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Currently reading: Favourite Books: ‘The Dark Tower’ Series

Favourite Books: ‘The Dark Tower’ Series

Why ‘The Dark Tower’ Is A Must-Read

Stephen King‘s The Dark Tower series consists of eight books and one novella. Published over a 30 year period; with the latest instalment having released in 2012, The Dark Tower is considered to be King’s magnum opus.

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Mainly inspired by the Robert Browning poem; Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, Stephen King has also stated that; Arthurian Legend, the Spaghetti Western classic The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, J.R.R.Tolkien‘s The Lord of the Rings and Lyman Frank Baum‘s The Wizard of Oz helped him shape the series.

This epic saga is an amalgamation of various genres, including; the Western, dystopian science fiction, fantasy and horror.

If you’ve already escaped through the pages of Stephen King‘s magnum opus; and into Mid-World, then you know what I am talking about. But, if you’re yet to read The Dark Tower and are looking for a read worth your time, then as a self-confessed ‘Tower Junkie’; I strongly recommend that you do.

 

The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1)

The Gunslinger

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

 

Those words create the perfect opening line of The Gunslinger; the first instalment in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. Originally published in June 1982, the story follows Roland Deschain; the last Gunslinger of Gilead in his pursuit of the elusive Man in Black.

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As Roland lays chase across the treacherous Mohaine Desert, he befriends Jake Chambers; a young boy Keystone Earth (our world) at a way station, before they head for Golgotha, underneath the Cyclopean mountains, battle the Slow Mutants to reach the Western Sea.

 

The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower #2)

The Drawing of the Three

Published in May 1987, The Drawing of the Three is the second instalment in The Dark Tower saga, written by Stephen King. Picking up just a few hours from where The Gunslinger left off, Roland awakens on the Western Sea front to strange murmurs…

“Dad-a-chum? Dum-a-chum? Ded-a-chek? Did-a-chick?”

…before heading north along the beach, and the doorways leading to “The Prisoner”, “The Lady of Shadows” and “The Pusher”.

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Each door acts as a gateway to different eras of New York City, which will ultimately lead to the first members of Roland’s ka-tet.

The first of which leads to Eddie Dean, a young heroin-addict in a dire situation with drug lord; Enrico Balazar.

The second, a disabled black lady called Odetta Holmes, who; unbeknown to herself, has a violent split-personality, who goes by the name of Detta Walker.

Although the first two doors lead to new companions for Roland, the third leads to an adversary. A sadistic sociopath called Jack Mort, who’s vile acts and confrontation against Roland; result in the fusing of the Odetta/Detta personalities to create the third, a stronger personality who goes by the name; Susannah.

Each owing their lives to Roland, both Eddie and Susannah join the quest for the elusive Dark Tower.

 

The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower #3)

The Waste Lands

Although I love every entry in The Dark Tower series, for me; The Waste Lands, is my personal favourite.

First published in August 1991, the third entry into Stephen King’s epic saga follows Roland and his ka-tet on their journey through the Great Western Woods. Along their journey, Roland begins to show Eddie and Susannah how to shoot, with the aim of training them to also become gunslingers.

Although Roland is working to make the ka-tet stronger, danger stalks them at every turn. Shardik, a “guardian” of one of the “Beams” that lead to the Tower, is the first of many threats that lie in wait along their path.

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Both Roland and Jake Chambers suffer from paradoxes of the mind, which slowly starts to drive each of them to the brink of sanity. This was brought about by Roland’s interference with events surrounding Jake’s death in The Drawing of the Three. With the help of Eddie and Susannah, they manage to “draw” Jake from the clutches of the terrifying Dutch Hill Mansion Demon (a.k.a. The Plaster Man), and into Mid-World.

As they continue to follow the Path of the Beam, the ka-tet grows by one, with Oy; the billy-bumbler taking a liking to Jake. Their journey passes through the town of River Crossing and onward; to the City of Lud, the Tick-Tock Man and…

“Blaine is a pain, and that is the truth”

 

Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower #4)

Wizard and Glass

After the amazing cliffhanger of The Waste Lands, readers had to wait six long; excruciating years, before they were able to delve into the pages of Wizard and Glass.

Published in November 1997, the fourth volume of Stephen King’s Dark Tower saga explores past events of Roland’s life and first love. Told directly from the Gunslinger’s lips, the tale talks of Roland’s first love; and his very first ka-tet.

Having reached the City of Topeka and discovering that “Captain Trips” (a lethal superflu); has wiped-out the nearby population, the group set off trying to get back on the Path of the Beam. Along the way, they come across a “Thinny” (a weak spot in the fabric of reality), which reminds Roland of an earlier time.

