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Book Review – Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series
-By Caleb Jones
Plus, much of the story took place on our Earth. Also, instead of a medieval setting, the fantasy in Dark Tower is set in an old west, cowboy setting. This is fine I guess, but was outside of my interests.
Yet, since everyone kept screaming at me about how great the Dark Tower series was, and since Stephen King considers this his magnum opus, I finally gave it a shot. I read every one of the original, primary seven books (I skipped the novellas, short stories, comics, and later-published ‘shove-em-in-the-middle’ books). I also knew a movie was coming, and wanted to read all the books first, since I didn’t want the movie to poison my view of the books. Books are always better than the movie or TV versions anyway (Game of Thrones being the one and only exception; those books suck, but the show is pretty good).
Here are mini-reviews of all seven primary books in the series. I will do my best to keep them spoiler free, but no promises.
Much of the book takes place on Earth, which I thought would bother me. However, the book is so creative (the most creative one in the series) that it really kept my attention and I ended up loving it. It is an extremely unconventional story. In the very first chapter, the hero gets some of his fingers and toes permanently lost (bitten off by giant lobsters), and it just gets crazier from there. It’s one of the best books in the series.
Wolves of the Calla – This book is okay. About a third of the book is told in flashback form from many different characters. What was most interesting to me is how the structure of this book is duplicated in the TV show Lost (which happens to be my favorite TV show of all time). The head writer for Lost, Damon Lindelof, cites The Dark Tower as one of his favorite things ever, and the series’ influence on Lost shows very strongly in this book (long, detailed flashbacks for characters, strange numbers that reappear in odd places, lots of discussion about fate and purpose, etc).
Most of the stories are interesting and entertaining, but there were times during this book when I just wanted Stephen King to get on with it. The entire story leads up to a giant battle at the end, most of which is just mildly okay and doesn’t meet expectations. I still liked the book; just wish it could have been better.
This book is a great example of combining deep character study with fast action and a plot that makes sense. Many other fiction authors could learn from Song of Susannah. Well done.
One complaint is that the primary villain of the entire series is dispatched somewhat easily at the end, at least in my opinion, which was sort of a letdown. There’s also a lot of dark shit that happens in this book, and the ending is also dark, but Stephen King doesn’t go full bore with it, and I think he should have. It’s more “dark, but with hope” rather than dark. He should have gone full dark or full happy ending; one or the other.
Overall, I rate the entire Dark Tower series an eight out of ten. Good and entertaining, but not amazing. There are several other fantasy series that are much better, including Sanderson’s Final Empire series, Abercrombie’s First Law series, and of course the granddaddy, Erikson’s Malazan series.
At least now I’m ready to watch the movie when it comes out in a few weeks. My guess is it will probably be shitty or average, but it won’t ruin anything for me now that I’ve read the books, which was the entire point.
Now to find a new fantasy series to read that I haven’t read yet. Hmm…
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Tony 2017-07-16 08:16:38
Another one where the movies are better than the books is Lord of the Rings. Requiem for a Dream is also in that category (although the book was still pretty good), and from what I've heard The Shining is too (I haven't read the book, but the movie is so good it's hard to imagine the book topping it).
Gil Galad 2017-07-16 08:46:44
Books are always better than the movie or TV versions anyway (Game of Thrones being the one and only exception; those books suck, but the show is pretty good)Is it that bad ? I've been holding back from reading them because I'm pretty sure the last one will either come in the late 2020s or never, but I picked a few random bits and pieces and it looks like very good writing. Every dialogue I've read with Stannis in it is badass.
the TV show Lost (which happens to be my favorite TV show of all time)LOL. Just yesterday, I was wondering "what does BD think of Lost ?". My guess was that you liked it except for the fact that most male characters are betas or very flawed Alpha 1.0s. I'm currently rewatching it (last time was in my blue pill days), and the hindsight is very rewarding.
Another one where the movies are better than the books is Lord of the Rings.I'm gonna have to disagree. The LOTR and Hobbit movies are extremely good on their own terms, but as book adaptations, they butchered the source material. I've read LOTR, The Hobbit, Silmarillion, and Children of Hurin, and I'm convinced the argument "they had to modify the book version to make it more suitable for cinema" isn't valid. I still believe in a high quality LOTR/Silmarillion interpretation that does more justice to the books, somewhere in the future.
AnonDude 2017-07-16 13:36:06
I have only read the first two SOIAF books but I honestly can't belive that the books are worse than the last two seasons of the TV show. It's all about shocking audience now instead of compelling characters and good storytelling. Just look at how they turned Danny into a boring and bland Mary Sue character that every other character in the show worships for no reason (I still adore Emilia though) or the whole Dorne side story that was a bad joke. That is only two examples out of like 20 I could name off the top of my head. It's hard to believe that books are worse.
Anon 2017-07-16 14:38:40
The main difference between LotR and the movie trilogy is in pacing and scale. I happen to like the pacing of the book very much, maybe others have different tastes. Another instance of film being better than book is King's (by the way, his first name is Stephen!) The Green Mile, also due to pacing.
