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batcaver

Stephen King's Stupid Dark Tower +++(SPOILERS)+++

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Ok, so this topic is for people who've either read the series already or who, for one reason or another are not concerned about finding out major plot points. IMO, if you haven't read it this could save you a lot of grief, but just know either way that I'm gonna talk about the ending of the series as well as other important things. Also, this post is going to be one huge rant, so if you haven't the patience I understand. I'll try and make it entertaining, because I genuinely want to understand how anyone could think this story cohered successfully, how anyone could read the final three books without immense disappointment, and finally how anyone could possibly feel satisfied with the way the series ended.

 

People keep recommending this series, and I just can't understand it. I was so pissed off by the time I finished the last book. I mean, I understand to a degree, because the first 4 books had some pretty great moments. The first book grabs you right from the beginning and stays suspenseful and intriguing pretty much throughout, even though it immediately starts writing checks it's not prepared to cash. The campfire dialogue between Roland and The Man In Black (hereafter referred to as TMIB) was full of fascinating allusions. The next two have some hit and miss ideas, but they all keep pace and feel generally creative. The entire flashback scene in The Wizard and the Glass containing the three gunslinger boys was just fantastic. In my opinion it's the highlight of the series. In fact, I'd even be willing to recommend it myself to anyone who would promise to stop after that. I was so ready to be spellbound at that point that I forgot about how stupid some of the other King books I'd read could get. Then, the end of the fourth book came, with all of it's weird and ridiculous Oz references and I had a sinking feeling, like my date was trying to get me just a little too liquored up.

 

I mean, I almost don't know where to begin. Can I just list the a few of what I consider the more major offenses? In no particular order -

 

1. Throughout the series popular movies are constantly ripped off to provide easy world-building. The borrowed elements are pretty much copy/pasted straight from their source, as with Harry Potter and the sneetches In the fifth book. This is just lazy, and it's one of the biggest things that separates the pretty decent first half of the series from the shameless failure of the second half.

 

2. With the series 2/3 done, King had the first book undergo major revision just for the series to continue to make sense at all, a task still failed despite this shameless retcon. If there had been a massive payoff from this move it might be more understandable, but just to pave the way to the non-ending in book 7 is simply inexcusable. It leads me to believe that King slapped the last few books together because he'd begun to feel pressured to follow through on the inadvertent hit that the early books had become. The series achieved a kind of cult prestige that exceeded it's genre, which is something King doesn't get very often these days, pigeon-holed as he is.

 

3. My God, man, what kind of writer writes himself into his own story, has his own characters realize that he is writing their lives, then go to his house, meet him and gratefully acknowledge him as their creator? If only there were some reasonable explanation for this kind of megalomania, such as cult programming or PCP. He kills off a major character saving himself in the story from a car accident that almost killed him in real life. He has a character discover a note from him in a bathroom instructing her on how to get out of a trap. Oh, the inanity.

 

4. Having perhaps not seen enough movies to rip off lately, King then begins cannibalizing his own books, bringing in characters from stories in no way related to this one and stuffing them in no matter how it jarred. Quite often it did jar, as when you happened to have not read the source book from which a character was pulled and then given emphasis without development within The Dark Tower. However, if you had read the source book you might even be worse off since some of the them were so different in tone (see Hearts In Atlantis) here from TDT that to think of that same character in the new context was incredibly awkward and unbecoming. Still, King really thought this was a clever notion, so he retcons TMIB in order to make him the same character as the major villain from The Stand. At the point when this happened he'd already said in interviews that he thought of TDT as his masterpiece, which made sense, as all of this interweaving smacked of another cheap and lazy attempt to broaden the scope of the story while conserving as much imagination as possible. Well done, King. I am strangling myself.