As night falls, the group settle down and the Gunslinger tells his tale.

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Sent East from Gilead, Roland and his ka-tet – made up of Cuthbert Allgood and Alain Johns – travel to the Barony of Mejis. Under the guise of Will Dearborn, Roland meets Susan Delgado; leading to their love growing, and the impending threat of The Big Coffin Hunters and Rhea of the Cöos.

As morning breaks, Roland’s story comes to a close; and the group travel on to The Emerald City, Maerlyn’s Grapefruit and the land of Thunderclap.

 

The Wind Through the Keyhole (The Dark Tower #4.5)

The Wind Through the Keyhole

The Wind Through the Keyhole is King’s latest entry in The Dark Tower series.

Set between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla, the story picks up with Roland and his ka-tet heading along the Path of the Beam and towards the Thunderclap. As they reach a river, Oy meets an old friend by the name of Bix, who helps them across the river and warns the group to take shelter from an incoming Starkblast.

As they find shelter in an abandoned town, Jake, Eddie and Susannah convince Roland to tell another tale from his past.

Pretty much picking up where the Gunslinger’s last story left-off, Roland has to go to Debaria; to put an end to the continuing threat from a “Skin-Man”. Accompanied by another gunslinger (Jamie De Curry), events lead to Roland protecting a young boy called Bill, by housing him in the town jail.

To calm the terrified young boy, Roland tells him the story of The Wind Through the Keyhole. So yes, this book is technically a story within a story.

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This story tells the tale of a young boy; named Tim Ross, who suffers the tragic loss of his father. In order for them to afford the annual taxes; collected by the “Covenant Man”, Tim’s mother marries into an abusive relationship.

Hurt and enraged, Tim enters the Endless Forest in search of the Covenant Man. Leading him to cross paths with Mudmen, an alligator, a dragon, many Billy-Bumblers, and… a Tyger.

The story ends, and with the help of Bill; Roland identifies the “Skin-Man” and puts an end to the threat, concluding yet another tale of the last Gunslinger of Gilead.

The ka-tet shelter from the Starkblast for a few more days, before – once again – following the path towards Thunderclap.

Wolves of the Calla (The Dark Tower #5)

Wolves of the Calla

Another six year wait had to be endured by avid readers of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, as the fifth volume; Wolves of the Calla, didn’t land on bookshelves until November 2003.

Although this wait was of similar duration to that between the releases of The Waste Lands and Wizard and Glass, time slowed for King fans. Author Stephen King, was struck by a minivan and seriously injured; whilst walking along the roadside on the 19th June 1999.

This date will no doubt have made fans across the world shiver, as the number nineteen appears continuously through his works, well before his accident occurred. Fortunately, over time King made a recovery, for which we all say “thankee-sai”.

Anyway, back to the book…

Roland and his ka-tet leave the Emerald City and trek southeast through the Mid-World forests, the path of which leads them to the outskirts of; Calla Bryn Sturgis – a nice homage to The Magnificent Seven director; John Sturges.

Although all appears calm, the impending threat of the “Wolves” influences Roland and his ka-tet to stand, and fight.

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The group meet Father Donald Callahan – the priest from Salem’s Lot – and learn of the “Wolves”, and that every twenty-three years; they return and raid the town of their young. The children are snatched away, taken to Thunderclap, and return months later “roont” (sterile, mentally handicapped and with a shorter lifespan).

Father Callahan tells of finding redemption, from the “low men”, his encounter with Walter O’Dim (a.k.a. The Man in Black), to his arrival at the small farm-town.

Not only does Roland have to fight-off the enveloping darkness of Thunderclap, he has to ensure that “The Rose” is protected by one of his ka-tet. Events which lead to their most dangerous battle yet…

 

Song of Susannah (The Dark Tower #6)

Song of Susannah

The penultimate novel in The Dark Tower saga, Song of Susannah was published in June 2004, a short seven months after the previous entry.

Not only was the novel released in quick succession to the previous instalment, but this sixth entry in the saga is also the quickest. Taking just over one day for the events of the book to take place.

The story picks up from the conclusion of Wolves of the Calla, with Roland, Jake, Eddie and Father Callahan desperate to find Susannah. With the help of the “Manni”, the ka-tet split into two groups. Roland and Eddie head after Susannah, whilst Jake, Father Callahan and Oy need to talk with a man by the name of; Calvin Tower.

