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Old 09-05-2011, 10:48 AM   #1
Jeremiah.L.Burns
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Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" Series - NO SPOILERS PLEASE

This has already been a topic of other threads (e.g., http://www.mobileread.com/forums/sho...ght=Dark+Tower), but as it was an old thread and it was recommended that a new thread be started, I've created this thread.

The bulk of what follows comes from my own Amazon review of book I of the series, but as I near the ending of the series, and as it has caused me to truly become attached to my Kindle, posting such a thread here for input/comments, etc. (without spoilers!) seemed appropriate.

What can be said about The Gunslinger and The Dark Tower that hasn't already been said? In truth, probably very little. But here goes...

I approached this series as a steadfast avoider of King's works. Growing up as a child, I'd seen a few of his films and read none of his books...and for the most part I believed King's body of work to be a thing I would never actively seek out. That's not to say it was bad or that it was even distasteful. But I'd ignorantly resigned myself to the fact that all of King's works were of the horror genre, and that simply did not interest me. So vested was I in this belief that as I entered my teens and became more and more aware that King's stories spanned a much broader swathe of the literary buffet table, even so I was unwilling to give King's books a chance.

I'd seen It as a child and it properly frightened me. I'd seen both versions of The Shining. I'd seen Misery several times before I was 14. These were all films that made me 'uncomfortable' at best (and that's the whole point, of course). Yet I found Misery to be a fascinating film which I willingly returned to. I saw and enjoyed The Green Mile, only to discover later that it was a work of King's. The same was true for The Schawshank Redemption.

The evidence was slamming me in the face like a brick that there were good...great stories...to be enjoyed by Mr King, and yet I steadfastly refused to give most of King's work a chance. "The Dark Tower" certainly wasn't going to receive a moment of my attention. My brother mentioned he was reading the series...and how good it was. Indeed I was aware of the series, as you couldn't enter any bookstore without seeing them everywhere. The series had recently (at the time) been republished in anticipation of the the release of books VI and VII, concluding the series. The lasting image in my mind was that acid-green cover to The Waste Lands (Book III) all over every bookshop window in town. It looked grim...it looked dark...it said "Stephen King" on the cover. Despite having a healthier appetite for the horror genre than I'd had in my youth, despite knowing full-well that King wrote excellent stories...despite actually knowing absolutely nothing whatsoever about the plot of the books...I couldn't have possibly cared less.

It was about two years ago when I stumbled upon a story surrounding the planned film adaptation of the series that I began to take interest. The story mentioned very briefly (a single paragraph) that (and I'm paraphrasing), [Stephen King's epic, inspired by such works as J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and westerns such as 'Gunsmoke' and Sergio Leone's "Man with No Name Trilogy" starring Clint Eastwood, would soon be adapted into a major motion picture series.]

I was flabbergasted. I was a life-long Tolkien fan myself and couldn't believe that this man whom I'd spent so much of my time actively avoiding could possibly have anything in common with my favourite author of all-time. I immediately began researching "The Dark Tower" (initially expecting to find that the author of the aforementioned article would surely have made some grave error). I soon learned that Stephen King had indeed been inspired by Tolkien in his youth, as had so many of his generation. I read that King had decided that he wanted to write a fantasy (not horror!) epic of his very own...but that he didn't want it to be concerned with elves, wizards and dragons as there was so much of that around already. It had been done well (by Tolkien) and it had been done a lot (by everyone else). The market was saturated.

Instead, King opted to wait...and contemplated what would become "his" epic. This eventually came to be published in a seven-volume series (soon to contain an eighth) beginning with The Gunslinger.

The very fact that a 'fantasy' series could involve a 'Gunslinger' rather than...well, rather than what I was accustomed to seeing in my fantasy stories...was enough for me to track down an online-copy of the first chapter of The Gunslinger. Like so many before me, I was hooked from the first line.

"The Man in Black fled across the desert, and The Gunslinger followed."

An absolutely perfect way to begin a tale, and I rank it just as highly as ever I have Tolkien's own introduction to his world, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." It's a short line...a memorable line...and it instantaneously demanded my attention. It forced me to read on...made me want to know more.

Who was this Man in Black? Why was he fleeing and who was he fleeing from? Was he fleeing from The Gunslinger, or was he unaware he was being tracked and was simply fleeing for other reasons? And who was The Gunslinger? Why did he chase this unnamed man, who must surely be a villain (being so attired)?

We soon learn that The Gunslinger is Roland Deschain, and his role as "Gunslinger" could be equated to "keeper of the peace", "preserver of the world and its ways", even "knight". Yet Roland's world has 'moved on'. Things have changed. Time itself has changed. Roland is the last of his kind and nothing is as it used to be. The changes which are happening are linked to the mysterious Man in Black, and the mythical tower, which supposedly stands as the centre...the intersection...of many worlds or universes. A change is happening there, and not for the better. Roland's quest is to reach this tower...for what ultimate purpose is not known. The series looks to answer the questions: will Roland succeed in his quest for the Tower? What friends and enemies will he make along the way? The choices he makes will affect not only his world...but all worlds including our own. Will he make the right choices? Does Roland even have any choice in the matter, or is it what he refers to as ka...destiny?