 

5. Now that we've marred the major villain and in him the story's single longest running plot thread, how could we make sure that his situation doesn't just fail but achieves a true, genuine travesty? I mean, this guy is "The Man In Black", the mystery given us in the very first sentence of the series before we're even introduced to the tower itself. His final confrontation with Roland is something some of us have been waiting decades for, right? Well, how about we just randomly introduce a new central villain with no personality whatsoever in the second to last book? Then, in the last book we can have him kill TMIB in an anticlimactic, offhand manner right before his own useless, ineffectual death! It does seem kind of late in the game to be introducing a new theme, like uselessness, so we better fast track it by creating as many useless scenes as we can. That way when the entire story ends in the vertiginous swirl of absurdity so reminiscent of toilet water disappearing it will all have been effectively foreshadowed. My God. What next?

 

6. The end...Even before King breaks the fourth wall for his 'it's not the destination, it's the journey' cop out, it was obvious that something was very wrong. For one thing, Roland had barely come within sight of the tower when I noticed that the book was within several pages of its end. Somehow I'd still held to the smallest flicker of hope that the tower could make everything OK. It was there from the very first book. It's been the central destination of the entire story. Beloved characters have died for this. Mysteries have been doggedly pursued book after book. demoralizing digression after digression. Just get Roland into the damn tower, Stephen King; stop screwing with us. Finally, after one more infantile, bafflingly stupid scene involving a guy who draws magic pictures using his pencil eraser to erase the last major villain from the story, Roland goes inside (since the fourth wall has already been broken, is there a way this character could use his pencil to erase the last three books?).

 

He starts climbing. Every room in the tower is a flashback to an earlier scene of his life. When he gets to the top, he walks through the final door, loses his memory and the series starts over at the very beginning. We're told it's because he forgot to bring his horn with him when he came to the tower. What horn? What? Wait...What?

 

There are no words. I was dumbfounded. We got nothing. The end. Hold on, I need to go type 700 expletives onto a blank Word document until I can think again.

 

King said he knows some people were upset about the ending, but he's confident that it's the one and only right ending. Of course. I mean, there's just no possibility that King, who had been showing signs of serious creative fatigue through out the last three books just ran out of ideas and had nothing prepared for the ending. Likewise, I'm sure it's sheer coincidence that one of the most prolific fiction writers in the nation spent over twenty years dragging his feet through the series. Upon his revision of the first book, King added the minor detail of Roland once having a horn that had been passed down to him. That's pretty much the extent of it and as far as I can recall the horn wasn't mentioned again until the final moments of the last book. No importance whatsoever was attributed to it until then. We're still not told what this horn has to do with anything, so choose your own adventure. If we like the series enough then I guess we can make something up that will make us feel better. The whole thing is a joke. Fan sites are full of people speculating on the symbolism of the tower, and Roland's quest. Nice. This is high literature all of a sudden, huh? That's a shrewd reversal. I guess it was my fault getting too attached to a straight forward interpretation. I'll be sure to get on my comparative study right away.

 

The Gunslinger was good, and so were books 2 and 3. The first 3/4 of The Wizard and the Glass was great. So credit where it's due; it's not for nothing that so many people got invested in this series. Flame me if you loved it. I can take it and I really want to know how anyone could like anything after the flashback at the end of TWATG. If you hated it then I offer this space to purge. Most of all, if you haven't read it, don't.

Edited by batcaver

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The horn was mentioned.

 

In the battle where cuthbert died it had its own appearance and a small backstory.

 

I agree that the last few books werent as good as the first one's, but i have to admit i enjoyed the series thoroughly. You cant get EVERYTHING you want ya know. Its like a journey. Gotta take the good AND the bad

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I remember that now; thanks. I wanted to look back at my books for reference there but I sold them. I can't say that this changes my feelings at all about the horn or it's addition. I think it's clearly a huge dues ex machina as far as the horn's centrality to the story. I suspect that when he was desperately trying to figure out what to do next he latched onto the horn and decided to give it significance in order to make the end feel a bit more natural. We know he clearly didn't even come up with it until the third book, and he waited until the revised edition of The Gunslinger in 2003 to give it more precedence than any old item from the flashback would have had.

 

And I hear you on the rest, but man...there's bad, and then there's those last three books.

Edited by batcaver

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Yeah, that's pretty much my take on it. Although I did like Wolves of the Calla pretty well. If the series ended there with an Epilogue showing the Tower scene, it may have not have hurt so much cuz pretty much everything after that was crud.