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As expected, things don’t go to plan. When the group separate after stepping through the Doorway Cave, Jake Callahan and Oy and thrown into the middle of a busy street (in 1999), almost losing Oy in the process. Eventually the group pick up the trail of Susannah, not knowing of the threat imposed by Black Thirteen, or what awaits them at the Dixie Pig.

Meanwhile, Roland and Eddie arrive in 1977 – in the middle of an ambush, arranged by Jack Andolini. They escape with the help of a man called John Cullum. This leads to a palaver on Turtleback Lane, where they learn of man called; Stephen King.

 

The Dark Tower (The Dark Tower #7)

The Dark Tower

The Dark Tower, the final novel in The Dark Tower series was first published in September 2004. A mere three months after Song of Susannah.

Most likely one of, if not the most anticipated novel of his career, Stephen King’s closing piece to the engrossing Dark Tower puzzle is one fans have talked about for the past thirteen years.

The ka-tet still separated by both time and space, Jake, Father Callahan and Oy (still in 1999); enter the Dixie Pig to rescue Susannah.

Roland and Eddie set events in motion, that result in the founding of the Tet Corporation, before returning to the 19th house on Turtleback Lane and the doorway back to Mid-World and the final steps on the journey to The Dark Tower.

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Don’t worry, I won’t be telling you how this tale ends. I simply want to touch on a few story threads within the final instalment of King’s magnum opus.

In order to protect the Beams, Roland has to figure-out how to rescue the “Breakers”, including a dear old friend from the Gunslinger’s past. These events end in pain, along with the mention of dangerous being known as Dandelo.

Roland and Jake also travel back to Keystone Earth, to cross paths with the man known as; Stephen King.

Events lead Roland and his ka-tet to Fedic; where they head under the mountains. This leads them to the chilling Badlands, the White Lands of Empathica, the field of Can’-Ka No Rey, the Crimson King and… The Dark Tower.

 

The Little Sisters of Eluria (The Dark Tower #0.5)

Little Sisters of Eluria

Although a part of Roland Deschain’s past; and therefore The Dark Tower saga, I placed the short-story; The Little Sisters of Eluria, at the end.

My reasoning for this, is because I read this story after finishing the initial series as part of the 2002 Stephen King collection, titled; Everything’s Eventual.

The events of this story take place before the first instalment in The Dark Tower series; The Gunslinger, but happen after those told by Roland in Wizard and Glass and The Wind Through the Keyhole.

Still attempting track down the Man in Black. Roland rides into the deserted town of Eluria, on his horse; Topsy.

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His exploration of the town leads to his discovery of the dead body of a young boy, before being attacked and overcome by Slow Mutants.

Roland awakens in a white tent infirmary, alongside other patients. Here he meets the “Little Sisters”, each of whom resemble Rhea of the Cöos; in her true form – in the moments when he sees through their beautiful false form.

As Roland lies in bed, the Sisters seek information, to which the young Gunslinger answers falsely, as he knows they are also hiding something. Although he recovers, he is unable to make an escape due to the drugged soup he has to eat at meal times.

During the night; Roland awakens to a slurping sound, which he soon realises is the result of the Sisters devouring one of the patients.

One-by-one, the patients disappear, leading Roland to the realisation that he must escape before its too late.

 

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Other Forms of The Dark Tower

Not only are there other worlds than these, but there are other ways to tell the story of The Dark Tower.

I’ll make sure to return to the Tower at a later date and go into detail about these, but at the time of writing, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower has been adapted into a prequel graphic novel series by Marvel Comics. The first issues of which are subtitled: The Gunslinger Born.

Plus later this year, fans will finally get to see The Dark Tower in cinemas.

All we know at this point is that it is a continuation of the story, rather than a direct adaptation. I can’t wait to see Idris Elba’s Gunslinger, and Matthew McConaughey’s Man in Black on the big screen.

Make sure to stick with GoneFullGeek, for everything related to the Dark Tower movie. Fingers-crossed they do the source material justice and leave the door open for many sequels…

The Dark Tower Doorway

And the Tower is closer…

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it. Returning to the story of The Dark Tower and treasured characters within, it was like getting acquainted with an old friend.

To me and many others; Stephen King is the master of storytelling, and whether you’re a Dark Tower Junkie like myself, or not, I can say this with the same confidence Roland has when firing his pistols.

The path to The Dark Tower is a journey worth taking, whether its the first time round, or the nineteenth.

 

Like Roland’s aim; stay true, don’t forget the face of your father, and remember…

“A ROSE IS A ROSE IS A ROSE…”

The Dark Tower Rose

 

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