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 Childe Richie to the Dark Tower came (A LOT OF SPOILERS) 
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Darth Fucking Vader
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Post Childe Richie to the Dark Tower came (A LOT OF SPOILERS)
Right,

As I’ve insisted on cataloguing at length over the last few months, I’ve been slowly and painfully working my through Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. I’ve tried to do my best to keep spoilers out of the Now Reading thread in case anyone else wants to follow me, but I know there are a few people who went there first, and I’d like to vent several months of “what the fuck was he thinking of?” at them. In case it’s not clear from the title (which it is), this thread is aimed at people who have read all seven books, and will therefore be full of spoilers.

I’m afraid this is going to be long, and I’ll probably go back later and edit in all the stuff I’ve forgotten, but it’s been seven books and over two months of reading, this was never going to be a short post.

So...

Overall impression, for all that I’m about to spend most of this post ripping the shit out of it, was positive. I’ve always said that for his lack of skill King can tell a good story (something he says about himself in one of the books), and there are some great ideas and fantastically dramatic moments in it. If his classic Maine stories are Fisherprice My First Lovecraft, The Dark Tower is his Diet Moorcock, but written on a scale that Moorcock never attempted with a single consistent story, and most of the time it works well.

Most of the time.

Good things:

For such an obviously archetypal, hewn-from-stone character, Roland is surprisingly well-rounded and engaging. I like the less-likable aspects of his personality (the description of him as the kind of man who’d straighten all the pictures in a motel room made me like him early on), and King does a good job of making him seem like a man from a genuinely different culture.

The danger of a multiverse-story is having lots of superficial, unbelievable worlds that no-one cares about, but there’s a really strong sense of Roland’s world as a real, developed thing, and the decaying remnants of it are much more effective as a result.

There’s a nice line in creepy paganism in the background – things like Charyou Tree and the rice song (though by the end I was willing to put my face through the window the next time anyone said “comalla-come-come”) conjure up an effective American Wicker Man vibe.

Given that he wrote it over such a long period of time, and admits freely that he made it up as he went along, it holds together surprisingly well.

I like Oy. I know, I’m a big poof, but I’m not sorry.

Bad things:

King’s ignorance. I don’t expect a writer to become an expert in everything he writes about, but some of his lapses in knowledge and crass generalisation are just inexcusable. Drawing Of The Three is the worst for this, with its Italian Gangsters who can’t speak Italian (and “smell of garlic and oil” – cheers, Stephen) and Susannah’s “schizophrenia” which is nothing of the kind.

Cheap resolutions. The second Blaine the Mono showed up I thought “please, don’t let Eddie kill it with illogical riddles and bad jokes”. My pleas were in vain, and there are a few other points in the books where King opts for the lamest, most hackneyed way out of a genuinely quite engaging situation.

Annoying characters. With the exception of the specky kid in It, King has never been able to write wise-asses and funny characters well – which is a shame, as he insists on writing so many of them. Eddie Dean is a tedious, unfunny bell-end, and Susannah’s not much better. Cuthbert’s better (and indeed the whole Wizard And Glass ka-tet are much more interesting than any of the main-group characters), but still not actually funny in the way he’s clearly meant to be.

Why does he forget how to build up drama in the last book? If you’re going to have a central character killed in a sudden act of violence, don’t spend the preceding five chapters telling us that it’s going to happen. I didn’t like Eddie, but his death should have been a shock – by the time it happened I was just glad that I wouldn’t have to read about fucking ka-shume again.

Corny dialogue. Some of the Wild West pagan stuff is cool, but the dialogue really fucking grates – I genuinely hope that, outside of this thread, I never have to read the phrase “you say true, I say thankya” again.

Though he ultimately does a good job of holding it all together, I was a little perturbed to realise just how much his accident had affected the plot. From Wolves Of The Calla onwards he moves with uncharacteristic precision, rewriting the developing plot and tying it into the shape he’d obviously come up with after the accident. It mostly works, but I can’t help but wonder how it would have ended if things had gone differently. The scenes involving his accident are also genuinely uncomfortable and difficult to read in all the wrong ways, and I’m not sure what’s worse – the way he writes the man who hit him as a gibbering fucking retard who can barely tie his shoelaces, or the way the other characters view King himself as a lazy coward who’s whored his own talent for easy cash.

