I rate the entire Dark Tower series an eight out of ten. Good and entertaining, but not amazing. There are several other fantasy series that are much better, including Sanderson’s Final Empire series, Abercrombie’s First Law series, and of course the granddaddy, Erikson’s Malazan series.
At least now I’m ready to watch the movie when it comes out in a few weeks. My guess is it will probably be shitty or average, but it won’t ruin anything for me now that I’ve read the books, which was the entire point.
Now to find a new fantasy series to read that I haven’t read yet. Hmm…
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