Finished the Dark Tower.
Like almost all the Dark Tower books, I find myself unsure if I loved it or hated it, but since I read the thing until nearly 2 AM, despite James’s feeble protests, it was certainly gripping.
The world, as always, was the great thing–fantasy western sci-fi post-apocalyptic, mixed with the casual assured disregard that I really wish more fantasy writers would learn. (I’ve ranted before, and probably will again–when a fantasy writer writes a book, 99 times out of 100, the wolves are wolves/telepathic/were/magic/whatever and exist in the kingdom of Whatsit since time immemorial, and have this relationship with the wolves on the other side of the hill, and eat this, and have this response to travelers, and if you wanted to, you could roll up their stats in ten minutes or identify which book on Wicca their philosophy of eco-stewardship derives from. When horror writers write fantasy–and that 1 out of 100 shot of the fantasy writers–the Wolf is the Big Bad Wolf, the ur-Wolf, the only Wolf that ever lived or ever needed to live, and you’re Little Red Riding Hood wearing a pork-chop necklace.)
Oddly enough, I found myself very sympathetic to King himself, both the bits that appear in the books and the bits in the forewards and afterwards scattered throughout the series. Maybe everybody feels this, or maybe it’s a peculiar curse of creative types, but what came through–the terror of someone who realized that he might not finish the series, the guilt towards the fans who kept demanding more when he didn’t know what else to say, and the almost apologetic tone scattered throughout–they aren’t going to like this, they aren’t going to be happy I did *spoiler*, believe me, I never saw that one coming either, but I couldn’t not do it, the art is in charge, not me–are all things that I can identify with, albeit on a far reduced scale, being half King’s age and having maybe a millionth of his fan base.
I knew Eddie had been slated to die ever since the last book, and the narrator practically warns you “DEATH AHEAD” but as soon as he killed Jake, I realized everybody but Roland was goin’ down. (I was actually surprised Susannah made it out quasi-alive.) The one I felt the real pang for was Oy–heroic death of small fuzzy animals are a surefire sympathy shot, of course, but it still works. And I approve of anything where an artist saves the day, particularly since I spent most of the last two books (having read Insomnia) wondering when it would happen. (Although that’s one of the surest arguments that he had no idea he was going to kill Jake off so quickly, since in “Insomnia” the kid is supposed to save both Roland and Jake, if memory serves. Eh, go figure. You lay a trail of bread crumbs, but every now and then you’re wrong.)
The ending. I don’t know, honestly, but it’s not like he didn’t warn me away from reading it–he said, in so many words, “This won’t make you happy, if you keep reading.” And nope, it didn’t. But I don’t find myself screaming “AGGH! What a gyp!” either. Strangely, I don’t find myself having much of an opinion. It was less like a work of art that one can make value judgements on, and more like an acid trip–you don’t go “Man! That was a crappy ending!” you just go “Is it over? Am I down yet?” and then stare fixedly at the backs of your hands to see if they turn magenta. My hands are determinedly flesh colored, and the walls have stopped breathing, but it’ll be awhile before my brain processes the whole trip and pronounced “cool” or “man, why did I buy eight tabs of something called “The Beavis And Butthead Psychedelic Experience”?*
*This is also a true story.