A (Dark) Towering Achievement

the_dark_tower_1_the_gunslinger

I finally did it. I finally finished Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series.*

This is a feat I’ve been trying to accomplish for many years now. That makes it sound like this was an onerous task, but nothing could be further from the truth! I loved it. But it did take me an excessively long time.

I can’t remember when I started reading the first book, The Gunslinger, but it must have been in the late 90s, as I think Wizard and Glass was already out in trade paperback.** My brother, Dylan, urged me to read these great books he’d been reading. I have to admit, I scoffed at first. I think I’d bought into the anti-hype that King was a bit of a hack. I’d read The Stand, but I assumed that was an outlier, a one-off. The rest of his stuff couldn’t possibly be any good. It was all about monsters and horror and clowns and stuff, right?

I found out how wrong I was when I cracked open that first, slim novel in which the gunslinger pursued the man in black across the desert. But to be honest, I didn’t much care for The Gunslinger. It was good, but not my style. It was stark and poetic and had more than a whiff of the dreaded “western” about it.*** Dylan assured me the next book wasn’t so westerney, so I should push through.

I can’t remember if I did, in fact, push on and read The Drawing of the Three the very first time. The details are lost in mists of memory. What I do know is I eventually got through the first three books. And despite the slow start in book one, I really enjoyed them. Stories with pliable divisions between worlds were nothing new, but it seemed like something special was going on here. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was seeing the start of the structure of the entire universe of King’s Dark Tower realm. And I liked it.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t get to Wizard and Glass right away. Something happened (life, probably), and I set my Dark Tower read-through aside. By the time I came back to it, everything was so fuzzy I needed to re-read the first three books before I dove into the fourth. This was a pattern that was to repeat itself again and again.

When I finished Wizard and Glass, I was predictably bummed not to have another book to read immediately. It’s not like it wraps things up in a neat bow. These books are most definitely a Saga. But then life happened again, and I forgot about The Dark Tower.

…Until I heard the news: Stephen King was finally returning to the world of The Dark Tower, and would be publishing another novel in 2003. It had been years since I’d lived in that world, so of course, I needed to re-read the first four books.

I started at the beginning. Of course.

But after rereading The Gunslinger, pesky life got in the way again, and I lost track of the books. Eventually I decided to try again. But being so OCD about it, I had to start at the beginning. Again.

This time I got through The Drawing of the Three before life reared its ugly head.

The next time, I managed to read all four of the original books. I bet you can guess what happened next. At this point, I didn’t just lose track of The Dark Tower, I lost track of books altogether. It became a rarity for me to read anything at all.

Finally. Finally, in late 2013, my amazing and generous Verity! cohost Deb gifted me with her old Nook. Suddenly there seemed to be fewer obstacles between me and reading a book! I could touch a few buttons, and off I went! Or maybe it was the gimmick-factor. (Yay! New toy!) Whatever the reason, I figured it was a good time to finally make the pilgrimage. In fact, by this time, all the books in the series had been written and released, so I wouldn’t even have to wait.

It still took me about a year and a half* to make it through all seven books.

And yes, I realize this doesn’t include The Wind Through the Keyhole, but I didn’t even discover it existed until I’d made it through what I assumed was the last book. Imagine my dismay. I thought I’d finally gotten there, finally completed my quest. Then suddenly here’s another one! Noooo! On the other hand, this world has quickly become one of my favorite fictional universes ever, and I’m looking forward to reading another book that’s firmly placed within it.

Happily, my parents have The Wind Through the Keyhole and are going to bring it when they come visit me in June. Of course, that means I really need to read it as soon as I get it–before I forget too much and feel like I need to start all over at the beginning again!

Not again!

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*This isn’t 100% true, as you’ll see if you keep reading.

**Originally published in 1997.

***I’m still not fond of Westerns, but I’ve softened towards them a bit when they’re mixed with fantasy/sci-fi. In fact, I think this was the first time I realized I could tolerate a western if it wasn’t too Western. Thank goodness for The Gunslinger then, because it likely paved the way for my love of Firefly.

*Note: These weren’t the only books I’ve read since 2013.

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7 thoughts on “A (Dark) Towering Achievement

  1. I read this series so long ago. For me, it is the definitive work of Stephen King. It shows his ability to tell a story without the tropes he is known for (like the ones you mentioned above when you’re brother was trying to convince you to read it). As an English teacher, I often use the first line as an example of how to start a great story (with an edge of suspense). Maybe it is time for a reread…also I have never heard of The Wind through the Keyhole! Google search here I come!

  2. Renae says:

    “The Wind Through the Keyhole” is already laid out ready to be packed. Hold on! We will be there in roughly 5 weeks. You will NOT, repeat–NOT–need to start over yet again!! I’m so glad you’ve finally climbed this mountain!

  3. You’ve read The Dark Tower exactly the way it was supposed to be read. Life is a wheel after all. :)
    Long days and pleasant nights with “The Wind Through the Keyhole”. Do check out the other ‘related’ novels like “Insomnia”, “From a Buick 8” etc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_King_works_related_to_The_Dark_Tower_series

    • Erika Ensign says:

      Hehe–John Siracusa said the same thing to me on Twitter this morning! Great minds think alike. :)

      As for other related works, I forgot to mention in the post, but I actually stopped reading the final book about halfway through to read Insomnia! It sounded important enough that I wanted to get through it before I finished the series, and I’m glad I did. I really enjoyed it. I did go through a period in the mid-2000s where I started reading as much of the associated material as I could get my hands on. That’s another thing that slowed me down! I’ve now read most of them, but there are a few to pick up here and there–From a Buick 8, for example. It’s kinda nice to have a few more stories in the universe to look forward to.

      • Hehe.. :) Well once you are through all the related books, novellas and short stories, there are always the comic books.
        I don’t know if you are a comic book enthusiast (for most parts I’m not), but I thoroughly enjoyed the visual tour throughout the DT-world. The first issues deals with the back story (from Wizard & Glass and forward) extending the mythos. The series then caught up with The Gunslinger and is currently adapting The Drawing of the Three.

  4. Elisabeth says:

    Definitely an accomplishment. I read the series when my new boss offered to lend me her copies – I don’t like King much but it’s her favorite series of all time so I felt like I had to! I’m still not a fan but I don’t feel like I wasted my time either. The last release was actually my favorite – Eddie and Jake are great characters and I enjoyed spending a little extra time with them.

  5. […] ← A (Dark) Towering Achievement […]

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