The Dark Tower: Book VII
by Stephen King
Published by Scribner
864 pages, 2004
Reviewed by Chris Gsell
I am going to do something different with my review for The Dark Tower: Book VII by Stephen King. I am going to begin this piece without having read the book. It's sitting here, on my desk, waiting for me, calling my name. In a few minutes, I will once again enter the world of Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy. Very shortly, my life will be put on hold. You see, I plan on cherishing this book, every word, every sentence, every paragraph. This will be the last time I enter Mid-World, for this the last book in King's Dark Tower series. And, more importantly, this could be Stephen King's last novel.
A little over 18 years ago, while visiting my cousins on Martha's Vineyard, I came across a book entitled Thinner by a Richard Bachman. I picked it up, not thinking much about it and began to read. By the time I finished the book, half my vacation was over, but my foray into the world of Stephen King had just begun.
His novels opened up the world of books for me. By ninth grade, I was spending most of my hard earned cash on books. I would walk miles out of my way to the local mall and spend hours deciding on which Stephen King book to buy next. Throughout the years, King has been a huge part of my life. It was his books that sparked my interest in reading. His novels got me through my awkward teenage years. When my world seemed out of control or too tough to handle, I always took comfort in loosing myself in King's vividly imagined worlds. Sure, they were mostly horror-driven tales, stories that could make my nightly trips of taking out the garbage a harrowing experience. But at the same time, his stories had beautiful visions of hope and strength with normal, everyday people, beating insurmountable odds. Sometimes his books had happy endings, sometimes they didn't. But that's life, as well.
So here I sit, about to start what King has stated several times will possibly be his last book. As I have always done in the past, no matter what book I am reading, I put everything else on hold. Without further hesitation, and what could possibly be for the last time, I enter
845 pages later, I return. And just like every other Stephen King book, there are certain words, phrases and memories that I carry away from the experience. This final Dark Tower is no different. It is huge in both volume and scope. And it is Stephen King at the top of his form. From beginning to end I was once again sucked into Mid-World and End-World, along for the journey with Roland and his ka-tet. This is some of King's best work. Maybe he saved the best for last.
Book VII picks up right where Book VI, Song of Susannah, left off. And if you have read this far, I guess it is safe to assume you have read up to Book VI or you are very familiar with the Dark Tower series. If not, stop here and grab a copy of Book I, The Gunslinger.
Susannah/Mia has been taken to Fedic through the Dixie Pig in an alternative NYC for the birth of her baby while Jake and Pere Callahan face an insurmountable force of vampires and low men. They enter the Dixie Pig, guns blazing, Oriza plates flying, trying to save Susannah/Mia and the terrible birth of a demon child. Roland and Eddie are in Maine, circa 1977, trying to get back to their group, but realizing that there is still unfinished business in Maine -- unfinished business with the "walk-in's" and with Stephen King himself.
Once they are finally reunited, two major tasks lie in their path before they are to reach the Dark Tower. First, they must free the people of Algul Siento from destroying one of the last two Beams that connect to the Dark Tower. Second, they must travel to Maine of 1999 and prevent the accident from taking place and killing Stephen King. And in the meantime, there is a Susannah/Mia's child that is hunting them down. Mordred is growing up fast and he's a-hungry.
Some have scoffed at King putting himself into his own books. He was also in Book VI. I don't have a problem with it. I found the concept interesting. It put a different twist on this series. One of the things that The Dark Tower series did so well was blend reality with fiction. There are several elements in our world that are also in Roland's ("Hey Jude" by The Beatles comes to mind). That line between our world and Roland's is blurred even further with King inserting himself into the story.
Throughout The Dark Tower, Roland, Eddie, Susannah and Jake meet many people from various Stephen King books. There are references to Insomnia, Four Past Midnight, The Stand, and Black House. Having read all of his previous books, it was great to see some of these characters again. Like seeing old friends. But even I have to admit, King's Dark Tower branches out to so many of his works, it gets difficult to keep track of who is who from what novel or short story.
There are many great scenes throughout the novel. The battle in the Dixie Pig, the gunfight at Algul Siento and Roland's attempt to save Stephen King's life come quickly to mind. Aside from some slow pacing that litters the book here and there, the novel as a whole easily makes up for any slow scenes and pacing concerns.
Many great characters, human and otherwise, enter Book VII. I really liked King's treatment of Mordred, Roland's half human evil son. King not only shows Mordred's inheritently evil side, but also his human side: that of a neglected child. As Mordred hunts down Roland and his ka-tet, he also hurts. Physically and mentally, Mordred is torn between killing his one father, Roland, and appeasing his other father, The Crimson King, who is determined to bring down Roland and the Dark Tower.
During the course of the story, as would be expected in the last book of any series, many major twists await the reader. Are they twists that are completely unexpected? If you have read up to Book VI, then I think you may know what's coming and what needs to happen along the journey. It's been hinted at for a while now. Rest assured, when they do come, it will still take your breath away. The scenes with the ka-tet breaking up are written with tender care in King's words. I found myself re-reading them over and over, believing what was happening and not believing it.
After finishing The Dark Tower that old adage came to mind, "The joy is in the journey, not the destination." King even mentions it here in Book VII and I couldn't agree more. The ending here was what it needed to be, whether you agree with it or not. This series is about the journey: the journey of the last gunslinger from a world that has moved on and his quest to reach the Dark Tower. I enjoyed the journey, every mile, click and wheel of it. Mr. King, if you're reading this, I'd like to say thank you, or more appropriately, thankee, sai. This has been an incredible journey. I hope this is not your last book, but if it is and I never hear from you again, I wish you long days and pleasant nights. | October 2004
Chris Gsell lives in South Jersey. By day he works for an ad agency, at night he enjoys reading and writing about books.