Convince me to start (or skip) the Dark Tower epic

I need more books to read and do love King’s work, but I’m a bit weary over Dark Tower. I’ve heard good things about it, but when I read the back of the first book of it the plot sounded stupid. “The last gunslinger and his journey” and something about forbidden love or something like that (I think)

I’m honestly about 50/50 with reading it, so I’m leaving it up to you to push me one way or another.

I love the series. If you like epic stories with touches of magic and a little horror and fantasy I would highly recommend. There are some very King-like lulls but for the most part I am a huge fan.

I started it a couple of months ago, after hearing good things here, and only made it a third of the way through the first book. Just couldn’t follow what was going on well and didn’t like any characters. I’m not a King fan though.

I listened to the first on audiobook, and just couldn’t get into it. I’m intrigued by what I’ve heard about the later books worlds from other books and realities coliding, including the author himself. But I can’t remember a darn thing about the 1st book other than the boredom, and can’t get up the gumption to read further. I say skip.

I read them. I’ll say that the story veers all over the place, so don’t let that description influence you very much. I thought they were OK. I didn’t hate them, but I didn’t find them quite so life-altering as so many other people seem to have found them. I’m not a huge King fan, though.

If each book were a movie, I think it’d be a lot more interesting. Just too many of the expected lulls, too many chunks of the book where the takeaway is worth maybe two paragraphs. (Whichever one focused on the Beams and the train is one example) But then those are balanced out by awesome, awesome books and storylines like the Calla.

If it were all video, I’d be arsed to cut each one down to the relevant portions, keep it all rolling, and everyone would love it. Even WITH the can-I-just-skim-this? portions <which I’m great at doing> I love the whole ethos, mythos, grand landscape of it all. It’s fairly epic.
And face it, Tolkienn wasn’t the greatest ‘get to the point’ writer, either, though my opinion may be influenced by my trying to read The Silmarillion right after the Hobbit. /facepalm

If I had the energy to cut the books themselves down to size, I would. But I don’t.

The upshot is: It’s epic. If you don’t like slogging through the wastelands <hehe> that come with most epics, then it’s not for you. But if you can skim when you start glazing over, it’s worth it.

There’s no harm in picking up the first book, which is short and among King’s best. There’s also no harm in stopping after it and imagining what might’ve been.

The first book is kind of abstract and surreal. Stuff just kind of happens without much apparent rhyme or reason. I don’t think it’s an easy book to get engaged in and I certainly don’t think it was one of his best.

It does, however, set the stage for the second, third, and fourth books, which are damn near masterpieces in my opinion. I am not a horror fan and typically don’t like King, but I thought those books were just incredible. The rest of the series is mediocre at best, though.

I will say, though, that if the mere word ‘gunslinger’ turns you off, you might not enjoy the series no matter what. It’s not as if there’s an overbearing amount of action and shooting and such, but there is simply no other word to describe the main character.

How can you be weary over it if you haven’t even started reading it?

Do you mean “wary” and/or “leery”?

Seconded, particularly if you are reading the original rather than the 2003 “revised and expanded” version. It was also written early in his career, as I recall, and I believe he’s admitted that it was a bit pretentious as a result.

On the other hand, the 2nd and 3rd? Bloody brilliant. The rest are good, if uneven. It’s well worth spending the time on the first to get the background you need for the rest.


Yeah, I meant wary.

I’ve only read the first book, but my opinion of it was definitely closer to Bosstone’s than ultrafilter’s. That was a few years ago (but recently enough that it was the “revised” version I read), and I still haven’t decided whether it’s worth trying #2.

It is, as the 2nd and 3rd books in the series are IMO masterpieces - surreal genre-bending fantasy at its best. The first book is, if anything, simply a prologue to these.

Some of my favorite moments in fantasy are found there:

Like the scene where the boy Jake - found in the first book mysteriously wandering in a desert, and sacrificed by the Gunslinger (sort of) to gain access to the man he’s chasing - is in our world going slowly insane with the knowledge of his own death … and turns in an “essay” on this subject in school! Or when Jake finds the Rose which is also the Dark Tower, in an abandoned building lot.

To some, the rest of the series was a bit of a let-down from that.

I really like The Gunslinger. It’s different, and that’s saying a lot when you’re talking about fantasy novels. For me, King created something very compelling by crafting a knight who comes from a world totally alien to the typical sword and sorcery setting (and yet, is tied directly with Arthurian legend in a way), and who embodies questions about when honor and dedication become obsessive inhumanity.

But even if you don’t like The Gunslinger at all, you owe it to yourself to meet Eddie Dean in The Drawing of the Three. If you get through his initial story arc and you still don’t like it, I’d say pack it in, but the second book is radically different in tone, setting, and character from the first novel, and is generally well-loved.

I felt frustrated reading Wizard and Glass, as I was caught up, waiting years for the next book to come out, and then it was 95% flashback, progressing the plot hardly at all. I should go back and re-read it in a more patient frame of mind - it was an interesting story in its own way.

I found Wolves of the Calla serviceable, but nowhere near the quality of the prior books. After that, King veered into ridiculously stupid territory for the final two books, and his bizarre insistence on using his books to work out his issues over being hit by a van may be understandable from an empathetic point of view, but the decision really destroyed the story, IMHO. To the point that I’d recommend if you want to know what happens in the Big Quest, just read through book 4 or 5, then read the Wikipedia synopses of the rest of the story.

I’m also one of those who felt like the ending, especially the way it was presented, was like a big Fuck You to the fans. I think he should have had the balls to end it before his dumb little, “you might want to stop reading here” BS.

