Sunday, 15 April 2012

Stephen King - The Dark Tower

34 years. 7 books. 3,847 pages. That it essentially The Dark Tower in numbers. In essence, it didn’t actually take 34 years to write. If it did, Stephen King wouldn’t have published the other ninety-jabillion books that now circulate the globe. But in a scale of time from first to last word, 34 years is how it will be measured.
The main question is; can a work of such length spanning over 30 years be consist and coherent? The short answer; no. The long answer; see below.
Now firstly it is worth mentioning that The Dark Tower is one of the great modern literary achievements and was thoroughly enjoyable to read which, I believe, is the main point of books.

The first book, The Gunslinger, is an excellent introduction and works in the same way as the first season of Lost in that it sets out a load of questions about this new fantasy world without giving any direct answers. It draws you in with its imagery and descriptions leaving the reader wanting to know where the journey will go at the end of the book.
This continues for the next three books in that a journey begins and stuff happens to the people, some enemies become friends, some friends become enemies; all in all the plot drives on. However, at the end of book 4, Wizard and Glass, the linear progression stops and an attempt at summing up what is actually going on begins.

Wizard and Glass acts as a prequel to The Gunslinger in that our protagonist, Roland, recants the tale that set him on the course for the Dark Tower. At the end of this tale and the beginning of book 5, Wolves of the Calla, things start to become a little obscure.
Everything was going really well until, out of the blue, comes a load of Snitches, ‘Harry Potter edition,’ and then I started thinking, ‘have I picked up the wrong book?’ I thought at the time, that it supported my theory regarding the Gunslinger’s fantasy world so I let it slide. However, looking back I’ve changed my mind. This kind of thing which happens from here on out to the end of the series, destroys the originality of the work. The Dark Tower is no longer Stephen King’s work. The Snitches are only used as explosive weapons. They could have been called anything else and Harry Potter isn’t referenced anywhere else so it’s a pointless popular culture reference.

Despite that, Wolves of the Calla is probably my favourite book in the series and could be an individual story with the right framing. This contrasts greatly from book 6, Song of Susannah. I’ve tried really hard not to use the following description, but ‘clusterfuck’ is the only way to describe the coming together of events that occur during the novel. It is a conjoining book, nothing more and probably could have been done away with completely my making books 5 and 7 slightly longer.
The final book, as with most endings in books, completely fucked me off, but even more so as I’d had to read six other books to get this far. King makes constant references to his other works during this part and even includes himself as a character. I understand the concept of breaking the fourth wall, but in something has been truly magnificent up to this point, it feels like King was afraid of ruining his own work by taking it seriously and instead has opted to make a huge joke out of it.

However this was not my main gripe. It was superceeded by the thing I hate most about novels as mentioned in the review of Nation. This one is a lot worse than countering things that people may question. Instead King feels the need to justify himself and he doesn’t go about it a self-effacing fashion. The afterword reads like, ‘I am the author, what I say goes. It you don’t like it, fuck you.’
There are several points throughout the series where King actively interferes with his characters by giving them items they require without any explanation as to why and essentially uses the Author-Director approach to storytelling. For example:
Eddie: I need a key
Stephen King (thinking): Hmm, Eddie needs a key. He’s about to look under a rock. Let’s put a key there.
Eddie: Ah-Ha! I have found a key under a rock!

When the author makes life easy for their characters it can be seen as a cop-out, especially after taking the ‘because I said so’ approach in the Afterword. But after 7 books in a series and the hundreds of others he has released, it would be stupid to accuse King of laziness.
If anything, The Dark Tower has taught me that I can write absolutely anything I want in a novel as long as I justify it as the end with, ‘I’m the author and I can do what the fuck I like.’

The Dark Tower Bibligraphy:
1. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger (1982) by Stephen King was published by Sphere Books Limited 1988. RRP £7.99 (Paperback)
2. The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King was published Sphere Books Limited in 1990. RRP £7.99 (Paperback)
3. The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands by Stephen King was published by Sphere Books Limited in 1992. RRP £7.99 (Paperback)
4. The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass by Stephen King was published by Hodder and Stoughton in 1997. RRP £7.99 (Paperback)
5. The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King was published by Hodder and Stoughton in 2003. RRP £6.99 (Paperback)
6. The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah by Stephen King was published by Hodder and Stoughton in 2004.RRP £6.99 (Paperback)
7. The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower by Stephen King was published by Hodder and Stoughton in 2004. RRP £6.99 (Paperback)

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