The Dark Tower Series

Posted on June 20, 2013 by Jack Kelly
Tags: readings

I haven’t posted about a book for a while, because I wanted to address this series in a single entry. I’ve recently made it through Stephen King’s magnum opus, the Dark Tower series.

The series starts off well-enough: Roland’s character is an interesting combination of western gunslinger and Arthurian knight. King does a good job of creating a world that is unlike our own but clearly linked to it in some fundamental way: Why is “Hey Jude” being played everywhere? Why do people invoke the name of the “Jesus-man” in such a different world? Is Roland’s world running parallel to or after ours? (It’s made clear later, but I don’t want to spoil things.)

As the story moves through the later books, it feels like King has invented that many destiny-mechanisms that it seems like the protagonists have no agency. Whenever anything happens, it seems to be caused by “Ka” or that “all things follow the beam” or that “coincidence is breaking down” as the worlds come apart.

During the fifth and sixth books things start to become meta. The Dark Tower stories reference or link to King’s other works throughout, but when the protagonists find King’s books and meet Stephen himself things get really interesting.

Unfortunately, the final book isn’t much of a payoff. Major questions, like “why is so much of the world built from old stories?” or “what is the meaning of all the Arthurian references?” are left unanswered. Protagonists and antagonists are ticked off like a shopping list and the setup for a grand confrontation fizzles out. Eventually, the story reduces to Roland and the Tower and a terribly unsatisfying ending.

In summary, some interesting ideas, some really interesting segments but the charaters were too often dragged along by destiny and too much wrapped up too quickly.

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