Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Dark Tower: An Introduction

The Dark Tower: An Introduction

Stephen King was not my introduction to horror fiction. Nor was it King who led me to embrace horror fiction as my favorite literature. King is my favorite writer and the most prolific writer of horror fiction in history. King tells an interesting story; tells it well in a blue collar voice that is free of pretension, yet not lacking in flair.

I’ve read all of King’s work at least twice. But it’s been more than 10 years since I’ve visited his early material. I’ve decided to temporarily ignore all of the unread books on my bookshelves and delve deep into King.

My favorite King tale is his post-apocalyptic magnum opus, The Stand. The Stand is just one chapter of an epic mulit-volume tale that spans Stephen King’s entire career – the story of The Dark Tower.

The Dark Tower story is told in six volumes that chronicle Roland Deschain’s quest to find a dark edifice of which he knows nothing except that he must find it. Roland’s story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world that follows The Stand.

There are several novels that are tangential to the Dark Tower. ‘Salem’s Lot – King’s second novel – is the earliest of these. In this book, the character of Father Callahan is introduced. Later in the series, Callahan and the actual novel itself play an important role.

The Stand is a prequel. The destruction of society and the loss of 2/3 of the world’s population sets the stage for the Dark Tower, set thousands of years in the future.

The Eye of the Dragon – not a favorite of most serious King fans – is also a prequel for The Dark Tower and The Stand. Along with its mildly entertaining story, it provides a character study of Randall Flagg – the villain of The Stand. It takes place centuries before Flagg was tormenting Mother Abigail and her followers.

Other King novels provide insight into the many planes of existence within the world of The Dark Tower. These include, It, The Talisman and its sequel The Black House, Insomnia, Rose Madder, Hearts in Atlantis, and From a Buick 8.

I’ve just completed ‘Salem’s Lot and will post a review soon. I will also post reviews of the two made-for-television adaptations of this stellar King novel. I’m preparing to tackle The Stand which “stands” as my all time favorite novel – all 1,100 pages of it!

It's been six years since I completed The Dark Tower series. When I read the voluminous final installments, it was upon publication -- leaving no time to go back and read the entire story over again to refresh my memory. Now, the whole tale is told and I can read it seamlessly from beginning to end.

Since The Dark Tower stands with Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy as my favorite story, I've decided not to revisit it -- but to move in with it and make it the focal point of most of my reading for however long it takes me to finish it. I'm going to read each book in the epic in the order in which it was published to take in the story as one huge feast. I am looking forward to it as much as I look forward to an extended visit with an old friend.

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