“The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed…”
Stephen King’s grand epic begins with this simple yet power first line that summarizes the whole premise of the epic story. We are introduced to Roland Deschain, Gunslinger of Gilead whose sole purpose is to reach the Dark Tower. In order to do that, he must find the man in black. In the first novel, Roland finds a young boy, Jake Chambers, who had somehow died in our world and ends up in Roland’s world, Mid-world. The two form an instant bond yet Roland must make a great sacrifice in order to reach his mission; a sacrifice that haunts him through the rest of the series. At the end of the book, Roland catches up to the man in black or Walter but the man in black casts him into a weird hallucination. When Roland wakes up, he sees nothing but a pile of bones in front of him and he himself has grown older as if years have past.
I personally think the first book of the story is rather boring. I found it very difficult to get through when I first read it but once I reached the second novel, it was well worth it. In the second novel, The Drawing of Three, Roland must bring three characters over from New York City during different time periods, over to his world to help him along his quest to the Tower. These characters are Eddie Dean (a junkie), Susannah ( who suffers from split personalities) and Jake Chambers, who Roland had sacrificed in the first book, and not to mention a raccoon like animal known as a billy-bumbler. At first, the relationship between these characters is very bumpy (and even disastrous, at times) but eventually they become family or “ka-tet”) and we grow to love them which is another great thing about this series or any King book at that; King always manages to bring the characters to life and makes us care for them. The relationship between Eddie and Susannah is pure comedic gold, so their parts are very fun to read. Eventually, their lives come together into a love story. The Drawing of Three is filled with great action and fun writing as King takes you on an amazing fantasy. It was this particular book (along with Orwell’s 1984) that made me want to start writing my own stories.
Through the rest of the 4 books, the ka-tet travel to many places along their journey and to many alternate universes. It’s really fun to see how Roland reacts in New York since he is not of that world. They also fight many different kinds of enemies from mutated people to inter-dimension demons, robots that look like Dr. Doom and even vampires.
On the note of vampires, one of the biggest highlights, in my opinion, is when Father Callahan from Salem’s Lot come into the picture in book 5: Wolves of the Calla. It was really refreshing and a very neat surprise to have revisited this character from Salem’s Lot. We find out what happened to him after the horrifying events of Salem’s lot, and how he ended up in Roland’s world. I feel like book 5 was pretty much a sequel to Salem’s lot, which I did not mind one bit. Callahan serves a big role in the story and follows the ka-tet through most of the rest of the series.
Callahan is up there on my list of one of the most badass characters in the King universe. His re-telling of his life post Salem’s lot proves that he is not one to be messed with by vampires or any other creature in the Dark Tower universe. Unfortunately, as many characters in the Dark Tower, Father Callahan meets his demise. His death is a bitter-sweet moment for me. As one of my favorite characters, it was sad to see him go but it was also very heroic. Callahan sacrifices himself for Jake and Roland in the Dixie Pig, a restaurant in New York infested with Vampires amd other weird creatures, as they try to save Susannah. To a allow Jake to escape, Callahan says his final words: “May you find your Tower, Roland, and breach it, …and may you climb to the top!” He shoots himself in the head as a horde of vamps lunge for him. I thought it was a very brave way for him to go and i’ll be honest, I got a little emotional upon reading this part.
I really love this series but I felt like I was losing interest as I got to the last book. Not to say that I hated it; I just was not as exited for them; it felt rushed. One of the things that made me feel that way was that King decides to yet again introduce another personality in Susannah. Even though it really is important and perilous to the plot, there was no surprise factor upon finding out Susannah had another personality; I thought to myself “what else is new?”
Another thing that threw me off slightly was them jumping around to different alternate universes. There are many alternate variations of Roland’s world and our world. After a while things just got too complicated to me.
When I came to the last book, I felt like King was running out of ideas. The book felt rushed and you could tell King wanted to finish the story. Through the majority of the last book, the Ka-tet are just walking, making their way to the Dark Tower and things just happen that seemed unnecessary to me. I do have to point out one thing that annoyed me: the subject of the Crimson King. The Crimson King is the antagonist through out the series and they make him seem like a big baddie but when Roland encounters him at the Dark Tower….not so much. I found their confrontation dull and all i had to say to myself was “really? Is that it?”
But I’m just knit-picking at these minor things that bothered me with the story. There were lots of important deaths which were heartbreaking, and one in particular infuriated me because I really did not this particular character to die. I found myself slacking off to finish the book after the second half; I just found it boring. I do have to say, i still felt it satisfied with how it ended.
I had heard how lots of people hated how the story ends. It ends exactly like how it starts and ends with the line that begins the epic story: “The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.” I was not too fond of how it ended but it made sense. But I did not hate it. After all, isn’t Ka a wheel?
Overall, I love this series despite the problems I had with it which really are minor things. Would I have liked a different ending? Yes, but looking back at it, I’m satisfied with how it ended; it made sense. It was the only way for it to end.
There’s a reason King is a master of horror but this The Dark Tower proves he’s a master of story-telling in general, no matter genre he chooses to write.I would definitely recommend anyone to pick up a copy and read it just for the awesome storytelling, unforgettable characters and weird, fun, and terrifying things Roland and his ka-tet find along their quest. I put this series up there with The Lord of The Rings. I will definitely have to read the whole series again a second time.