I don’t want to go on for much longer, but I can’t talk about it this thoroughly without looking at the end.

So... The End ... er...

Yeah.

I’m going to need time to make my mind up, and I can see why people hate it, but I think I mostly like it (though Dark Tower itself was quite a weak book overall). The whole Susannah in New York thing was gay, but fairly inconsequential, and I can understand him wanting at least something resembling a happy ending after twenty odd years of writing it. I think Roland’s conveyor-belt Ka at the top of the Tower is appropriate and fitting, and fairly well done. A load of gibberish nonsense, of course, but DT was never going to have a hard-science ending, and it suits the multiverse meta-fiction thing. Ending on the first line was a nice touch, and I’m not dissatisfied with it. What I am dissatisfied with is how he got there, specifically the Final Boss Fight he had to go through.

I understand King not wanting it to turn it into a big God Fight. Roland is a gunslinger – his first response when confronted with his enemy is to shoot it in the face, and if that doesn’t work instantly he’s pretty much out of options. I actually think the short, brutal approach worked well for the fight with Mordred. It took balls to build up a fight that much and then have it resolved so quickly, but it worked, and made sense for the character – Roland isn’t the type who’d banter with his enemy before killing him, and it took skill to have Mordred go out with a degree of sympathy. The final showdown with the Crimson King, though, was fucking appalling. If you spend three books (at least) setting your main character up for a showdown with what is essentially the God of Chaos and Evil, having him hide behind a rock with the God (a bearded man in a Father Christmas costume) throwing grenades at him while the magic artist that Roland met five minutes ago (and having King jokily acknowledge that he’s a Deus Ex Machina doesn’t make it any less shit) draws him out of existence is just awful.

Right, I need to stop writing, and I hope that at least one person can ignore the fact that this is clearly TL;DR (I’ve always wanted to say that) and comment on it. Even if they don’t, though, at least I’ve got it out of my system.


Tue Aug 17, 2010 9:56 pm
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Post Re: Childe Richie to the Dark Tower came (A LOT OF SPOILERS)
That must of took a lot of time.Image

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Tue Aug 17, 2010 10:19 pm
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Space Ranger
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Post Re: Childe Richie to the Dark Tower came (A LOT OF SPOILERS)
A bit like Lost innit?

Only better.


Tue Aug 17, 2010 11:01 pm
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Fluffy Bunny Rabbit
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Post Re: Childe Richie to the Dark Tower came (A LOT OF SPOILERS)
You're not wrong about any of that, although I probably enjoyed it more than you overall from the sound of things. I've never read any Moorcock, so feel free to recommend a good starting point for when I finally come to the end of my book queue.

I grew up fearing Steven King's very name, due to accidentally catching about a minute's worth of 'It' one night in a hotel in Dorset when I was about six. I was still all but resigned to the fact that Pennywise The Clown was going to eventually kill me for a good couple of years after I stopped believing in God, so for me, reading any of his books has a certain mystique to it than isn't at all justified by the actual substance of them.

As with all his stuff that I've read, he's so good at creating a picture in your mind that the disappointing plot developments and sketchy characterisation are easy to overlook. If you believe in the story you're being told, you're more willing to accept it when that story's told in an increasingly dubious way.

Which it is in the final two books, certainly. All the technicalities of how they set up a company to protect the rose in New York could have been addressed in a paragraph rather than the several hundred pages they seem to take. In defence of how he portrays the guy who ran him over, from reading around that incident he does sound like about as much of a gibbering idiot as King portrays him, although it's true that it can't help but seem a bit vengeful and one sided.

