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Promising Story which Ultimately Failed to Deliver
on 14 February 2016
I so wanted to love this series. I really did. My first encounter was with ‘Wizard and Glass’ at twelve years old and was accidental, I did not realise until I started reading that this was a series, I read on anyhow and loved it. It was some years later I got round to purchasing the other books. ‘The Gunslinger’ was admittedly a bit of a difficult read, however, I enjoyed the next few books. I would say things started to go ‘wrong’ after ‘Wolves of the Calla’ (for me anyway).
What had captivated me about this series was Roland’s familiar yet strange world and his encounters. His interactions with ‘folken’ from alien cultures, thorough which we got to know Roland and find out about his quest for the illusive tower. The mythology which all seemed like it was leading the reader somewhere, the allure that the intuitive and keen eyed reader may be able to figure out where Roland would be heading, or how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. It was going well. The story was pretty consistent up to a point, however, the last two books changed the tone of the series altogether for me.
The story became less interesting and lacked in substance and refinement. It felt to me like King had grown to despise Roland and his quest in the end, that he wanted to finish the tale for the sake of finishing. His final three books came in quick succession when compared with earlier volumes in the series, and it shows. There were so many elements introduced which, in the end, added nothing to the story. Susannah’s pregnancy and Mia, Mordred the random ‘spider demon son’, the introduction of himself into the story. None of it quite flowed. Instead of dedicating a significant proportion of the story to this arc, I would have liked to see more revelations from Roland’s past, more specifically what exactly happened with his childhood friends, and how his experiences drove his relentless quest for The Tower. There were so many arcs left unanswered. What became of Black 13 and what was its significance to the tower, up until the moment it was ‘forgotten’, it appeared to be pretty important? What happened to Ted Brautigan et al?
I disliked the introduction of characters from King’s other works into the book. It all became a bit too…. unfantasylike? As a fan of this genre, what I enjoy is an author’s ability to immerse me into ‘their’ world, to make it somehow believable, tangible. By introducing himself and unrelated characters from his other books, it kind of ruined the fictional world for me. I understand that this was King attempting to demonstrate how he felt that this work had ‘infiltrated’ his other books, but as a reader, I am more interested in the story itself than the author’s motivations/struggles.
The ending seemed cobbled together. Lots of people took issue with Susannah leaving before reaching the tower. This didn’t bother me so much itself, it always was Roland’s quest. I just didn’t like how the Jake and Eddie in New York thing panned out, it came across as lazy storytelling. Then there were such obvious mistakes you knew Roland and Susannah would never make, like going into Dandelo’s house and stuffing their faces with fresh chicken and butterscotch. As if it wouldn’t occur to them that having all these things to hand whilst living in a deserted village on the edge of the ‘Bad Lands’ wouldn’t be a little bit suss. It just seems Roland and his Ka Tet were forever happening upon objects/people of significance, which in the end had no real significance at all, because it appeared the tower’s only real purpose was to throw Roland back to the beginning. It is hinted that Roland was ‘thrown back’ because he didn’t get it quite right i.e. didn’t bring the horn with him, but that still leaves the reader in exactly the same position as they were when they started the books, which is wondering what the hell is the tower, why is it so important, and what is its purpose? I suspect King knew the reader may feel this way, hence the rant at the end about how it is the journey that is important, not the end, and if you think otherwise, you’re an idiot. I hate to say it because for the most part, I am a fan of Mr King’s works, but I feel like I have wasted my time following Roland’s journey, to be frank, the last couple of books were a chore to get through, and as such I feel I should have stopped where I started, at ‘Wizard and Glass’ all those years ago!