  1. The first book is nothing like the others (I consider this a huge plus). He wrote it when “new wave” science fiction was still a thing and it shows. The revised version is somewhat better, but it’s still meh to me.

  2. The second and third books are freakin’ incredible. Some of King’s best work.

  3. The fourth book is a flashback and I can’t judge it–I’d waited years to find out “What happens next” and I got backstory. I suspect I’d like it better if I did a reread.

  4. I really liked book 5, but not everyone did.

  5. Books 6 and 7 were rushed and mediocre.

The thing that gonzoron talks about in the spoiler box attracted me too, but he totally crapped out on most of it,

He essentially said "All those links and interconnections with other books? That I’ve been promising you a payoff for for 20 years and about 25 books? Um…I dunno. How about “I was just kidding.” Whaddaya mean "What about the one in Insomnia where the book essentially ends with “To be continued in the Dark Tower series”? It is continued here. I just told you. It was a mirage. A dream. A hoax. That’s it. :rolleyes: It was a huge let-down for me because that’s what got me back into the series after the disappointment of book 4

  1. I think most people, even fans of the series, would agree that he really rushed the final conflict in Book 7. About half the readers love the ending, about half hate it. Very few are “meh”.

However, just about everyone I’ve ever talked with hates the author’s note that comes right before the ending. If you decide to read the series, skip the author’s note*, read the ending, then come back and, if you must, read it after. But hold your nose.

Big spoiler for the author’s note, but no real spoilers for the story at all.

King (not the Stephen King character that’s been in the series, the actual writer who’s getting royalties from the series, interrupts the book just as the Gunslinger is about to complete the quest we’ve read through 8000 pages for.

And he interrupts the story to say that you’re a stupid douchebag who likes to have sex without foreplay (his analogy, not mine) if you care about what happens to the characters next. He implores the reader to put down the book and just assume that the book ends with the gunslinger seconds away from completing his quest. If you don’t, you’re not a good reader and probably a retard and the only reason he’s putting the ending in is because he doesn’t want to hear the complaints of jackasses who care about what happens next.

It’s really one of the most obnoxious things I’ve ever read from an author. To the point where it polluted an ending I think I would actually have enjoyed.[/spoiler]

If you don’t like the first book, just read the first few dozen pages of the first story, and then read the last story in it (the book is 5 linked short stories–the fifth one is the only really critical one) and then try book two. If that doesn’t hook you pretty quickly, you won’t like the rest. I loved book two (and 3 is better)

ed–Ha! And on preview, I shoulda just said “+1 to what Authorized Cinnamon said” :stuck_out_tongue:

I dunno, I didn’t mind King’s author’s note. It seemed like he really just wanted to end the whole thing without any resolution, period. “Let the man be, let him live on, let his legend stand” kinda thing, rather than mussing it up with facts. And…I was ok with that. I understand wanting that. Even if it was a big wuss-out because he didn’t want to come up with some anti-climactic ending when he didn’t HAVE an ending, I still understand that.

Even if it’s all a big mess…it’s still a pretty epic mess.

I’m a lot more foregiving than you guys are on the ending and the author’s interjections. To my mind, what makes the series shine is that King took a lot of chances and experimented a lot with his fantasy. It is in the nature of things that some of his experiments worked brilliantly (books 2 and 3) and some did not work at all, at least to my mind (the author’s interjections). The series was at its worst though when he seemed to merely be going through the motions - I got that sense from some of the stuff in the last two books.

I can forgive a lot. The weird ending (without the truly obnoxious author’s note) would have been gutsy and I can appreciate it even if I’m not sure I would have liked it. I applaud him for taking chances. I’m even ok withthe Stephen King character in the book. I really got a kick out of the priest from Salem’s Lot discovering that someone wrote his story. It was a really successful experiment that went on too long

Rushing the ending? Ok…I get that he was freaked out by the car accident and wanted to make sure it was finished in case he died. I can forgive that.

But I can’t forgive the author’s note. It’s too dismissive of his readers, it’s a repudiation of a philosophy he’s pushed since Danse Macabre (and spent a lot of time on in Misery, and worse, it’s obnoxious, and condescending to readers.

And I can’t forgive the utter, contemptuous dismissal of all the threads to his other novels. It’s exactly the same problem I had with LOST. He promised that all these threads would tie together and whether through an utter lack of planning or a rush to make sure he didn’t die with books 6 and 7 unfinished or what, most of the threads led to a brief statement about how they were false shadows of the tower or some such garbage. I would have forgiven a handwaved “But what about a conclusion for Insomnia? How did IT fit in? What about this thread or that? Those are all other stories to be told another day.” I wouldn’t have been happy with that at all, but it’s not the total cock-tease with a blue-ball ending he gave us with what amounted to "And they woke up and it was all a dream.

*the “Gotta”. As in “I gotta find out what happens next!!!” He describes a good book as one in which you’re engaged in the story and affected by the characters to the point where you stay up 'till 3:00 am saying “I gotta read just one! more! chapter!” I agree with this philosophy. The idea that a story is about the beautiful prose and plot and characters are largely irrelevant is drivel.

Hmm…these are interesting.

So basically the first and the last 2 books are just ok…but the middle ones are like amazing?

The first one is just a prologue and is super short.

2 and 3 are amazing and really cool.

4 is not my favorite, but some folks like it.

I loved 5 and 7, and 6 is only OK.

Overall, I’d say read it and decide for yourself.