Bondi Beach, Sydney, NSW c. 2002

Mon, 14 Feb 2005 6:10 PM (GMT+0000)

No, this isn't about some hallmark holiday. It's about a completely different commercial farce entirely. I shake my head at you, Mr. King.

I've finished about half of The Dark Tower VII, and the other half is probably going to sit there until the next time I have to get on a plane, which might not be for a long while. In January, I accidentally bought Volume V, thinking it was the new one (so many authors, so many long-ass series). That's a book that's hard to put down. Now I realize that I haven't read Volume VI, but even if it's only the midpoint in the steep decline from V to VII, I don't think it will be worth picking that up either.

Book VII does have its moments but they are scarcely patched together with characters from every other good thing he ever wrote. It's like ripping out the pages of a bunch of favorite books and binding them with ugly shredded duct tape. When it's bad, though, it's really bad. Consider this gem (part 2, chapter 12, section 1):

At the sight of this terrible head-wound Susannah leaped to her feet and began to scream again.

I may not have much of an imagination, but I have a hard time picturing how a woman with no legs manages to do any leaping. Even if she somehow managed some sort of jumping action, she doesn't have any feet to land on after she gets airborne. I guess the editor was too busy counting his money to catch this one, too. Normally, I'm sure I wouldn't nitpick if I'm enjoying the story. I can't remember any grievous errors like this in any of the other countless books of his I've plowed through, but this one reads like a big mistake.

Every author writes himself into a story - it's impossible to write anything good outside of one's own experience - but unless the story is a personal narrative to begin with, an author shouldn't literally write himself into the story. I understand that the Dark Tower universe is supposed to encompass everything he's ever done. I can accept that to a point (like weaving Brautigan, Flagg, etc. into the story). However it's clumsy and cowardly the way King not only puts himself into this novel, but makes himself the most shamelessly obvious deus ex machina I've probably ever seen.

Clearly, finishing this series has been a struggle. It's evident from the writing that King is no longer interested in telling this story. The characters should be the ones that make him want to keep writing, but to make that part of the actual story is patently absurd. How many people were responsible for letting him get away with that? How many people between his pen and paper and the printing presses?

Maybe he's making a point. Maybe so many people were begging him for an ending to a series that he didn't want to write that this is his way of saying "you asked for it, this is what you get." He would rather kill himself off and destroy the whole world (again, quite obvious already without making them the central plot points) than be forced to write this story.

So I paid $38 for a train wreck (in the bad sense, not the Blaine the Pain sense). Stephen King gets revenge and a few million. You win again, Mr. King.


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