The Dark Tower, Books V and VI: Dear Lord, These Ain't Too Good

I’m fascinated that this series has as many ardent fans as it does, because I just finished off Book 5 (Wolves of the Calla) and Book 6 (Song of Susannah) and boy, do these ever suck.

Wolves of the Calla was pretty bad, about ten thousand pages (or so it felt) of excruciating tedium, culminating in a shockingly lousy final battle. But there were indications at the end of that book that a much higher level of suckitude was to follow.

Sure enough, Song of Susannah is probably the worst book ever written. I mean, this is Clive Cussler, Joan Collins, Candace Bushnell bad. This is “Sweet Valley High” bad. Actually, in many ways, it might be worse, because of course as anyone who’s read it know, it suddenly takes a dive into the most transcedently idiotic navel-gazing in the annals of literature.

Even the prose is bad:

The worst simile in the history of human communication.

The series wasn’t that bad up until this point. Guess ol’ Steve ran out of gas.

I didn’t mind 5 so much, but 6 definitely left something to be desired. 7 was good, though, so at least you have that to look forward to.

Shame he didn’t write 'em before the car wreck, though.

I quit reading the series halfway through Wizard and Glass. Now that was excruciating tedium. I just didn’t care that much about Roland’s past. Or maybe I would have if it were interesting. I just wanted the story to move forward, and here we’re stuck in the Longest Flashback Ever.

I read up through Wizards and Glass and actually only really liked the third one.

I didn’t like the first one, got the second one on audio casette as a gift, so I listened to it, wasn’t impressed.

Was loaned the third one, so I felt obligated, and actually enjoyed it, and then hated the fourth.

Eh, I liked all of them. I was so caught up in the story that I missed the reeking prose. That’s all I need to be happy.

Yeah, we mostly liked 'em because we waited for decades. They weren’t so much terrible as they were oddly reminiscent of somebody else’s mediocre fanfiction. Go back and read The Drawing of the Three again to cleanse your palette, although 7 is much better than, say, 6.

I read all seven, but don’t remember anything at all from the 6th one. I know I read it, but it’s like it just doesn’t exist. Not only that, there’s almost no break in continutiy for me from the 5th to the 7th. I liked the first three, hated the 4th because so much of it was a flashback, thought the 5th was OK, and apparently hated the 6th so much I’ve purged it from my memory.
The final book was ok, but suffered from being way too long and complicated, like much of the series. So much content across the seven books turned out to be totally irrelevent, and appears to have only been there to fill pages. If you cut out all the parts that end up not being important you could pare the series down to probably three books. If King had a tough editor who didn’t let him write out a giant stream of consciousness, it would be three tight, interesting books.

Also, about the final ending:

[spoiler] What in the hell? What an incredible cop out. First, he gives it a non ending, that totally eviscerates the soul of the series. Susannah off in another universe, with a slightly different Jake and Eddie? He Jake and Eddie are dead, half of the ka-tet is dead, and these… pseudo Jake and Eddie are acceptable replacements? The whole point was that they were linked in a way that is wholly unlike any other connection. Roland is god knows how old and he’s still linked to his orignal ka-tet. That Susannah accepts these two replacements so quickly tears the whole idea of a ka-tet to pieces.

Then you get Roland entering the Tower and… The End. Or so King would prefer. After his snarky little note to the readers, stating basically that if you want an actual ending you’re an idiot and not fit to be reading this massive tome. The argument just doesn’t work: while life itself may not have a definite ending place where everything is wrapped up in a neat little package, this is not life, this is a book, a series that people have been following for 25 years. To say “And he entered the Tower, and that’s all folks!” is incredibly insulting. And then to say that asking for a real ending is stupid is doubly insulting.

Then he gives us the ending, or not! Roland starts all over again, with no memory of anything. Not only that, he now has the Horn of Eld, a little referred to artifact that will somehow make him totally victorious this time around. So, to recap, in the end, nothing, absolutely NOTHING that we’ve read in these books matters to the actual story, and Roland will come out on top this time around because he has some stupid horn.

I bought all these books, read them all, and no, they are not very good after the 3rd one.[/spoiler]

I totally agree. Book 4 wasn’t too hot, either. I wanted to know about Roland’s past, sure, but I didn’t want to slog through 500 pages of tedium to get through it. I ended up skimming the last 100 or so pages.

Now Book 5 was better, I have to admit, but just…lacking. Book 1 was great because it had a dark fantasy/western feel to it and introduced us to the world of Roland and his quest. Book 2 was great because it focused on the characters that would eventually make up Roland’s Ka-Tet. Book 3 followed the travels of the Ka-Tet and the drawing of the final member, Jake. It also opened up a great deal of mystery about the nature of the beams, the Tower, and the Great Old Ones. Book 5, however, just didn’t do it for me. The whole book takes place in one town and spends the majority of its pages leading up to the attack of the Wolves. The battle itself lasts only about twenty five pages, if I remember. And once it’s over, the Ka-Tet is no closer to the Tower than when they began. I also thought there was too much about

Pere Callahan. Blah. I never really cared about him, even in Salems Lot.

I really can’t remember much about Book 6, but I did like it marginally better than the 5th, but only because of the creation myth and the prophecy told in Castle Discordia (though, in my opinion, the whole propecy thing seemed too much like King wrote himself into a corner and needed a way out, since this was the first time it was even mentioned, IIRC).

