Childe Roland Returneth; the new Dark Tower

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed…

(warning: post and/comments may contain spoilers)

…And with those words, millions of Stephen King fans were transported into another world- actually, several other worlds.  We traveled with Roland while he followed the man in black and while he found and lost a ‘son’.  We traveled with him while sick and dying as he opened doors to other places on a long and lonely beach, and finally drew his ka-tet, the people who would save his life and more importantly, the people who would find a way past his defenses to his frozen heart.

Sounds dramatic, right?  Well, it is…but not in an over-sentimentalized “Lifetime” channel movie kind of way.  With the Dark Tower (DT) series, King manages seven whole novels over the loooong span of his illustrious career, novels that draw you in completely.  Perhaps not surprisingly, by the time you are done the series, you feel you know the characters intimately, and have even formed attachments to them.

These seven novels also manage to tie in at least a dozen of his other former novels and stories in some way or another.  Some are small references, almost name drops, while others manage to reintroduce interesting characters from previous novels.  For instance, in the 5th installment of the DT, Father Callahan plays a large role (it is even inferred that he may somehow be a part of Roland’s ka-tet).  Avid fans of Stephen King will of course remember Father Callahan from Salem’s Lot, and this is their chance to find out what happened to the unlucky ‘Pere’ after his ‘forceful excommunication’ in the Lot.  Many characters from other novels will surface, either with the same name (Ted Brautigan from Hearts in Atlantis and Dinky Earnshaw from the short story “Everything’s Eventual”), or incognito (think Flagg.)  It’s kind of amazing really.   Not only do these ‘cameos’ provide the reader with an “aha!” moment that makes them feel in the know, but they make King’s universe, his version of Maine and Midworld, seem more real.

I wait with anticipation, and wonder what this new novel, The Wind Through the Keyhole, will add to the DT experience.

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9 responses to “Childe Roland Returneth; the new Dark Tower

  1. I’m here and so excited! 🙂 I don’t even know where to start, I’ve been dying to pick your brain on so many parts of the series, so I’m going to ask THE question. What was your reaction to the ending?

    (if you have not read the whole series, I’ll reiterate the spoiler alert)

    I’ll give you mine. It went something like “WHAT?????? (insert absurdly long string of cursing and foul language here)”, then re-reading the end again, and having a “moment” where it dawned on me that this time, he had the horn. Then I thought “Jesus, how many times has he done this?? Oh wait…how many times has he DONE THIS!!!” *mouth drops open*

    It was about 8 minutes of going from furious to joy. I remember you said that when it ends, it feels like you lose a little piece of your soul. And I agree with that. But… BUT WAIT! (and this is my interpretation of the ending, which I’ve only been able to share with a few people). He has the horn this time, right? So last time, what did he have that he didn’t have before? And what will he have next time? My humble little theory is that it NEVER ENDS. It’s the real deal Never Ending Story, so everything you love happens again, everything that was sad and made you cry, well, that might not happen next time. To me it’s like he set it up so that the story ends when and how the *reader* chooses, not him.

    I could not be more happy with that idea. I read all 7 books and feel such a loss that it’s over but it’s not over, its only over when I want it to be. It’s like King does all of this and then hands you this amazing gift and says “here you go, I’ve done all the work, the rest is whatever you’d like it to be” Maybe King did it for us, maybe he couldn’t bear for it to end either. So in my own little imagination, Roland just keeps doing this over and over again until he gets it “right” (poor guy, but since he doesn’t remember, it’s not that hard on him). I guess in my version, “right” means that the whole ka-tet is still together and he opens that door and something that my feeble imagination can’t come up but is truly amazing awaits. Maybe it’s Roland and Susan living happily ever after on a ranch somewhere with a son named Jake and Eddie and Susannah Dean for next door neighbors, I don’t know. I make no pretense of being a writer, I don’t have the imagination for it. What I do have the imagination for is the idea that if I stick with my theory and every time he starts again with something he didn’t have before (there must be a limit, how much can one guy carry? lol) , he’s closer to this utopian happy ending, and so there are infinite happy endings ahead.

    I’ll admit, as far as literature goes, this does entail a large amount of cheesy-ness. I’m a sucker for happy endings, unapologetically so. But it makes reading the books again a whole lot of fun because then you get to speculate. What if “next time”, this happens instead? Or that part doesn’t happen? It’s a whole new story every time. Which I suppose, if one had the inclination, you could do with any book but if you’re going to take the time to lay back and ponder, what better story to do it with than the Dark Tower?

