First let me say, thank you.
I’ve finally come to the end of the road to The Dark Tower and I just wanted to express my thanks for the path travelled. I’ll be honest with you, it was a path I resisted for years and years. In my childhood I had a bad experience with fantasy (hobbits, if you ask. I know, ironic since it was hobbits which inspired your opus) and so have always run shy from the fantasy end of fiction. I’ve read a lot of horror (including a great deal of your work), some science fiction, but have determinedly avoided fantasy. This year I decided to change that. This year I decided to tackle THE DARK TOWER. And I have to say that cramming all seven books into one year’s reading has been intense, it has been a long ride. There were some periods better than others, some books better than others, but I’m glad I made it.
So what did I think? Well, I enjoyed the journey. And that’s what it’s about more than anything else, isn’t it, Stephen? For you, for us, the important part was the hard ground and many wheels of mid-world we travelled. That’s fine, as sometimes it’s the journey rather than the ending which is the most important part. For instance, I’m a great fan of Francis Ford Coppola’s APOCALYPSE NOW and that is a film all about the journey. (However that isn’t true of Joseph Conrad’s HEART OF DARKNESS, which has a more realised ending). The same was of course true of TV’s LOST. Now I was one of the people who watched LOST right from beginning to the end, and I must admit that I now regret it. When I was still struggling on and those who had dropped out of the LOST experience wondered why I was persevering, I used to defend myself, convinced it would all work out. Obviously those naysayers were right. There was no ending, there was no idea where we going to, there was just some interesting shit thrown into the air and seeing where it landed. Really, it was a waste of time. I don’t feel that about THE DARK TOWER series though.
I just wish though, Stephen, that when you were nineteen and came up with this idea, that you had given some thought to the ending. Clearly at nineteen years old the notion of an ending to this project would have seemed so far away, a distant eventuality for the future – that there was no need to give it huge amounts of consideration. And I’m sure that over the course of the various books the notion of what the ending might look like changed again and again. Good ideas were had and then discarded and then bad ideas were had and discarded and then good and so on and on. (I was tinkering with the endings of the two books I wrote endlessly. I can’t imagine how it is over a seven novel epic.) And yet when you got to the end of this project – no matter how many good ideas you had, no matter how long you had to ponder it – it’s clear that you still had nothing. The opening of your coda just gives away that you know this ending doesn’t work, that it’s insubstantial and weak. Maybe there was no better ending, maybe that was the best you could manage, but if so you could have tried to sell it more, Stephen. You didn’t have to introduce it with an apology for its lameness. I know for a fact that you’re a better writer than that.
In short (ha-ha!) I was profoundly disappointed with the ending. This final book, as you must have known, was going to be judged to a huge degree by the ending. The weight of expectation may have made a satisfactory conclusion almost impossible, but I still think you could have tried a bit harder.
Other flaws in this volume, Stephen:
(And if anyone else happens to be reading this correspondence, the below is really spoiler heavy.)
Well, your sense of pacing seems off for one thing. Events like the end of Eddie’s narrative are pushed through swiftly, while others such as Roland and Susannah’s interminable final trip towards The Dark Tower are just – well – interminable. Just because the journey is difficult and long and hard and boring, it doesn’t mean you have to replicate that experience for your readers. Elsewhere since it was The Man in Black Roland originally pursued, he should have met his death at Roland’s hand – rather than Mordred’s. And really, all that Mordred stuff went nowhere, didn’t it, Stephen? A great confrontation was built up to, but never really came. And a final gripe, you really shouldn’t insert yourself so prominently into the narrative, Stephen, you’re not the kind of writer it sits comfortably with. I know that road accident must have been traumatic, but naked autobiography doesn’t meld well in fantasy. I particularly didn’t like the three Stephen King doppelgangers, nor the inclusion of the plot and characters of INSOMNIA. I must confess I’ve never read INSOMNIA (my sister put me off by telling me it was indescribably boring) and I feel even less inclined now.
So I wasn’t the greatest fan of this volume, but I did enjoy the trip. I did enjoy the road to The Dark Tower. Even in this volume you hit the emotional beats and created heartbreaking moments (as well as a later profound sense of relief). But, this last volume was often rushed where it should have been slow and slow where it should have been rushed; confrontations that had been signposted were just ignored, and you were forced to wave the white flag of defeat when it came to the ending – sorry to harp on…
But still overall, I did enjoy it, Stephen. Certainly it’s not like LOST where I regretted it afterwards. Let me say again that I don’t regret reading THE DARK TOWER series, I’m happy I did so. It was a rewarding experience, I just wish when you were nineteen, and through the many years afterwards, you had formed a clearer idea as to what the hell you were building up to.
A Constant Reader.