Still, for me Book 7 makes up for the last two in terms of pacing and plot. The ending isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, though. It wasn’t mine. Beware.

Yeah. It sucks.

Now that it’s been a while since I finished the series, I can look back and say that only 1-3 are really worth it. Like others, I have pretty much no recollection of Book 6 - that can’t be a good sign.

As for 7, well, I didn’t like it all the way through, never mind the ending. It was painfully clear that King had departed from the original motivations for Roland’s story, and was using the writing to work out his psychological issues regarding getting run over. He tried to justify it with some mystical claptrap, but really it just constantly tore down suspension of disbelief and in my mind made King seem rather pathetic.

I’ve tried to defend the ending to myself, but I have to admit, I think it was a bogus, retconned, written-into-a-corner copout.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I adore the first book in particular - it is unique, and has great atmosphere. And I think King deserves a lot of praise for creating a compelling fantasy world that in no way resembles Tolkein. But I don’t think I’ll bother reading 4-7 ever again.

Yes agree, books 5-6 suck rocks, and book 7 overall ain’t much better, however I didn’t mind the “ending” much, I directed a production of Hamlet a few years back with a similar take, so I was in the right headspace when I read what Sai King did to Roland when he entered the Tower.

All that said, book 4 was my favorite!!! Why? Cuthbert, Cuthbert, Cuthbert. He is what Eddie Dean was supposed to be but never quite was, a funny as hell, deadly killer who could bitchslap Roland when he was being a ass. Eddie never really worked for me, say sorry.

Jack

This is where the story crashed and burned for me too. It was endless. And boring. Time for a different book.

Actually I think my least favorites were Books II and III.

The flashback section was a major improvement over what had just come before it.

Yar, I agree that 6 was just awful and 7 didn’t do a whole lot for me, either. I can probably rate the books on the Susann-o-meter: the less Susanna’s in the book, the better it is. IMHO, here’s the fatal flaw of the series - Susanna seemed to be the apple of King’s eye, so he just couldn’t see that Susanna was the most D-U-L dull characters in popular literature. YMMV.

My exact ranking:
Great
4 - King can tell a great fairytale when that’s what he decides to do. I think the flashback as a standalone and Eyes of the Dragon are among King’s best work.
1 - Wish he’d stuck with this flavor. I can see why it wouldn’t be a commercial success if anybody else had written it, but boy this one pulls ya in. My feelings about the palaver at the end have changed since I was 16, though.

OK
5 - Liked getting to know the townspeople of Calla Bryn Sturgis.
7 - A couple of poignant moments here. An acceptible conclusion, but after reading the series half my life, I was hoping for better.
2 - Almost felt like King rebooted the series with this book, doing something a bit more King-formulaic. Still entertaining enough that I regretted leaving my copy on top of an ATM.

Bad
3 - Myeh. Very King-formulaic and not a whole lot to redeem it.
6 - It’s about Susanna (mostly) - how can it possibly not be crap? And that whole thing about the chap… how many rainforests had to die to bring us all the pages wasted on that side story?

But imagine how ineffably cool it would have been if it had been about a chav not a chap.

Can I mention how very bitter I am that King went and redid the first book? I picked up the new version for completeness sake and he renovated all the charm out of it. Sure, you’d used to have to tell people “Don’t decide whether you like them until the second book”, but it had a certain kind of integrity. Now it’s in the style of the last ones, and the last ones are obviously not at all his best work. It upsets me.

5 and 6 were so bad, I’ve vowed never to read 7. What a trainwreck. Watching King put himself in the series was like watching Quentin Tarantino show up in his own movies. And I don’t recall ever saying to myself…“Hmm, this series needs some vampires.”

A sad way for it to end up, given the cool, dangerous weirdness of the first book. He should’ve brought back the slow mutants, those were creepy.

I loved the ending. I thought it was totally compelling and satisfying.

And I thought book 5 was very good. I agree that 6 was weaker than the rest, but I think I liked it anyhow.

And I didn’t mind King writing himself into the story. I thought it worked, because he was so critical of himself.

Crap… that [ b ] was supposed to be [ spoiler ] (although it’s probably not going to spoil anyone at this point).

Can anyone spoil the series for me? I read the first 4 a few years ago. Then I didn’t care anymore by the time the 5th book came out.

Books 5 and 6 I had issues with. They just felt…different from the first four. And the chap, plus the men with animal heads (I think that was 7, actually), just felt wrong to me. In the earlier books, although there was certainly an air of mystery and a bit of magic, all of the awful creatures (slow mutants, Shardik, the Tull residents) were at least grounded in some sort of reality (radiation, technology).

The later creatures took the semi-real feel out of Roland’s world(s) in a slightly absurd way, IMO.

With that said, I loved Book 7. That book left me so emotionally drained that I think I took a week to recover. :o King as God is one mean sumbitch, I can tell you that much.

I’m currently listening to the series on CD during my commute. I’m starting on Book 4, and think when I finish that I’ll skip straight to Book 7.

For me, this series was all about the characters. That’s what I enjoy most about King - he tells a good story most of the time, but IMO, he knows how to get inside his characters’ heads like few other authors I’ve ever encountered.