    • Man, I was a little upset about the ending the first time around. It felt like he’d suffered all that for nothing (and by extension, WE the readers had suffered all that for nothing.) I didn’t even pick up on what it meant that he had the horn until the second reading. But I have always had problems with ‘time travel’ stories, and this is in its way one of those stories. When you have multiple dimensions or worlds like this, and they are making it seem as if the people are connected in them, you start to wonder how connected they are. Are they the same people actually? Does a person’s fate in one world effect their “twinner” (Talisman/Black House term there for ya!) from another? Well, evidently not, since Eddie, Jake, and Oy died in one world, but at the end, they are alive in another world (incarnation?). But if they are not the same people, how can we be really satisfied with the end when Susannah gets to rejoin them in another NY? Unless we be happy for the fact that she will forget all that happened to her in Mid-world and get to know the ‘new’ Eddie and Jake. See, it’s a bit confusing, overwhelming, and …ptttthhh. I dunno. I can’t be completely satisfied, but I guess it does give a bit of hope. Similarly, if Roland lived the quest over and over again, will he draw a different ‘three’ from the doors the next time, or just different versions of Eddie, Susannah, and Jake? Is he actually going back in time? (I don’t think so, because he has traveled for like a thousand years, if I remember the insinuation in the book.)

      Anyhow…what say you?

      • I’m thinking he doesn’t go back in time, per se, more like starts over at a certain point every time? I realize as I type this that the two sound the same, but of that about 1,000 years he’s been “traveling”, most of that time isn’t accounted for. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t remember that he’s done it all before? Since when he started out as a kid, the world hadn’t “moved on” yet (if I recall correctly). So I think it’s a kind of time/place thing, it takes him a certain amount of time from when he sets out for the Tower and once he gets there, that time elapsed just starts up again where he left off, (in the desert every time? Who knows?) which would explain how he’s been doing this for that long
        Good point. I never gave the time-travel part much thought, I always really focused on the multiple-world/dimension travel instead.

        Hmmm…Eddie and Susannah and Jake at the end…I’m mostly okay with it. It wasn’t the reunion I’d hoped for but there is the sense that they know each other and belong together and it seems like everyone kind of made out good. Eddie is clean and has a much better brother in Jake,and Jake doesn’t have his neglectful parents. I think if they all remembered Roland and the other world, they’d spend their lives wanting to go back so it’s probably for the best that these “other” versions are a bit different and Susannah seems to forget what happened. They’d be spending forever looking for doors and roses and “thin” places and that would suck for them. There ARE other worlds than these…what was it that Jo used to say in Bag of Bones? So *that’s* alright then?

        Plus that leaves the old versions of them still around for Roland to “draw” again, I do believe he does every time, those same 3 versions of them. Nothing factual to base that on, I just want to believe that.

        Not sure on the Twinner thing though. That seems to be on an individual basis when he comes to mentioning people from other stories. Father Callahan was definitely the same person, we know that much. I think Ted Brautigan was too. Remember the Low Men were looking for him in Hearts in Atlantis and caught him? But what about Jack Mort? He was vital to the story. No mention of him anywhere else that I know of, so we can only assume his death is permanent. or the people in the Calla. Maybe it’s all just King’s whim, who is important enough to come around again. A fondness for a particular character. The Red King and the Eye come up in many books (good Talisman/Black House reference there on your part, btw) and The Man In Black/Walter/Flagg, however many names he has, I got the impression he’s the same guy with a lot of faces who is just everywhere trying to eff things up for everyone. Black magic or the Devil’s minion, he seems to pervade all. I wonder if the ancient evil from Desperation is really the same entity that he gets his powers from? Ka, Good vs. Evil, God vs. Satan, a destiny for the universe, people destroying their planet and other planets being affected by it, there are undoubtedly a lot of religious undertones going on.

        Personally I always get really excited when I read one of his other books and find a DT reference. A friend of mine who’s read probably more King that I have absolutely hates that. I love it, makes me feel like no matter what, it’s always about and has always been about the DT for King. Like DT is just part of who he is.

