On rereading THE DARK TOWER series by Stephen King

I’ve just finished a reread of King’s Dark Tower series and enjoyed it a whole lot more this time around.

I think there’s a few reasons for that. First time around I read them in order when they were published, and that meant there were big, sometimes huge, gaps between books, long enough for me to have forgotten a great deal of nuance in the intervening time. This time I read them straight through, one after the other, reading solidly every day over the course of a week and immersing myself in the story. It felt like one (almost) coherent whole.

Another thing that got me through it better this time was that I wasn’t nearly so pissed off at King inserting himself so blatantly into it — first time through it had nearly been enough to kick me out of the story forever, but this time I mostly saw why he’d done it and went with the flow, although the metafictional Deus-ex-Machina parts still grate a bit.

And thirdly, the ending felt more natural this time, having read them all at once, and as King himself has said, you may not like the ending, but it feels like the right one, especially with the hope of change in the next turn of the great wheel.

First time through the emotional beats of book 7 didn’t get to me — mainly due to my anger at the metafictional stuff — but this time I shed a wee tear for every member of the Ka-Tet along the way.

I still think Susannah is hard done by and not a great characterisation, and Eddie is a bit too superficially drawn, but Jake and Oy are magical, and Roland is a true wandering, wounded, knight of days of old.

Another strange thing was that I recently saw the movie, and although I didn’t see Mathew M as Walter, I did see Idris Elba as Roland in my head while reading at a few spots, and strangely enough it worked, even despite the fact that all the illos in the Grant editions I have show him as long and tall white.

So all in all I thoroughly enjoyed reading them all again after all these years. I’ve been reading King for well over forty years now, and this to me is up there with the best stuff. Sure his influences are showing but the way he weaves them into an epic is masterful.

{Artwork by Michael Whelan}

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