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Old 08-21-08, 12:20 AM   #1
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The Dark Tower

The Dark Tower series by Stephen King.

This series is based on Robert Browning's narrative poem "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came". Browning claimed the poem was essentially "given" to him in a dream.

King claims something similar.... that the book was a work of predestination, one that he had to write. I guess that improves the book's appeal at some level, at least for me.

I stand with the group that would claim the first four books as a superior work to the second three.

I am curious of two things:

1. Do you think this was a well written series? Do you perhaps think that King neglected key characters from other stories such as Black House, and the Talisman, and downplayed other characters such as Flagg?

2. King wanted this to be his crowning jewel, his finest work. Is it? I admit I quite enjoyed the preternatural journey through time's end and beyond, as it were.... but I still put "The Stand" at the top of my list as King's best epic work. What are your thoughts?
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Old 08-21-08, 09:43 AM   #2
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I think I have said this before but here is my two cents again.

It was an exceptionally well written story and I really enjoyed it. The first three or four books of the series were the best in my opinion and the last one or two felt kind of "rushed" to me. Overall, the story line was great, the characters were captivating and the story engrossing.

But the ending sucked. The ending of this story was such a let down to me that I physically would have beaten the crap out of King if I could have gotten my hands on him after reading that book. How someone could take a great story like that and then destroy it with that ending is beyond me.

With any story like this you have to make up the rules of the "universe" this story takes place in and inform the readers of the rules. Having done that, King then disposes of the rules he has touted throughout the story and does a complete 180 at the end.

In comparison, it is like the movie "The Highlander". Anyone that has seen this movie is lead to beleive that immortals have been born to regular people throughout history and that the immortals are "drawn" to each other to fight each other to the death and that one day only one of them will survive and he/she will gain unimaginable powers.

Then came "Highlander 2" which threw out everything, every "rule" we learned about in the first movie and we find out that the "immortals" are in reality rebel aliens and what we learned in the first movie no longer applied. Highlander 2 sucked.

With any good story writting people get emotionally envested in the story and characters. We deserve a good ending to a story that took seven books and several years to complete.

And finally, no I don't beleive this is Kings best work. Some of the first books of the series I would put up there with his best, but like you, I think "The Stand" is his very best and I am not sure he will ever top that one.
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Old 08-21-08, 10:47 AM   #3
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There are a few threads on this series already.
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Old 08-21-08, 12:49 PM   #4
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But the ending sucked. The ending of this story was such a let down to me that I physically would have beaten the crap out of King if I could have gotten my hands on him after reading that book. How someone could take a great story like that and then destroy it with that ending is beyond me.

With any story like this you have to make up the rules of the "universe" this story takes place in and inform the readers of the rules. Having done that, King then disposes of the rules he has touted throughout the story and does a complete 180 at the end.

With any good story writting people get emotionally envested in the story and characters. We deserve a good ending to a story that took seven books and several years to complete.

And finally, no I don't beleive this is Kings best work. Some of the first books of the series I would put up there with his best, but like you, I think "The Stand" is his very best and I am not sure he will ever top that one.
I completely disagree. I thought the ending was perfect, there was no better way to end it. None at all, and King is absolutely right in saying that the ending of a story is only as good as the journey (even if he said it in a snotty way). Book 7 is my favorite book in the series because I could feel the culmination of everything, it came together so well. I think structually the series is fairly sound considering the great amount of time it took him to write it.

Also, what rules did he throw out exactly?

The Dark Tower is King's great epic, followed closely by IT. I liked The Stand but I don't think it touches either of those stories.
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Old 08-21-08, 03:23 PM   #5
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I agree that it's a great and well written series but also think The Stand is his best work.
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Old 08-21-08, 04:06 PM   #6
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I completely disagree. I thought the ending was perfect, there was no better way to end it. None at all, and King is absolutely right in saying that the ending of a story is only as good as the journey (even if he said it in a snotty way). Book 7 is my favorite book in the series because I could feel the culmination of everything, it came together so well. I think structually the series is fairly sound considering the great amount of time it took him to write it.

Also, what rules did he throw out exactly?

The Dark Tower is King's great epic, followed closely by IT. I liked The Stand but I don't think it touches either of those stories.