The Crimson King scene, fucking hell. The whole final book seems like he's on a mission to undermine and brush off his villains in as ignominious a way as possible. Killing off Flagg like a little bitch (for once, the sort of people who comment on Youtube videos have hit upon the most accurate way of describing something) might have been worth it if he ran with Mordred as an unstoppable final boss, but he ends up with an even more unceremonious death by dodgy horse meat. At least one of the bad guys making it into the tower proper and turning into a five hundred foot final confrontation ogre would have made for a far more dramatic finale, but I'm sure that's why he took such pains to avoid it.

The infinite Tower loop was fine, nothing clever or hugely satisfying about it, but it ties it up as nicely as anything was going to, and the nod to him remembering the magic horn on his next go round keeps it from seeming completely futile. Oh, and back on the subject of defending King's ignorance, schizophrenia has been pop culture shorthand for diametrically opposed split personalities up until fairly recently, hasn't it? People mainly realise now that's it's not like that at all, but he wrote Drawing Of The Three when charities were still called things like The Spastics Society and there was no internet, so give Eighties Steven King a break.

It's a flawed series, but anything that ambitious deserves some leeway. It has a giant robot bear, too, which ultimately excuses it of everything else.


Tue Aug 17, 2010 11:24 pm
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Space Ranger
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Post Re: Childe Richie to the Dark Tower came (A LOT OF SPOILERS)
Benj wrote:
It has a giant robot bear, too, which ultimately excuses it of everything else.


Giant robot bears should be in all fiction.


Tue Aug 17, 2010 11:28 pm
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Darth Fucking Vader
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Post Re: Childe Richie to the Dark Tower came (A LOT OF SPOILERS)
I remember hearing someone say that scizophrenia wasn't really having a "split personality" on TV when I was about 13, did some research (pre-internet) and realised that they were right. An adult and professional author gets no break on that, sorry.

I think you get the impression that I didn't like them, which isn't the case. I did like them, and perhaps if I'd waited for a bit before commenting I might have focussed on the positive more. I'll simply say that I'm not really the kind of person who likes hating things, and if I really wasn't enjoying them I wouldn't have stuck with it for seven books. It's just that the things I enjoyed are quite simply explained, whereas the stuff I didn't seems to need more explanation.

Killing of Flagg in such an offhand way was definitely galling, and part of what I meant by the post-accident rewriting of the plot. Flagg/Walter/Whatever was the supervillain back before King really knew where he was taking it, but after the accident had no place in the mythology and was trounced in a ridiculously offhand way by a villain who, as you said, ending up dying of Dodgy Kebab. I am glad he avoided the End Boss Battle syndrome, but I'm sure there were better ways of dealing with the Crimson King without turning him into Godzilla.


Tue Aug 17, 2010 11:34 pm
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Post Re: Childe Richie to the Dark Tower came (A LOT OF SPOILERS)
Richie H-R wrote:
Annoying characters... Eddie Dean is a tedious, unfunny bell-end... If you’re going to have a central character killed in a sudden act of violence, don’t spend the preceding five chapters telling us that it’s going to happen. I didn’t like Eddie, but his death should have been a shock – by the time it happened I was just glad that I wouldn’t have to read about fucking ka-shume again.

I largely agree, but I'd been aching for Eddie to get it in the neck since his first appearance. I was filled with horror when I realised he was going to become a central character, and I heaved a huge sigh of relief. I was annoyed that Susannah didn't die. In fact, it's telling that King manages to make Roland the most sympathetic character in the whole thing...

Richie H-R wrote:
the whole Wizard And Glass ka-tet are much more interesting than any of the main-group characters

I totally agree. I was actually disappointed to return to the main story arc, and that there weren't any more large-scale flashbacks. I was especially hoping the Battle of Jericho Hill might recieve a similar treatment.

Richie H-R wrote:
Though he ultimately does a good job of holding it all together, I was a little perturbed to realise just how much his accident had affected the plot. From Wolves Of The Calla onwards he moves with uncharacteristic precision, rewriting the developing plot and tying it into the shape he’d obviously come up with after the accident...

... and after the rise of Harry Potter. Funny, at first, but eventually overused.