Gil Galad 2017-07-16 15:02:44
pacing and scaleI'm not sure it's the main difference. I could name many other non-trivial differences if I sat down for it, but off the top of my head, many characters in the movies are barely caricatures (or just too different) of their book counterpart, and many important character relationships were just done wrong (I'm looking at you, Frodo and Sam, SMFH). Back to the main subject, I do plan to read The Dark Tower at some point. It's just not on my near term list because I know King more for his horror stories and I wanna keep that image for a few more years. By the way, I advise anyone who hasn't read The Dark Half to do it. The ending was a bit meh, but the story and the villain are just awesome.
Caleb Jones 2017-07-16 17:34:07
Another one where the movies are better than the books is Lord of the Rings.Disagree completely (though those are the best movies ever made in my opinion).
Is it that bad ?In my opinion, yes. The first 2 books are good, but after that the plot meanders and never gets anywhere. Not good for a series that's thousands of pages. Yes, the dialogue and characters are fantastic, but that's it.
Just yesterday, I was wondering “what does BD think of Lost ?”.Best TV show ever made, ever. So good that I still can't quite believe it.
My guess was that you liked it except for the fact that most male characters are betas or very flawed Alpha 1.0s.That's all TV shows (and almost all movies).
I have only read the first two SOIAF books but I honestly can’t belive that the books are worse than the last two seasons of the TV show.You're comparing the best parts of the books with the worst parts of the show. Not a fair analysis. 1. As I said above, the first two books are pretty good. The rest suck. 2. A really good show with two lackluster seasons out of six is still really good.
his first name is Stephen!Corrected.
AnonDude 2017-07-17 01:42:31
Not a fair analysis.I was more surprised than analyzing since I didn't read the rest of the books but I guess now I never will. It's really a shame since both the show and the books had such a strong start.
A really good show with two lackluster seasons out of six is still really good.In my opinion, that really depends on how the show ends or in this case how good seasons 7 and 8 will be. For now yes it's still a good show but if they fuck up the final 2 seasons I will consider it mediocre at best. I was just disappointed since it's the only thing I watch on TV
AnonDude 2017-07-17 01:54:15
Hey Caleb I'm having trouble editing my comments after posting. Yesterday after posting my first comment here I tried editing. "SOIAF" to "ASOIAF" multiple times but after pressing Save nothing happened. The same thing happened now when posting my last comment and trying to change a few sentences after. This never happened on Blackdragon blog.
Eoin 2017-07-17 03:02:47
Hey Caleb I'd really recommend R Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing/Aspect Emperor series for your next big fantasy read. Its a big commitment and gets very very dark though.
hey hey 2017-07-17 05:42:50
Lindeloff also said he wanted to make a Dark Tower Show. But then he decided against it when many people complaint about Lost's ending(which is amazing in my opinion) because he thought he will ruin his best book. Lost changed television forever. I watched that series more than 3 times to get the little clues. No other show comes even near Lost. What about Twin Peaks? Crazy stuff.
Gil Galad 2017-07-17 07:35:16
I’m having trouble editing my comments after postingMe too. Editing and underlining (re-testing it now and we'll see) don't seem to work.
Caleb Jones 2017-07-17 15:42:05
I will get my I.T. guys to fix the commenting problem. Sorry for the inconvenience.
I’d really recommend R Scott Bakker’s Prince of Nothing/Aspect Emperor series for your next big fantasy read. Its a big commitment and gets very very dark though.Interesting. Never heard of it. I'll check it out.
Lindeloff also said he wanted to make a Dark Tower Show. But then he decided against it when many people complaint about Lost’s ending(which is amazing in my opinion) because he thought he will ruin his best book.Yes, I remember reading that as well.
Lost changed television forever. I watched that series more than 3 times to get the little clues. No other show comes even near Lost.I agree. The closest thing to it's level of intricacy was Babylon 5 back in the 90's. (B5 was really great, but it had a limited budget and the acting was sometimes dicey.)
James 2017-07-17 16:36:17
If you like fantasy that isn't set on planet earth, the Cold Fire Trilogy might be right up your ally, its my favorite fantasy series of all time. There are three books in the series: Black Sun Rising When True Night Falls Crown Of Shadows I saw the art work on one of them when I was in the book store, liked the art so much I bought it and read it, turned out to be the middle book of the series and I was hooked, read the whole series at least 3 times. Also, agree with the LOTR movies being some of the best made movies of all time.
Caleb Jones 2017-07-17 16:51:03
If you like fantasy that isn’t set on planet earth, the Cold Fire Trilogy might be right up your ally, its my favorite fantasy series of all time.Read it. Couldn't get past the first book. Very interesting premise and a talented writer, but way too much time is spent on the inner emotions of the characters for my tastes.
James 2017-07-17 17:20:57
Ah, cool, glad you took a shot at it. First book is a little slow, second is the best, and third is good too and I like how she wraps it up at the end.
Piotr Hejnar 2017-07-21 07:47:24
Caleb, Have you ever tried Witcher series?
Caleb Jones 2017-07-21 12:19:04
Have you ever tried Witcher series?If you're talking about the video games, I dabbled in the first one and got bored. I understand the newer ones are better.
Piotr Hejnar 2017-07-21 13:09:06
Not video games. Series of seven books starting with this one: https://www.amazon.com/Last-Wish-Introducing-Witcher/dp/0316029181
Caleb Jones 2017-07-21 14:18:48
Never heard of it. I'll check it out.
epi 2017-07-21 16:13:42
I think "Final Empire Series" is really "Mistborn Series".
epi 2017-08-04 12:07:30
I hear the movie is horrible.