        What are your thoughts on King writing himself into the story and in such an important role? I have a love/hate relationship with that part. Overall it makes sense and enhances the story, King as the one who “invented” these people and them being aware of it and him needing to finish the story since he’s a tool of Ka himself but I also felt some repulsion at the idea, almost as if he was just stoking his own ego, that or so obsessed with the story that he just HAD to make himself a part of it.

        On a side note, did you like Black House? I had read it before The Talisman and honestly, LOVED IT, then read The Talisman and didn’t love that one as much. Backward, I know, it was an accident on my part. I found Black House fascinating though and purchased some Peter Straub just because of that and did not like Peter Straub on his own at all.

        (I’ve decided once I’m done with my current book, I’m going to re-read the series again. Just having these conversations, I’m realizing how much detail I don’t remember and I’d like to do it again before Wind Through The Keyhole comes out. The second time around I noticed things I had missed the first time so who knows, maybe this time I’ll catch another little detail that went over my head before and that’s always fun)

        • Well, according to Einstein time and space are related, so, in order to travel back into one’s own past, through a door… well, draw your own conclusions I guess. But that whole “meeting yourself” thing is something I could never deal with in “time” travel stories. You’d have to have a “self” for every set unit of time. So what is the smallest unit of time possible? Do you have a self for every millisecond? what happens to your self from one millisecond when it’s over? Does that mean their has to be a world in which every self to go on to the next millisecond? As I type this it seems like I’m just being ridiculous, but really, this is how I hash things out in my head. I kind of liked how they did time travel in Donnie Darko (sorry about the outside reference). But in Donnie Darko, it was more like a person traveled along a set vector so there could only really ever be one copy of them in ONE place at a given time…

          I did not mind Stephen King being in the story. If anyone could write themselves in and it seem okay, it would be him. And he probably DOES feel like a part of the story. It also holds with the fact that he has always seemed to maintain that he is merely a conduit for the story, not it’s creator.

          • bahaha! I wish you could see the look on my face right now. You lost me somewhere in between Einstein and Donnie Darko. I only have the most basic, elementary grasp, more of mushy soup in my brain that won’t quite congeal into a solid,of the concept. I am not smarter than a 5th grader, as the show has never failed to prove to me. I feel like I should be tossing out terms like “time/space continuum” or “flux capacitor” here in an attempt to keep up but there is just no way I’m going to BS my way through this one 😉

            I *think* (and I’ll use that term loosely on this topic) that what you are saying is what happens to or where do our specific selves end up (or are waiting?). Where is the me that I was when I started typing this, the me from 10 years ago,the me from 20 years from now? On another plane, in another dimension? I have no clue. My limited ability to wrap my mind around the subject has led me to keep it arms length. Not because it isn’t interesting, the multiple theories intrigue me (time travel in 11/22/63 I could get behind. King made that one simple enough on us.) and the always present paradox situations.

            That’s about as far as my limited grey matter can take me on this one.

            I will say that I do like the idea of infinite “me” running about in infinite worlds in infinite times. Trying to imagine another me living a life I can’t conceive of does capture my imagination. I’d like to take a peek at those other selves and see what they’re up to and how different they are from this version of me. I do this often, to be honest, and have King to thank for that. I don’t have the math or logistical temperament to pick apart the how’s and why’s of the whole shebang, I think I just like the idea of there being a “me” somewhere living a life so much better than the one I’m currently stumbling through. I figure if there are infinite “me’s” out there, at least one of me is having a great time somewhere.

          • Haha… I really don’t get it much either…I also have a hard time wrapping my head around it, the same way I have a hard time staring out at the stars too long…It’s just too big out there. When I think too long on these things, my brain kinda short circuits and it won’t go any farther.

            Haven’t read 11/22 yet. But in answer to the other part of your question from before, I liked Talisman okay (except the first time I read it I was pretty sick and I think those feelings kinda linked with how I feel about the book somehow.) I liked Black House way better. Beezer was one of my favorite characters.

          • I am so glad to hear that! Our reasons may be different but it’s nice to know I’m not the only one. Every other person I’ve asked says they love The Talisman but didn’t like Black House.

            You should dig into 11/22 as soon as you can. That book was so good I passed up sleep because I couldn’t put it down.

  2. Pingback: DP: The Man in Black Fled Across the Desert… | alienredqueen

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