The Dark Tower

Well, I finished Stephen King’s The Dark Tower.

I read slowly. Well, no, I read at a reasonably normal pace, it’s just that I don’t read very often. The desire to read is a very sporadic thing for me. It’s taken me 5 years and 5 months to get through these seven books, and although that’s not the 20+ years it took King to write them, I still feel the weight of all that time spent living with these characters and this story.

For the record, I am almost entirely satisfied by how it all shook out in the end. I even forgive King his increasing indulgences as the story progressed, because what is creative writing but an indulgence in the first place?

I know there has been much criticism of the ending (that’s maybe an understatement), which is directly addressed in the last stretch of the book. There’s a notion floating around in pop culture circles that an ending retroactively changes the nature of the entire journey; that if you aren’t necessarily satisfied by the ending, then you’ve been had, you’ve been wronged, and that the storyteller has maliciously wasted your time, and what if they’d just planned it all out beforehand?

I have never understood this. I still enjoy Lost, Battlestar Galactica, Mass Effect, all prime targets for this kind of “bad ending = bad story” nerd rage. By all means, criticise the ending if you don’t like it, but if you enjoyed the journey to that point then don’t allow those feelings poison your fond memories of that journey. Those feelings are still valid. You don’t need to hate the questions just because you hate the answers.

For myself, I am usually satisfied when the the storyteller draws their story to a definitive ending. I don’t necessarily need every question answered, and I don’t need to have my wild theories and speculation validated. I know they can’t be. And I know that often times the ending doesn’t live up to the promise of the story in its prime, or even up to my expectations. All I really want in the end is to feel like there is no more of the story left to tell, and I very much feel that way after The Dark Tower.

Regarding the series as a whole, I had ups and downs with it. For whatever reason, I’ve enjoyed all the odd-numbered books more than the even-numbered ones. The Waste Lands (III) and Wolves of the Calla (V) are my two favourites, while Song of Susannah (VI) is my least. My favourite parts were Roland’s quest, Roland’s world, rather than the frequent – and often barely justified – sidetracks into various versions of our own world.

Yes, at times I felt that King had lost the thread of his own story. In fact, I’m sure he had at some points. Perhaps I see a reflection of that in my life. Certain story threads seem vitally important in their inception, and then lead nowhere. Nevertheless, I was glad to have followed Roland Deschain – or perhaps more accurately, Stephen King – on his meandering, fantastical, quest, wherever it led.

I also finally understand what’s been going on with the movie adaptation that’s now in production, and I am excited to see Roland’s quest for the Dark Tower begin again on the big screen.

Say thankya, Sai King.

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