Monday, March 23, 2009

Re-reading The Dark Tower

On my way out the door to SXSW, I walked past the bookshelf in our bedroom and took The Dark Tower off the shelf. I originally read the entire Dark Tower series in 2005, effectively back-to-back-to-back, and adored them. I can't really recall a Stephen King book I haven't enjoyed, but a few stand out: my favorite is The Stand (which I've read 4 or 5 times), and a few others that I recall rather vividly are The Mist (a short story in The Skeleton Crew), It, and The Shining.

But as I'm 2/3 of the way through The Dark Tower, I'm coming to the realization that as good as The Stand is (and if you haven't read it, you really must), The Dark Tower is in a league of its own. In just a few hundred pages, King establishes a more epic landscape, with characters who are more intriguing, with a story arc that is breathtaking, than any other author I've ever read.

For those that don't know the story of the Dark Tower, it's part Western, part science fiction, part fantasy, and just a little bit of horror thrown in for good measure (but not much). Most interestingly, countless other King works are referenced throughout: characters, places, and themes from other stories pop up in the most unexpected places. If you're a King fan, this is the series that makes his entire body of work fit together - not always how you'd expect it to, either.

I told a friend at SXSW I was re-reading the Dark Tower series (it's a total of 7 books, written by King over three decades), he marveled that I'd do so, particularly knowing how it ends. If you've read it, you might be able to appreciate why I think it's kind of poetic to be reading it again (I'll leave it at that, don't want to give anything away to the uninitiated).

Bottom line: if you love well-written, character driven stories that completely transport you to another place and another time, the Dark Tower series will not let you down.


  1. I've read the whole series three times, and every time through I find it deeper and more enjoyable.

  2. The Dark Tower series, for me at least, is the only Stephen King work I could never get into. My brothers and sisters were always die-hard fantasy buffs, but my skin tends to crawl when I get near DragonLance, Xanth and all that... "stuff'.

    I too love the Stand and IT and The Shining and all the King classics. Misery, Pet Sematary, Insomnia... and his book On Writing is fantastic. King is a living legend in our time, and when he stops writing, we will all be at a loss. But I didn't dig The Dark Tower. Consider me the outlier.

  3. @Louis - It's funny, I was a hold-out forever. Even after my Uncle (who's read every King novel published) raved, I didn't want to get into them. Can't exactly say why, except that it seemed too fantasy-ish for my tastes. (I've never read any pure fantasy novels, and it's not a genre I'm particularly interested in.)

    But I got sucked in once I started... and I'm enjoying it even more the second time. I think it's the raw ambition the series represents that's so attractive to me: took him 30 years to write, it covers thousands of years of "history", he seamlessly weaves past/present/future in a way that feels entirely different than a pure sci-fi novel would, and the characters jump off the page.

    Did you finish the series? If you didn't make it through, where did you drop off?

  4. It took me until about halfway through the third book before I was truly hooked. In 2006, just before (after?) DT:7 came out I re-read all the Dark Tower books and all those that have connections throughout it's universe. It came out to just over 20 books plus some short stories. When I was finished read book seven for the fisrt time... and then got to the "end"... and waited about a week until reading the epilogue or whatever it was that King called it and warned people from reading. I almost didn't do it!

    Anyway it took me about 4 months all told and was the best literary event of my life. I highly reccommend it.

  5. It truly sucks you in. By the time you get to the 7th and final book you're racing through trying to will the characters to the conclusion as quickly as possible.

    I've just finished reading through the series for the fifth time and am no less satisfied than I was the first.