 

I had the same reaction to Red Skies Over Red Seas (Locke Lamora Book 2).

 

P.S. - Another edit King did in Book One was originally, he had Roland chasing the Man in Black in a South direction. He changed it to match the SE direction of the beam later on.

Edited by SamVimes

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i've only read the first 3 books. couldn't get itno the 4th and stopped buying the series when they changed the size of the paperbacks to those oblong montrosities.

 

that said, i have to asked

 

" The borrowed elements are pretty much copy/pasted straight from their source, as with Harry Potter and the sneetches In the fifth book"

 

o.0 sneetches?? :laugh:

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I believe they were the little balls that Harry Potter used to chase around in that broom stadium game. King was pretty open in the book about taking the idea from the movie, but the way he does it is just pretty lazy. He just references the movie instead of having his characters experience and describe it themselves or better yet actually invent his own plot elements.

 

But yeah, it's pretty goofy regardless.

 

@Sam - Oh yeah, he changed all kinds of stuff. Big stuff about Roland, TMIB, 19, and all kinds of things. There's a full list on The Dark Tower Wiki.

Edited by batcaver

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That said, I will say that I liked the central characters (King has always done memorable characters) and the premise of the story. The plot execution though just fell apart the further along he went. One moment you have vampires, then you got spider-babies, then you got robots, then you got modern urban fantasy..... it just got to be a mish-mash of stories.

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Man, I felt exactly the same way. It was schizophrenic, like he couldn't decide what kind of story he wanted to write so he just started packing everything in. I was attracted to the idea of a gunslinger as a hero in a fantasy setting. I happen to think that's a cool concept and has plenty of potential. The first book and the fourth book were really the only ones that made good on that, thus they're really the ones I liked out of the series. 2 and 3 were OK too.

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I agree in general with your assessment, 4 was my favourite, then 1, 2 and 3 (somewhat ok). 

 

I'm wondering if some of the problems were down to the huge gap between 4 and 5 - I think this was where the hiatus kicked in.  Additionally I like the references from DT thrown into his other books - the references to posters and 'lost puppies' are the only ones I can recall off-hand, but I lost interest sometime in 5, half-read (i.e skimmed) most of 6 and 7, but I did like the ending (the actual ending, possibly the last page - although I don't recall anything about a horn), but the erasing the villain and writing himself in were just ridiculous.

 

I've also only read an old version of The Gunslinger, so I'm not sure if his 'upgardes' would work for me or not. 

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I think the original Gunslinger was better. I just liked King's writing style better when he was young man.

 

You probably don't remember the horn because it was a complete afterthought to the story, completely unworthy of the significance it's given at the end. It would be like Rand suddenly remembering in AMOL that he needed Tam's bed sheets to defeat the dark one.

 

I think the gap you're talking about was where the major breakdown occured, but even the end of TWATG was weird for me. Pretty much once the flashback ended I felt things were going downhill fast.

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I thought TWATG was pretty good, but it's been a long time since I read them - I recently found the books for 50p each in a charity shop so I'm going to give them another go, but they're a long way down my reread list - still got to finish WoT, then want to reread SOIAF so I can work on some theories a bit more, but between those, I think I'm going to have to spend a bit of time reading non-fantasy.  So DT is looking to be around Summer next year at the earliest. 

 

I just wanted to comment as everyone else I know that's read them think they're great, so it's nice to talk to other people who agree they're not great, not terrible as such, but not great.

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Yeah, part of the cause for my vehemence is the definitely the hype. People have really gone crazy about these books and I just feel there's a huge disconnect there between hype and product.

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I can respect that you didn't like them. Totally cool, his writing isn't for everyone. But I have read, and I own, every SK book ever written. As such, I picked up nuances in the Dark Tower series that only fans would see. The thing with the sneetches, it was part him poking fun at HP, and part respect for another author. It's not a ripoff, it's a mechanic of writing. Yeah, I'll admit, I was PISSED OFF when I first finished the series. But the second time I read it through, I realized it really was the only possible ending. The Dark Tower is the hub of all existence, much like a Wheel :wink: So of course it goes back to the beginning.