I approached this series as a lover of Tolkien's works. It is with such an eye and mind that I have unavoidably cast judgement upon Roland Deschain and his world, his friends, his quest and his stories. Tolkien believed that an author does not 'create' stories. The stories are already there like leaves on a great tree of stories. An author simply finds or selects the story...and it is his job to tell it in a successful way...a task he referred to as 'sub-creation'. Tolkien believed that with any genre this sub-creation was the difficult part of storytelling, and the trick to successful sub-creation was to do so in such a way so as to encourage your readers to invest in and believe in your story. Once you question it...once you begin to think that what you're reading doesn't work or make sense, the spell is broken and the art of sub-creation has failed.

Tolkien believed this to be particularly difficult when dealing with the fantasy genre. After all, it's much easier to get a reader to invest in and believe in a story concerning 'real world' events such as modern or historically factual warfare, a detective story, a romance novel, murderous thriller...than it is to ask a reader to believe a man can fly, or that dragons walked the earth, or that hobbits used to be as natural a part of this world as men. If you can tell such a story...sub-create it...successfully...and your readers are invested and come along willingly to where you take them...then you truly have made something special.

To date I have read books I-V of the VII book series, and am just over half-way through book VI. I don't know what ending is to come for Roland, or whether or not this feeling will last through the remaining 600 pages or so.

However, I am proud to say that Stephen King has made a convert of me. Not only am I enamored with King's sub-creation of all things concerning Roland, but I have a strong desire to read other works by King, particularly those which "link" or "connect" with "The Dark Tower" (e.g., 'The Stand').

That is perhaps the greatest praise I can offer the author, considering my previously ignorant and stubborn unwillingness to try to meet him halfway.

Thanks, Stephen.

Last edited by Jeremiah.L.Burns; 05-13-2014 at 09:47 AM.
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Old 09-08-2011, 06:42 AM   #2
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I'm not a fan of Stephen King, as far as I'm not a fan of horror and the like.

I've always enjoyed "The Eyes of the Dragon" though. I had read the original edition of The Gunslinger about 10-15 years ago also.

I finally read "The Stand" last week and really enjoyed it - I had meant to read it a few times over the years and never got around to it.

I just re-read the Gunslinger (newer version) this weekend and I'm onto book 2 this week.

I appreciate King's style - oddly it reminds me of Isaac Asimov - kind of a spartan writing style that worries about telling a good story, and not so much fancy prose.

I think you'd enjoy the Stand. I've always had a liking for post-apocalyptic stuff though
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Old 09-08-2011, 06:15 PM   #3
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I'm with you on the DT. I have never really been a fan of king, other than going to his movies. My loves the series and wanted me to read them so i started with the first book. It took me a couple of times to finish it, but from the last 15% of the first book until the end, I loved it.

Have you been following all the movie/tv drama for it?
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Old 09-08-2011, 06:21 PM   #4
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One of the few series I've thought "God this is bloody hard work, and I think I've lost the track rather..." and still just kept at it until........ I got it again !
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Old 09-09-2011, 04:03 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GreenMonkey View Post
I've always enjoyed "The Eyes of the Dragon" though.

...

I finally read "The Stand" last week and really enjoyed it - I had meant to read it a few times over the years and never got around to it.

I just re-read the Gunslinger (newer version) this weekend and I'm onto book 2 this week.

...

I think you'd enjoy the Stand. I've always had a liking for post-apocalyptic stuff though
I hear that Eyes of the Dragon has a tie of some sort to the DT series, so it may go on the TBR list. The Stand is already on there, as well as 'Salem's Lot.

I finished book VI of DT last night. Book VII now but it's chunky at over 900 pages, so it will be some time before I can give a final take on the series as a whole (only manage a few minutes a night before reading puts me to sleep). Hope you like book II and whilst a few people have (for some reason) recommended skipping Wolves of the Calla, they seem to be in the minority and I really enjoyed it!

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I'm with you on the DT. I have never really been a fan of king, other than going to his movies. My loves the series and wanted me to read them so i started with the first book. It took me a couple of times to finish it, but from the last 15% of the first book until the end, I loved it.

Have you been following all the movie/tv drama for it?
The Gunslinger sucked me in from the start and didn't let go of me but I'm really glad you enjoyed it! I have indeed been following the TV/Film adaptation 'drama'. Bit of a shame that funding has fallen through. I was generally happy with the choice of Javier Bardem as Roland.

I've thought for some time, however, that they'd do a better job with the DT series as a complete TV series in the way of HBO's Rome or perhaps The Tudors. Heck, shows like Lost show that the people are willing to stick around a long time. Now that Game of Thrones has proven that epic fantasy can work on the small-screen, I think they'd make a much better go of it than they would trying to force it onto the big screen as well. But that's me.

