Hey!!!! There be spoilers in this post. If you are reading, will read or just might be considering reading Stephen King's Dark Tower books, you might do well to skip this post, as I gonna reveal a crucial plot point you might not want spoiled for you.
Saw over on boing boing that Cory Doctorow finished Dark Tower VII
I finished it a little while back, as well. And I've tried to think of something to say about it. About the seventh book, and about the series as a whole.
But every time I tried, I couldn't put it exactly like I've wanted to.
This is what I manage now:
I'm pleased with the ending, but a little sad that it's over.
I'm pleased, ultimately, with the way the story finished up, but I admit that I was initially a little disappointed with the ending. It brought to mind the complaint a co-worker had had after reading the first book: He complained that he followed Roland and Jake across the desert, to see Roland finally catch up with Walter, only to have that whole chase end with Roland and Walter sitting down and chatting. That was my gut reaction after finishing The Dark Tower.
But then I got to considering Mr. King's warning.
Over the course of the series, Stephen King started asserting himself a little more forcefully as narrator of the story by the series' end. Instead of just telling the story by the story's end, he was guiding you through it. Which is appropriate, as he found himself not only telling the story, but by the story's end, becoming part of it. A part of him, at least, was
there living the story. So he's entitled to this little conceit...
And as he guides us through the story, and the story's ending, he gives us a warning, as Roland reaches the tower. King reminds us that the trip is about the journey, not the destination. That no matter how great the discovery Roland finds at the top of the tower, it won't equal the joy you got out of the journey to it.
But I'm never one to let folks tell me what's good for me. I gotta learn everything the hard way. I read through to the end, and you've read my gut reaction.
But I thought about it for a while. Upon consideration, I decided that the story ended exactly like it should have, wheel of ka and whatnot. And as the reader, you just have to take a little solace in the fact that this next spin through, things could end differently, could end better, as he's been rewarded with a little better start than the last time.
Then, satisfied with the ending, secure in the knowledge that it ended like it was supposed to, I still found myself a little sad.
Sad that it was over, at all.
Weird to be thankful that it was finished, considering Stephen King getting rundown by an idiot in a van, but sad all the same that it's over.
What it came down to was that I'd never gone 13 years from beginning to end of a story. In any medium.
I've read other series from start to finish. But not while they were being published, and not over that period of time. I read most (if not all) the Oz books in grade school, as well as the Chronicles of Narnia. And I read the Lord of the Rings books straight through, with no pause between books, the first time I read them. So there's no waiting for the next book to publish, in any of these series.
And most of the currently publishing series, I couldn't get myself interested in. And believe me, with 5 and 6 years between volumes of this series we're talking about being published, I tried to find something to get the same feeling going in the interim. Didn't happen. Tried the Wheel of Time. Tried Harry Turtledove. Tried a couple of others. I liked many of the individual stories, but the overall series story wasn't enough to keep me coming back.
I guess the closest to an equivalent, at least in terms of a currently publishing series, would be the Harry Potter books. And I don't think of those in terms of a huge over-riding story whose momentum carries the whole series. I know that's supposed to be there, and for some readers, it may be, but for me, it isn't the compelling reason for reading those books.
That's a digression.
I realized that I'm not waiting for the next Dark Tower book. Which is something that I've been doing pretty much since the fall of 1991, which I first picked up The Gunslinger at the Sweetwater Flea Market for 50 cents. I read it over a rainy weekend sometime during the Christmas shopping season that year.
The other books have their own impressions. I read The Wastelands partly in Houston, suffering from a mild case of food poisoning brought on, I believe, by airline food. Wizard and Glass was read at night when we were in New Jersey cleaning my grandfather's house after he fell ill and needed round-the-clock care. Wolves of Calla was read last year, after ending a couple-month long job drought.
Anyway, my point (and I do have one) is that 13 years is a long time for somebody like me to stay with a story, especially when you consider that I've got a bad habit of changing channels on the TV during commercials, and forgetting entirely that I was watching something important after I've been hooked on something found during the commercial break.
That's the sadness part, even if I've done a piss-poor job of verbalizing it. I don't necessarily liken the ending of the series to something like saying goodbye to a friend you've known for 13 years, but I put it somewhere on that "missing thing" scale between that and, say, getting rid of a vehicle you've been driving for 13 years.
But, I also wander this world understanding that some things wear out welcomes, stay around too long and jump the shark, as it were, milking time instead of ending when it should. So, I swing back around to "happy" when I consider that some things, many things, haven't ended when they should have, and not nearly as well as this one did.
But anyway. I'm not even sure what I originally intended to say, anymore. Between writing this and watching the end of Game 6 of the NLCS and the beginning of Game 7 of the ALCS, I've lost and regained my train of thought a half dozen times.
I'll close by saying that I considered sitting down and re-reading all seven books all the way through, just to get the full scope of the story, once and for all. But I decided not to. I will, eventually. In the future. A year from now. Maybe two. I guess I just wanted to collect my thoughts on this particular iteration, and let the impressions for this time around sink in.
Well. Them's my thoughts. Gonna go finish watching some baseball...