I finally got down to it. I always knew that I’d have to some day or the other. After reading so much of fantasy over the years, there was no way I would ever pass up “The Dark Tower” series by Stephen King – one of my favorite authors. I’d heard so much about it. And I knew there were seven books. I love epic stories. And boy was this epic!
Many fantasy sagas revolve around the quest. The Dark Tower involves the quest of all quests. Not just in one world, but in an infinitude of them. The multiverse itself. And the centerpiece of it all is the Gunslinger. Roland of Gilead. “Gunslinger” isn’t a description of the man. It’s a title. Essentially given to Knights with guns instead of swords. And Roland is the last of them. The last of the Gunslingers.
The characterization is just brilliant. Unlike other fantasy books that have hundreds of characters, the focus of the Dark Tower series is laser like. Stephen King concentrates on a handful of characters and fleshes them out very deeply. You really know the people when you come to the end of the book. Personally. And this makes their drama and suffering very real.
The first book was amazingly short by King’s standards. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when I came to the end. But the remaining ones were all regular sized. I also like how King doesn’t take too much effort to explain the previous books when starting a new one unlike many other authors I’ve read. The onus is on you to read the previous works before beginning the next one.
But everything comes back to Roland and his obsessive quest to find the Dark Tower. He is without doubt the centerpiece of the book. Everyone else is a supporting character. And I’ve rarely enjoyed reading about someone. My wife loves books that have strong leads. Powerful central characters, and she will lap up Roland of Gilead. I guarantee it :).
The ending left me thunderstruck. Never saw it coming. At first King looked as if he’d leave it dangling. But he had us fooled. There was an ending. And I’m not sure I enjoyed finding out.
Tough to call this book “fantasy” since it doesn’t fit a mold. But it is fantasy regardless. And with quite a bit of horror thrown in. Read it. Read all of them. You won’t regret it.