Also, on the topic of casting, I can't help but picture Eddie Dean as Jeffrey Donovan from Burn Notice. But perhaps he's a bit old?

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One of the few series I've thought "God this is bloody hard work, and I think I've lost the track rather..." and still just kept at it until........ I got it again !
It does twist and turn quite a bit, and with Wizard and Glass being a story-within-a-story, you do have to keep your toes slightly. I understand the forthcoming 8th book, Wind through the Keyhole takes this an Inception-like step further with a story-within-a-story-within-a-story. Intrigued.
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Old 09-09-2011, 10:40 AM   #6
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Nice casting for eddie! Have you checked out the graphic novels? I think the art is just perfect. I hadn't heard there was another book!
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Old 09-10-2011, 11:45 AM   #7
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Incidentally.....

By the by, I put "The Stand" in my top 10 books .........

I think it's the concept that grabs me every time I re-read it.

[ I do rather cheat with my "Top 10"..............
I count James Lee Burke as one entry ]
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Old 09-10-2011, 11:57 PM   #8
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I really enjoyed Eyes of the Dragon when I first read it. I liked the setting. I also really enjoyed The Stand.

I did try to get into The Dark Tower...but after reading the first two, and not getting to the third one for almost 2 years...I really struggled to get back into it.
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Old 09-11-2011, 10:14 PM   #9
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I've read the DT series twice, and actually liked it better the second time around.

If I'm not mistaken volume VII has a brief character tie-in with King's other novel Insomnia.
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Old 09-11-2011, 10:19 PM   #10
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I used to really like Stephen King, but I haven't read any of his books in years. I really do want to pick up "The Dark Tower" one of these days.

I remember particularly enjoying "The Stand".
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Old 09-11-2011, 10:20 PM   #11
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Also, on the topic of casting, I can't help but picture Eddie Dean as Jeffrey Donovan from Burn Notice. But perhaps he's a bit old?

Jeffrey Donovan is fantastic!
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Old 09-12-2011, 11:55 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Jeremiah.L.Burns View Post
I hear that Eyes of the Dragon has a tie of some sort to the DT series, so it may go on the TBR list. The Stand is already on there, as well as 'Salem's Lot.

...
Aren't there a lot of references in his other books (like Hearts in Atlantis)? Anyone have a list?
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Old 09-12-2011, 11:54 PM   #13
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I hear that Eyes of the Dragon has a tie of some sort to the DT series, so it may go on the TBR list. The Stand is already on there, as well as 'Salem's Lot.
Yup, Flagg is the villain of the book, so it ties in with the Stand (a version of him is in the Stand) and the Dark Tower, apparently, also (I just finished book 2).
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Old 09-16-2011, 04:28 AM   #14
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Have you checked out the graphic novels? I think the art is just perfect. I hadn't heard there was another book!
I've read the first collection, The Gunslinger Born 1-7...and possibly the 2nd collection, but I can't remember. In any case, I love them but have paused reading them until I finish the 7th novel. This is going slower than I'd like as I've been working full days and then 2nd shifts at night...so am spending much of my reading time sleeping!

As for book VIII, yes indeed! Check it out!
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wind-Through...=2IHUYPKILPEXM

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I did try to get into The Dark Tower...but after reading the first two, and not getting to the third one for almost 2 years...I really struggled to get back into it.
I highly recommend giving it another go. If you find it hard-going, perhaps try the graphic novels first! They do an excellent job of bringing everything to vivid life...at least so far as I've seen. The first collection (see my comment just above) covers the events seen in Wizard and Glass.

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Aren't there a lot of references in his other books (like Hearts in Atlantis)? Anyone have a list?
There are lots of lists out there. You can find several on Amazon, for example. Perhaps the best starting place, however, is the official Dark Tower site itself:
http://www.stephenking.com/DarkTower/connections.html
Edit: By the way, I can't help but think of John Farson when I see your name...and regarding the DT series, he's not a name to be forgotten.

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Yup, Flagg is the villain of the book, so it ties in with the Stand (a version of him is in the Stand) and the Dark Tower, apparently, also (I just finished book 2).
I won't spoil anything then as I'm nearly finished with the series. But I will say that, yes, Randal Flagg is big business in the DT series and makes (as I understand) many appearances in King's works. He goes by many names, so sometimes it may not be as obvious as others.

Last edited by Jeremiah.L.Burns; 09-16-2011 at 04:30 AM. Reason: co-inky-dinks
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Old 09-19-2011, 04:00 AM   #15
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On a side note, I was happy to see a very large selection of King's works on Kindle at Amazon for us Aussies. I seem to remember last time I checked (admittedly some time ago now) that not much was available. Now it looks like his entire catalogue.

I'm not a huge fan of King, but there's a few of his that I'm interested in reading.
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