 

Also, Ted from Hearts in Atlantis, if you really really read that book, and paid attention to everything in it, and that one story in Everything's Eventual where the kid comes from, it all totally makes sense. King has spent most of his writing career putting allusions to TDT in all his other books. Have you read Insomnia? If not, there's a little boy in that story who draws Roland at the Tower, and tells his momma "Him's Roland, momaa! HIm's a gunslinger!"  So yes, you don't like them. But if you haven't read all his other works/aren't a fan, you probably won't. *shrugs*

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Well, I think we just disagree about the sneetches, but it's entirely possible that there was some meaning to it that was lost on me. I can't help but think it's just one more element that King didn't have to create himself since he was able to take it from another source, just as he did with the Wizard of Oz.

 

It isn't that I found the characters from the other books incongruous in terms of making sense with the plot. By the first instance of this that I can recall, which was Marten/Walter/TMIB also being Flagg from The Stand, it seemed like the plot was already lost. I think it's cool way to reward to reward devoted fans, but enjoying the story shouldn't be dependent upon doing THAT much work. My problem with the interweaving was that I felt like certain characters like Ted were dissonant because of the difference in tone and nature of HIA and TDT. It was as if a character from Tom Sawyer suddenly showed up in A Farewell To Arms. I've read HIA, and also The Stand and Insomnia. I found the first boring, the second pretty good and the third abhorrent.

 

I think it's a testament to the better elements of the story that I put up with so much to make it to the end. If there weren't really awesome things about TDT I wouldn't have bothered.

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i haven't seen it posted here, but King has stated that he writes in a Multiverse, meaning all of his books are intertwined at some point.  in every book of his, he writes in a shout out most times includes character from previous books as well as lays foreshadowing for future books.

 

 

i'm seeing that one gripe about tDT series was the inclusion of other characters from other books, and that those seemed like cop outs.  knowing this abotu King and that he does it in every book of his, i'd have to disagree with that premise and put it to him trying to tie the universes together.

 

for instance, TMIB in this series is also Flagg the evil magicain from "Eyes of the Dragon", written in 1987. and Flagg we all know can time jump, if you've read the book as it alludes to him having twisted events in that univers hunders of years prior; so hearing that he's also the villian in "The Stand" is unsurprising.

 

 

alot of authors write in multi-verses.  Brandon Sanderson is another notable author which writes in a multi-verse.

 

 

edit - as for writing himself in *shrugs*  i guess thats for personal taste.  i agree its very narcassistic of him, but no one ever said King wasn't a narcassist.  but again, i'm null on this, after all M. Knight and the director of Pulp Fiction also write themselves into all of their movies.  King also has a walk on minor role in all of his movies as well.

Edited by Red2111

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I quite enjoyed the series. I thought the ending was really anti climactic, and I expected more of a showdown at the tower, but other than that I was quite satisfied.

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I figured I'd be in the minority.  My angst about the series is partially due to that since usually any conversation about it that I have consists of me defending myself for disliking it.  I will say that some of my disappointment was brought on by my own expectations for the way I wanted second half of the series to go, so I may be as responsible for my own displeasure to some extent.  Of course, I still think those expectations were engendered by the far superior first half, so....call it as you see it, I guess.

 

 

i haven't seen it posted here, but King has stated that he writes in a Multiverse, meaning all of his books are intertwined at some point.  in every book of his, he writes in a shout out most times includes character from previous books as well as lays foreshadowing for future books.

 

 

i'm seeing that one gripe about tDT series was the inclusion of other characters from other books, and that those seemed like cop outs.  knowing this abotu King and that he does it in every book of his, i'd have to disagree with that premise and put it to him trying to tie the universes together.

 

for instance, TMIB in this series is also Flagg the evil magicain from "Eyes of the Dragon", written in 1987. and Flagg we all know can time jump, if you've read the book as it alludes to him having twisted events in that univers hunders of years prior; so hearing that he's also the villian in "The Stand" is unsurprising.