The rule he threw out was that no one on either of these "Main" worlds could travel back in time on those timelines. That was a very important rule considering how he ended this story. In fact, it would make the end of the story impossible if he followed those rules. And with that in mind this story becomes a journey without end. No resolution EVER. So there is absolutely no ending to this story. Which sucks.
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Old 08-21-08, 04:10 PM   #7
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The rule he threw out was that no one on either of these "Main" worlds could travel back in time on those timelines. That was a very important rule considering how he ended this story. In fact, it would make the end of the story impossible if he followed those rules. And with that in mind this story becomes a journey without end. No resolution EVER. So there is absolutely no ending to this story. Which sucks.
Wait, it's been a long time since I've read the finale, but didn't he start over with something new? Something he didn't have at our beginning of Gunslinger.

I can't remember if it was an object or a thought/feeling/memory. But I remember thinking something was different for his next journey that might actually give conclusion.
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Old 08-21-08, 04:12 PM   #8
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The rule he threw out was that no one on either of these "Main" worlds could travel back in time on those timelines. That was a very important rule considering how he ended this story. In fact, it would make the end of the story impossible if he followed those rules. And with that in mind this story becomes a journey without end. No resolution EVER. So there is absolutely no ending to this story. Which sucks.
The ending was bittersweet. I wanted it to end, too, but the never ending story kinda rocked, too.
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Old 08-21-08, 06:27 PM   #9
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I really hate the handling of Walter/Flagg. Does anyone buy that the mercurial character from The Stand would lead Roland on a wild goose chase for years and then lay the intricate trap involving Jake?

And then to have Flagg killed by Mordred in such an offhand manner, without ever having a major confrontation with Roland and his ka-tet -- lame!

Then the Crimson King ends up being more like Donkey Kong than the ultimate embodiment of evil -- even lamer!
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Old 08-22-08, 10:20 AM   #10
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The Dark Tower saga suffers from the same ailment that I find in some of King's other work: He doesn't seem to know how to end a story in a satisfying way. It's like he starts writing about these characters and situations, and then doesn't have any idea how to end them.

Now, if you're reading something like "The Mist," which has an ambiguous ending, it can work because it's a short story. It's more frustrating with something like "The Stand" because it runs a thousand pages -- the journey itself is interesting, but the destination is a let-down.

When you get to The Dark Tower, which has its own mythology and story logic, runs seven books, thousands of pages, and has taken decades to complete, it's disasterous. You know, Roland (not to mention the reader) has been heading toward this Dark Tower for probably three thousand pages and thirty years, and the thing is basically empty. And the whole thing starts all over again. It's kind of hard not to see it as a cheat.
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Old 08-22-08, 12:29 PM   #11
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The Dark Tower saga suffers from the same ailment that I find in some of King's other work: He doesn't seem to know how to end a story in a satisfying way. It's like he starts writing about these characters and situations, and then doesn't have any idea how to end them.

Now, if you're reading something like "The Mist," which has an ambiguous ending, it can work because it's a short story. It's more frustrating with something like "The Stand" because it runs a thousand pages -- the journey itself is interesting, but the destination is a let-down.

When you get to The Dark Tower, which has its own mythology and story logic, runs seven books, thousands of pages, and has taken decades to complete, it's disasterous. You know, Roland (not to mention the reader) has been heading toward this Dark Tower for probably three thousand pages and thirty years, and the thing is basically empty. And the whole thing starts all over again. It's kind of hard not to see it as a cheat.

Wow, a lot of people apparently missed some of the nuances of the final books. While I agree that the first 4 were the best, I have a lot of love for the other books too. And especially the last one. Maybe if you re-read them close together, things will stick out more. Basically, Roland IS moving towards a conclusion. A key clue to this is at the end of the book when he starts over and HAS the horn of Eld at his side. In the previous story, it was lost (at the battle of Jericho Hill, if memory serves). So things are changing little by little each time Roland travels through his adventures. So eventually, he WILL reach the top of the tower. We just don't get to see it. =/

And King has said before that he has problems ending books. He does consider the journey to be more important than the destination. His endings still piss me off a lot of the time, but I try to keep that thought in mind when reading them.
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Old 08-22-08, 12:31 PM   #12
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A key clue to this is at the end of the book when he starts over and HAS the horn of Eld at his side. In the previous story, it was lost (at the battle of Jericho Hill, if memory serves). So things are changing little by little each time Roland travels through his adventures. So eventually, he WILL reach the top of the tower. We just don't get to see it. =/
Thank you! I knew there was something different about this conclusion. I thought it was the horn, but then I couldn't remember if it was broken or not.

I'm glad I didn't make that up
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Old 08-22-08, 03:14 PM   #13
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I really hate the handling of Walter/Flagg. Does anyone buy that the mercurial character from The Stand would lead Roland on a wild goose chase for years and then lay the intricate trap involving Jake?

