Just like a good horror movie blends a terrifying ghost with the every day creaks and groans of an old house, the Dark Tower series blends fiction and reality. Ka is a wheel and it echoes, and when I read The Dark Tower I saw those echoes everywhere. And when I was reading late at night I could just see the real-life King waking up in the middle of the night with a strange nursery rhyme in his and head and wonder where it came from. (And for the record, I liked that King put himself in the book, and this is one reason why.)
And I loved that this series was completely ludicrous. Have you ever tried to tell someone the plot? You sound insane.
“Well there’s this talking dog thing that really love this kid, and this kid died before but then came back and went into a new world through an old demon house in Brooklyn. At one point, they ride a suicidal train that likes to tell jokes. And another time these characters actually meet the author that wrote them. Also doors open from nothing into alternate universes and they swing by the Emerald City on their way across Kansas. And there’s a pretty important weapon named after the snitch in Harry Potter.”
And that’s, like, minor plot points.
But I had so much fun when I read it. And I think King had fun with it, too. And I love Oy, Jake, Eddie, Susannah, and, yes, even Roland. Although it took me a while to love Roland. He is cold and unforgiving and focused and heartless. Or is he? He grows to love, and he begins to realize that some people and some loves are worth his life. He even tries to sacrifice himself for Jake. But ultimately, he chooses the Tower. He always chooses the Tower.
Books 1 through 4 are the best, and if you are one of those people on comment threads I have been reading who say they don’t get book 4 and it’s a waste of time and a weird flashback, I do not and probably will never understand you as a person. Wizard and Glass is a beautiful story and is beautifully written and gives life and love to Roland. And even if you never read another book in the series, Wizard and Glass could stand on its own and break my heart every time (in a good way). I loved the first three books as well. They are so fun and each is so different from the other and they were exciting to read. Lobstrocities! Billybumblers! Doors that went from a beach to the inside of a drug addict’s head on an airplane ride to drug deal in Miami! Each new book was like a whole new story, a new style, and an entire new experience. And that was wonderfully exciting to read.
[SPOILERS BEGIN HERE]
I think Roland’s downfall is that he chooses the Tower over everything. How many loved ones and strangers has he killed or let die to get closer to it? He knows their names, he knows his price, but he never stopped. Even when he and Jake both knew that one of them would die as they continued on their quest, they both continued. But Roland did it for the Tower, and Jake kept going because of his love for Roland. It’s this difference that Roland doesn’t learn until it is too late.
Roland saves not just one world but all of the worlds, and even that is just a byproduct of getting him closer to the Tower. Just like leaving the horn on Jericho Hill. Because at that moment, after Cuthbert died, Roland couldn’t even take 15 seconds to stop and pick up the item that came from his ancestors and meant something to him, and to his now dead friend. Because it would have taken too long, and he had to get on his way.
[EVEN MORE SERIOUS SPOILERS. IF YOU READ AHEAD, HERE IS ANOTHER CHANCE TO STOP.]
And on his way to what? In this book, death. We lost Eddie first. I cried, obviously. The love and respect between the ka-tet was uplifting to be a part of. And when it broke, it was devastating. But we saw it coming, didn’t we? Ka is a wheel, and Eddie was so like Cuthbert. At the battle where we lost Eddie, we gained the beams, and theoretically the well-being of the universe. As Roland’s ka mates freed the Breakers from their work of destroying the beams that hold the universe together, we met a few more characters from King’s other books. I love these details, it makes me feel like King and his books are operating in a different place altogether (and all together). Like it’s their world and we’re just living in it.
And to see Sheemie again. His devotion to Roland was so sweet, and I’m so glad he got to find some peace after their previous meeting in Mejis, where so much went wrong. From the prison where Eddie (and Sheemie) died, we went with the ka-tet back to Americaside to save the selfish, lazy Stephen King.
Again, I liked that Stephen King was in these books. It’s fun you guys! Don’t you know fun? Not everything has so be so serious traditional literature, and I think once we passed a robot bear semi god, a woman who has split personalities but was only pregnant in one of them, and a demon spider baby, we have gone way past reality and way past the traditional rules.
Also, I like Stephen King. He seems like a fun guy and he has some crazy things in his head. I’d like to grab dinner with him, maybe sit and chat over a strong tea.
I also liked the parts where Roland went to the Tet Corporation and met those who did so much to help his cause. Though now that I think about it now, that does seem like a side road we might not have needed to go down. (I bet Pere Callahan thought that about a few of his roads, too.) But it was a nice conclusion to the Tet Corp., and if nothing else, this was a story of conclusions.
Walter’s life concluded in a most ugly fashion. And to all you haters, I agree that it was anticlimactic. But I think that makes it perfect. For a supervilliansemiimmortal to get trapped and killed without anyone–even him at first–knowing? I don’t think Walter deserves to go out with a bang.
Oy’s life ended here, too. After Mordred finished off Walter he headed unknowingly into Oy’s path, who died to protect Roland from his werespider son. My heart hurt for Oy, who I love so much for his love of his ka mates. He and Jake were so perfect together and Oy showed his love and his courage over and over. Oy reminds me of #fatcat, which is partly why I love him so much. His chatty, loyal personality could be Cisco to a T. Cisco even battles the occasional spider he finds in my apartment.
And you know we have to talk about it. The Ending, with a capital E
[THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE. DO NOT KEEP READING UNLESS YOU HAVE READ THE ENTIRE SERIES, I BEG OF YOU]
It’s horrible. I was sick to my stomach. We just went through all of that fun, all of that pain, all of that story just to do it all over again? It’s horrifying, but it’s perfect. How many times did he tell us Ka is a wheel? How many times did he tell us it all comes back around? And until Roland learns that love and people should be his motivations and not the Tower itself, he will continue on his heartbreaking quest eternally.
Or maybe not. He learned enough this time around (the 19th time around?) to remember to stop and pick up the horn and Jericho Hill on his next journey. He learned this time to love and to be willing to sacrifice himself for this love, but I believe he learned it too late. And did he really learn? He learned to love, but when the world was saved, and the beams held up, he didn’t go with Susannah, his ka mate. He went on, alone, to the Tower.
For my other thoughts on the series, see here:
- on youth (Wizard and Glass)
- echoes (Wizard and Glass)
- the dark tower (The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three)