 

 

alot of authors write in multi-verses.  Brandon Sanderson is another notable author which writes in a multi-verse.

 

 

edit - as for writing himself in *shrugs*  i guess thats for personal taste.  i agree its very narcassistic of him, but no one ever said King wasn't a narcassist.  but again, i'm null on this, after all M. Knight and the director of Pulp Fiction also write themselves into all of their movies.  King also has a walk on minor role in all of his movies as well.

 

I didn't read Eyes of the Dragon, but I did read several of the other tie-in books.  It's a cool idea, and I've seen it work well for other authors.  I don't like the way King did it.  Just about every instance of it felt totally incidental and slapdash.  I just can't see how it served the story in any way, and in my opinion it actually detracted from it in a few instances.  For one thing, I happened to like TMIB in the series, but not so much Flagg in The Stand.  For King to randomly decide to make them the same person seemed a very weird and disappointing decision.   The concept of the multiverse is precisely the problem for me.  Insomnia is the only tie-in book I can think of written with the anticipation of TDT series.  Actually, Hearts In Atlantis is also a possibility but I have doubts about that.   If an author is going to use this device then it makes a lot more sense to plan it from the get go, otherwise you might end up with some serious incongruity in tone, ambiance, etc. not to mention your plot getting diluted.  IMO, that's exactly what happened here.  I really wonder why he decided to do it in the first place.  Did he just think it was a cool idea?   None of the tie-ins really seem to affect the plot in the sense that something would have been lost had they been new characters instead.  I object to it because every character created in the first half of the series was pretty cool for the most part, and I can't think a single decent character created in the second half.  I find his recycling of his old characters who weren't originally written to be part of a broader story to be just another instance of the general lack of creativity that initiated after TWATG.

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I really enjoyed the first four books, thought the last three weren't very good, but loved how he ended the series.

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I have a mancrush on your post/review, batcaver, lol = you elequently discusss so many of the problems many - and including ME, lol - have had for years with DT and SK's handling of it.

 

I agree with 80 - 90% of what you said/

 

I LOVED THE first three.

 

Book 4 - middle part/flashback = awesome. First part/ending to the Riddle Game with Charle...eh...cheesy, but pretty good still...the end was a bad sign with all thr Wizard of Oz stuff. ........ Book 5 - A lot of fun and cool parts. Still felt like it had LIFE. ... But definitely a different quality to the writing and the feared ''wolves'' being robots with Dr Doom masks and Harry Potter weapons was astoundingly groan-inducing ... ... Book 6 - a wretched ,dull, flat, pointless book ...Book 7: SOME moments of magnificence but too many problems of books 5 and 6 and the Santa Clause ''EEEEEEEE'' bad guy and being ''erased'' was pathetic. The inside of the tower was cool, but too brief. 

 

King was darned if he did and if he didn't. he finished it for his fans. Its not his fault that young brilliant, fresh time of his life had long since gone. And I even liked the ''begin again'' ending.

 

Most of the other things you mentioned (king in the story) were horrid, I agree. All in all though, DT as a whole will always have a special place with me.

 

 

Fish

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I actually didn't like book 4 that much. It's a finely written book in and of itself, but I remember being excited when it came out, and all I got was a big long flashback. It provided some necessary backstory for Roland, but didn't do much to advance the main story, and then it was 6 damn years before book 5 came out.

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Great post Batcaver, sorry for such a late review!!!!

It has been years since i finished reading that bloody series and i still think SK ripped off all of his fans with the worst ending  imaginable. Like many others there was years invested in reading and waiting between books. After the first few books expectations did rise, before waivering nervously, slowly dissolving and finally imploding with SK's lazy finish!

Havent been able to read one of his novels since and cannot imagine ever picking one up again which seems a shame but such is life.

Still hoping WOT makes it to TV series ala GOT...

 

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Ok I'm gonna jump in here and say. "I actually liked the ending of the series." 

It perfectly reflects how everything is based on Roland and that the ending won't matter based on anything Roland does.

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