And then to have Flagg killed by Mordred in such an offhand manner, without ever having a major confrontation with Roland and his ka-tet -- lame!

Then the Crimson King ends up being more like Donkey Kong than the ultimate embodiment of evil -- even lamer!
Sorry. I just couldn't help myself.
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Old 08-22-08, 03:19 PM   #14
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I really hate the handling of Walter/Flagg. Does anyone buy that the mercurial character from The Stand would lead Roland on a wild goose chase for years and then lay the intricate trap involving Jake?

And then to have Flagg killed by Mordred in such an offhand manner, without ever having a major confrontation with Roland and his ka-tet -- lame!

Then the Crimson King ends up being more like Donkey Kong than the ultimate embodiment of evil -- even lamer!
I have to agree with this. To have major characters die this lame deaths is very sad. King is the master of killing people and he picks two of the suckiest ways to off someone. And one of the ways is just stupid and feels like he cheated.

I mean he had one guy die by flying a 727 into a building way before 911. Another guy, well Flagg was hit by nuclear warhead...well almost. You get the idea. King can do so much better than the BS deaths he given us.
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Old 08-22-08, 05:01 PM   #15
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Wow, a lot of people apparently missed some of the nuances of the final books. While I agree that the first 4 were the best, I have a lot of love for the other books too. And especially the last one. Maybe if you re-read them close together, things will stick out more. Basically, Roland IS moving towards a conclusion. A key clue to this is at the end of the book when he starts over and HAS the horn of Eld at his side. In the previous story, it was lost (at the battle of Jericho Hill, if memory serves). So things are changing little by little each time Roland travels through his adventures. So eventually, he WILL reach the top of the tower. We just don't get to see it. =/

And King has said before that he has problems ending books. He does consider the journey to be more important than the destination. His endings still piss me off a lot of the time, but I try to keep that thought in mind when reading them.

What you are missing here is that we dont KNOW that you are correct. Yes, there are differences and things will change each time he goes through a cycle. But we don't KNOW that the changes mean anything. You are making assumptions that there is no evidence to support. That is why the author has to lay out the "RULES" of the universe for us. IF he said that on Roland's world and the world he draws the three from, no one can go back in time and then at the end he send Roland back in time how are we to know what will happen this time? How do we know that Roland hasn't in fact travelled through this crap 40 millions times already? That he hasn't had the horn with him 20,000 times through all of these premutations?

This is the author's job, to tell us the way thing are for the story to exist. If not, then you have no real story because anything is possible.

"Roland is walking though the desert when low and behold a spacehship with the Robinson family in it lands on top of him, end of story".

That is as likely to happen in this story as anything else because King doesn't stick to the rules of the story he is writting.

You can't say it is obvious that since Roland now has the horn he will end the journey this time. There is no way for us, the readers to know that.

Therefore, there is no ending. Therefore, King's "ending" for this story sucked. And we deserved better.

And no, it wouldn't be hard to make a better ending for this story. People say this is the best possible ending but right now I can think of one that would be at least as good.

All King had to do was send him to another world, one that wasn't his or the one that the three were drawn from but one where there is a need for a gunslinger to combat the evil. So his journey is complete on the one world but the worlds weary Roland cant lay down his arms, he must continue the good fight on this new world, and maybe the next and the next and the next.

At least that way there would have been some closure. We would have had the complete story of Roland on HIS world. And his journeys would continue on other worlds.

Okay, maybe not a great ending but craploads better than what King gave us.
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Old 08-22-08, 05:40 PM   #16
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to be fair - King did warn us in writing that we may want to stop reading...
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Old 08-22-08, 06:06 PM   #17
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We have discussed this in the past, but I loved the series overall. The books written before his accident were some of the best things he has ever written and Wizard and Glass is among my all time favorite novels. I really thought the post accident novels were tainted by that event and were very weak in comparison. King putting himself in the novels nearly ruined them for me, but I think this all had something to do with his near death experience. I also felt that Flagg was badly mishandled. This character is a legend and has proven such an embodiment of evil through Kings books that he deserved a much better finish. It was a huge letdown.

That said I absolutely loved the ending which I'm sure he had in mind when he started the series. To me it fit with the overall tone of the story and I honestly wouldn't have wanted it to end any other way. There is also hope in that ending because you realize things change a little bit each time through and it certainly doesn't have to be an endless cycle. Roland has to pay the price though until he does finally do things correctly.
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Old 08-23-08, 05:01 AM   #18
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Actually, it wasn't the Sisyphusean ending that was bad -- it seems quite logical that the journey should essentially be the staircase of a tower, basically winding over itself time after time, though progressing slightly with each movement.

