Finishing The Dark Tower

Well, I guess it’s technically not finishing it, since there’s now an 8th book on the way, scheduled for next year. And I may well read that when it comes out–checked out of the library, of course–but the seven books I read were obviously the main story.

I appreciate the first four books a fair amount. In part, I suppose, because they were the four that still felt…_lean_. The first two because I don’t think he’d yet gotten into the habit of writing long books. The third book starts to get a little piggy, but as I was still getting immersed in what’s going on, I didn’t find it as noticeable. By the time I hit Wizard and Glass, the text is perhaps a little more Stephen King-y (which is not necessarily a negative, in my view, but it’s a marked contrast to the first two books)–though I think even Wizard and Glass may have been reined in by the fact that he was, in many ways, working in a genre that was not his own.

Wolves of the Calla was a bit of a slog. The only part I truly found compelling was the story of Father Callahan. The rest of the books…I liked them fine. I know some people were annoyed with the (non-)ending of the story, and others were annoyed with King injecting himself into the narrative (literally, rather than figuratively), but neither thing bothered me particularly.

In fact, as I write this, I’m realizing that I’m really very rarely annoyed with books or music or movies or what not any more. They are what they are, and I may like them or not, but it seems silly for me to wish such a thing to be other than it is–annoyance, I think, being a manifestation of that wish .

Anyway, as is always the case with King, it’s the characters that make the difference. If you don’t develop some affection for them, you’re not going to make it through the text, but if you can find a way to love them even a little bit, they’ll carry you through to the end. It wasn’t like Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series, where, as I finished the last book, I pined to be able to read another and another and another. But I didn’t feel like my two weeks worth of reading had been ill-spent.

Commencing The Dark Tower

One of the writers on tor.com elected to take on Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. The significant difference is that where most of the posters on Tor are doing “re-reads”–guiding others through the books–this is a read-along, so you get to watch as someone else encounters the book for the first time.

Of course, I could do that just fine by myself–I’d never read it, though I remember Patrick talking about it when the first volume was finally widely-released in a trade paperback format in ’88–so I figured what the hell, I’d follow along. Unlike my recent plunge into Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin books, though, I decided I would take advantage of my local library. I don’t necessarily see these as being evergreen re-reads.

I finished The Gunslinger in short order. It is interesting to realize how spare the writing is compared to most of King’s work. Some people have suggested that this is because it was such an early story, or because it was originally serialized–basically, because King couldn’t get away with over-writing.

Now, personally, I do not get as annoyed as some with King’s prose, or the length of his books, or even the stuff that could have been cut–I don’t find the text offensive to read, so it doesn’t outright bother me, and it’s not like his stories are generally laden down with anything as awkward and didactic as John Galt’s radio broadcast.

(Ask me about the Kevin Anderson/Brian Hebert “Dune” books, and you will get an entirely different answer, Their individual Wikipedia articles are better prose and better stories. But a lot of people think that about Frank Herbert’s sequels, too.)

Anyway, I think, actually, that it is a conscious choice on King’s part, though only the remainder of the series will prove me right or wrong. I think it’s intended to be a reflection of the character, who is himself a somewhat spare individual. The atmosphere isn’t that of a horror novel, really. It brings me to mind, for more reasons than one, of Samuel Delaney’s Dhalgren. Which I suppose I should get back to one day, though I already read the ending.

Anyway, I fear that the whole series really isn’t going to last long, unless the later books are more true to King’s prose form and take longer than these first two are.