The 2011 re-read
The quest for the Dark Tower comes to a brutal conclusion. Can Roland and his friends stop the Breakers of Algul Siento, safeguard the Beam, protect the Rose, stop Stephen King from being run down and killed, and reach the Dark Tower?
This is the end of my favorite epic of all time. I'm just going to mark the rest of the review as spoilers. Read at your own risk.
Here we are again. Has it really been seven years since the last time I read this?
When the last Dark Tower book was finally published in 2004, I took a Friday off work to make sure I'd have plenty of time to read that first weekend. I don't remember how many days it took to read through the 800+ pages but I know I tore through it. The re-read has almost been like a completely new book. Except...
...Well, there's no real way to sugar coat this. The first time through, I shed silent man tears at the deaths of Eddie, Jake, and even Oy the billy-bumbler. Since I knew what was coming, you'd think I'd be able to brace myself during the re-read. Nope. There were silent man tears shed once again. I think it was actually worse this time since I knew what was going to happen.
So much has changed since 2004 when I last finished this book. People have passed through my life and some have passed on altogether. To the clearing at the end of the path, as Roland would say. A lot happens in seven years. When Roland calls out the names of his ka-tet and the others outside the tower, I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought of doing something similar.
There's a feeling of suspense throughout most of the 800 pages, from the battle at Algul Siento to the saving of Stephen King to the final fight at the end. Roland's feeling of loss was a very real thing. I know because I felt it too. I think it was actually Roland's feeling of loss that pushed my buttons rather than the actual deaths and the breaking of the ka-tet. When the toughest son of a bitch in all the worlds cries, it's some serious shit. By the time this book rolls around, Roland is a vastly different person from the ruthless Man with No Name he was in The Gunslinger.
Even before the Dark Tower was completed, it was one of the books against which I measured all others. Since re-reading the entire saga a second time, I'm happy to say that it still is.
That's not to say I don't have any complaints about the saga. For one thing, I felt like Eddie and Walter both went out like chumps. Walter's portrayed as a big bad throughout the series and didn't really do much. It made Mordred seem like a capable threat but I would have preferred Walter dying by Roland's hand. Speaking of Mordred, his storyline almost felt tacked on and I felt the whole Susannah-Mia thing was overly complex. The Crimson King was a little bit of a letdown as well. The final battle felt like something out of a video game and I couldn't help but picture The Crimson King looking like Dr. Robotnik from Sonic the Hedgehog.
The ending seems to be a big problem for a lot of people. I didn't have a problem with the ending during the first read, nor do I have a problem with it now. The underlying theme of the series is that Ka is a wheel. Roland going back to the beginning reinforces that fact. King also let himself an opportunity to redo the series if he is so inclined in Roland having the Horn of Eld in his possession at the resumption of his quest.
I don't really have much else to say. It was my favorite epic when I was 19 and will probably be my favorite epic when I'm 99. It's not for everyone but few really good books are. I'll be reading it again in the future. Hopefully sooner than another seven years.