The Dark Tower by Stephen King
Digital Audiobook narrated by George Guidall
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on September 16th 2004
Series: The Dark Tower #7
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Science Fiction
Length: 1050 pages or 28 hours, 10 minutes
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Roland's ka-tet remains intact, though scattered over wheres and whens. Susannah-Mia has been carried from the Dixie Pig (in the summer of 1999) to a birthing room—really a chamber of horrors—in Thunderclap's Fedic; Jake and Father Callahan, with Oy between them, have entered the restaurant on Lex and Sixty-first with weapons drawn, little knowing how numerous and noxious are their foes. Roland and Eddie are with John Cullum in Maine, in 1977, looking for the site on Turtleback Lane where "walk-ins" have been often seen. They want desperately to get back to the others, to Susannah especially, and yet they have come to realize that the world they need to escape is the only one that matters.
Thus the book opens, like a door to the uttermost reaches of Stephen King's imagination. You've come this far. Come a little farther. Come all the way. The sound you hear may be the slamming of the door behind you. Welcome to The Dark Tower.
I have read this book twice, but this was the first time I’ve listened to it. And, for some strange reason, I remembered most of the ending completely wrong.
There are a few spoilers are you go along, impossible to avoid unless I leave my review to “I liked it” so read at your own risk.
I have always loved the dark and sinister, but somehow still likable Roland Deschain. Eddie and Jake and Oy are all well-loved as well, and even Susannah grows on me. This book sees the addition of a few characters, and a farewell to many. But it is Roland, ultimately, whose heartbeat thrums in tune with the Tower, and he who drives the story. He is raw, Eastwood-esque, and perfect in his setting. All of King’s characters in this story are perfectly placed… except himself. I have a difficult time getting past how narcissistic it is for King to make himself a central player in this world. However, the story plays out well and the character is important, although insufferable.
I can all but feel the radiation in the air as Susannah and Roland travel through the badlands. Unlike many fantasy authors, King does not wax on poetically about his setting, but his world comes to life anyway in the nuances. The Tower, at last in its final glory, is a breathtaking image in my mind.
It’s far too easy to spend most of this book crying.
King kills off his characters with the cold indifference that George R. R. Martin does, and you want to be angry at him for it, but yet… somehow you know the deaths were inevitable. Your heart breaks for each and every loss – for me, Jake and Oy were the worst of all – and even the first one comes so suddenly it shocks you. For some reason, I had remembered these deaths in a different way and in a different order. I think perhaps my mind was rewriting the story in a way it preferred to remember. They make sense the way they are written, and they are perfectly heartbreaking.
As for the very, very end? The end is perfect.
Writing / Narration
I have always appreciated the way King writes this series. It is raw, uncompromising. At no point could it be mistaken as pretty or flowery. But it is right. The world has moved on and everything is jagged, emaciated, broken. The perspectives shift seamlessly and the story is as vibrant as J. R. R. Tolkien’s illustrious descriptions. All in all, it’s just a different type of world.
As for the narration, I do like this narrator. The Dark Tower series as a whole has two different narrators, and they are both excellent. Guidall does Roland better, or so I think. There is more of a drawl to him that fits the character. The three books narrated by Frank Muller are fine as well, so don’t let the switch in narrators drive you away from the series.
Now that I’ve finished this series for the third time all the way through, and with the film coming out in July, I still find myself disappointed it is over. It’s a gritty, ruthless tale, but it’s definitely re-readable. For myself, I think the writing in the Dark Tower series is much stronger than his fantasy books, although nobody can claim that King isn’t a prolific writer.
All in all, the first book in the series is one of my desert island books, but to truly appreciate Roland Deschain and his ka-tet, you must read all seven. They are long, but absolutely worth the time to go on the adventure.
“Pere Don Callahan had once been the Catholic priest of a town, ‘Salem’s Lot had been it’s name, that no longer existed on any map.”
Some of My Favorite Quotes
“I’ve met talespinners before, Jake, and they’re all cut more or less from the same cloth. They tell tales because they’re afraid of life.”
He fell silent. For several moments they all did, and the quiet had the feel of a deliberate thing. Then Eddie said, “All right, we’re back together again. What the hell do we do next?”
And will I tell you that these three lived happily ever after? I will not, for no one ever does. But there was happiness. And they did live.
Hot chocolate in Central Park! What was the Dark Tower compared to that?
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.