Richie H-R wrote:
I can see why people hate it, but I think I mostly like it (though Dark Tower itself was quite a weak book overall). The whole Susannah in New York thing was gay... I think Roland’s conveyor-belt Ka at the top of the Tower is appropriate and fitting, and fairly well done... Ending on the first line was a nice touch, and I’m not dissatisfied with it.

This I also agree with. My first response was "Oh fuck, no!", and then I grinned at the sheer brazeness of it. Kudos to the author for - after all that - daring to even consider using that ending. I especially liked the way it all came after him basically telling the reader to "Put the book down. Seriously, don't read this bit!"

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Wed Aug 18, 2010 7:59 am
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Post Re: Childe Richie to the Dark Tower came (A LOT OF SPOILERS)
Benj wrote:
It has a giant robot bear, too, which ultimately excuses it of everything else.


:lol:

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Wed Aug 18, 2010 8:57 am
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Post Re: Childe Richie to the Dark Tower came (A LOT OF SPOILERS)
Oh shit.

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Thu Sep 09, 2010 7:21 pm
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Space Ranger
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Post Re: Childe Richie to the Dark Tower came (A LOT OF SPOILERS)
How the fuck are they going to make it work?


Thu Sep 09, 2010 9:11 pm
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Darth Fucking Vader
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Post Re: Childe Richie to the Dark Tower came (A LOT OF SPOILERS)
The Dark Tower sounds a bit rubbish by all accounts.


Thu Sep 09, 2010 10:00 pm
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Darth Fucking Vader
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Post Re: Childe Richie to the Dark Tower came (A LOT OF SPOILERS)
It's not Myr. It's a flawed but engaging and ambitious story that, at the very least, is interesting because you can see the author grow and change over twenty years as he writes it (even if his final changes aren't that great). I think you'd probably find it difficult to overlook the functional prose, but as I've said before I think you're missing out on some great narratives because of that. You are the literature equivalent of someone who prefers Dream Theater to Slayer.


Fri Sep 10, 2010 6:55 am
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Post Re: Childe Richie to the Dark Tower came (A LOT OF SPOILERS)
I really like this thread, and it's shame that it's a bot that's reanimated it.

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Tue Sep 21, 2010 6:56 pm
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Post Re: Childe Richie to the Dark Tower came (A LOT OF SPOILERS)
Bad news for those who were anticipating the films/TV series: http://www.deadline.com/2011/07/univers ... tv-series/

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Tue Jul 19, 2011 1:35 am
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Post Re: Childe Richie to the Dark Tower came (A LOT OF SPOILERS)
Hooray!

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Tue Jul 19, 2011 7:42 am
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Darth Fucking Vader
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Post Re: Childe Richie to the Dark Tower came (A LOT OF SPOILERS)
Shallowthing wrote:
Hooray!


Yeah, mostly this. Nearly a year after I finished them I really find it hard to conjure any emotion about the Dark Tower books at all, but this can only be good news.


Tue Jul 19, 2011 7:48 am
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Post Re: Childe Richie to the Dark Tower came (A LOT OF SPOILERS)
I read it all the way up to the last one, liked some of some of it but mostly suffered through, finally thinking that I'd already put so much into it I needed to finish it, then when he killed off the Man In Black, who he'd been building us up to hate and to be the main villain not only in this series, but also in some of his other books, killed him off with a newborne spider baby thing, I quit reading.

I still haven't finished the last book.

Looking back, the whole thing was just so... silly. It was a goddamn silly mess. The Talisman was 100,000 times better.


Tue Jul 19, 2011 8:36 am
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Darth Fucking Vader
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Post Re: Childe Richie to the Dark Tower came (A LOT OF SPOILERS)
deadthyme wrote:
It was a goddamn silly mess.


Yeah, basically.


Tue Jul 19, 2011 8:51 am
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Post Re: Childe Richie to the Dark Tower came (A LOT OF SPOILERS)
It's a real shame, as it's a pretty cool concept.

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Tue Jul 19, 2011 9:02 am
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Post Re: Childe Richie to the Dark Tower came (A LOT OF SPOILERS)


There's your trailer. Now to exit thread, as I still haven't read the books.

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Wed May 03, 2017 7:42 pm
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