What was bad was the self-indulging detour that the story took ... everybody talks about how 4 was really the end of the great stories (and yes, I will also call Wizards and Glass one of, if not THE best King book), yet 5 was a great story -- but it was more of an anti-serial episode that almost stood on its own. 6 and 7 wound about and failed miserably in the journey, not in the ending.

Personally, I hoped the ending would actual lead to more stories ...
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Old 08-23-08, 10:52 AM   #19
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Wow, a lot of people apparently missed some of the nuances of the final books. While I agree that the first 4 were the best, I have a lot of love for the other books too. And especially the last one. Maybe if you re-read them close together, things will stick out more. Basically, Roland IS moving towards a conclusion. A key clue to this is at the end of the book when he starts over and HAS the horn of Eld at his side. In the previous story, it was lost (at the battle of Jericho Hill, if memory serves). So things are changing little by little each time Roland travels through his adventures. So eventually, he WILL reach the top of the tower. We just don't get to see it. =/
If Lord of the Rings had ended with Frodo standing on Mount Doom and saying, "Oh shit, I left the Ring in Rivendell," do you think the book would be as popular as it is?
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Old 08-23-08, 07:32 PM   #20
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Actually, it wasn't the Sisyphusean ending that was bad -- it seems quite logical that the journey should essentially be the staircase of a tower, basically winding over itself time after time, though progressing slightly with each movement.

What was bad was the self-indulging detour that the story took ... everybody talks about how 4 was really the end of the great stories (and yes, I will also call Wizards and Glass one of, if not THE best King book), yet 5 was a great story -- but it was more of an anti-serial episode that almost stood on its own. 6 and 7 wound about and failed miserably in the journey, not in the ending.

Personally, I hoped the ending would actual lead to more stories ...
I agree with a lot of this. I enjoyed most of the journey, and the ending, but most of books 6 and 7 fell really flat and handled some things very poorly. As stated, Walter/Flagg and the Crimson King were dealt very, very poorly. For such important figures, King blew it. In fact, I think most characters were handled terribly in the final moments (Callahan, Susanah). I just remember feeling flat as each one left the story. I'm sure I will reread the entire series yet again one of these days (only read the last 3 books once), but the way things I remember being handled give me little reason to go back.
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Old 08-29-08, 12:19 PM   #21
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Question from a Dark Tower newbie... I'm a big fan of King's horror work, but twice I have checked The Gunslinger (1982 edition) out of the library and both times tried to read it but found myself putting it down in favor of other books. It wasn't that it was bad; it simply didn't hold my interest.

Should I give the 2003 revision a shot? King himself said he did the edit because "he felt the first book was 'dry' and hard to get into for new readers", which pretty much sums up my opinions.

Or is it a case where if I didn't get into the 1982 version of The Gunslinger, then I'm just not going to like the Dark Tower series in general?
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Old 08-29-08, 01:02 PM   #22
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I've never read the 2003 revision but you might want to try it, particularly if you normally like King's storytelling. I read original version and absolutely fell in love with the writing style. (I've said it before, but from the very first time I read "The man in black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed." it became my favorite line of fiction ever.) It was dry, but I'd say it gave it an extremely interesting and almost poetical feel which really fit in with some of the preceedings (particularly the events in Tull). When I started the next book I was immediately put off by how the writing style was completely inconsistent with the Gunslinger. Of course by 25 pages in I was so hooked that I didn't care anymore. Honestly, I don't think the series could have worked if written in the same style either. I say give the revision a shot and even if you still have trouble, force yourself through it.

Also, don't read this thread anymore because there are major spoilers
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Old 08-29-08, 01:07 PM   #23
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I was bored to tears with The Gunslinger, but my brother kept insisting I give it a shot. It took me weeks (maybe months?) to get through it. But once I got to the ending... I couldn't stop. The 2nd book ended up being my favorite.

Get to the end of The Gunslinger, no matter what it takes.
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Old 09-01-08, 08:39 PM   #24
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I thought that the revised version was a much easier read than the original at the expense of what felt like some "tacked-on" foreshadowing.
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Old 09-01-08, 09:21 PM   #25
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I thought that the revised version was a much easier read than the original at the expense of what felt like some "tacked-on" foreshadowing.
I agree with this, but I also really prefer the revised version. For anyone new to the series I would recommend the newer version.
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