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Location: Oslo, Norway

I am Andreas. Day time programmer and technical consultant. Night time musician and game developer.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Childe Roland to the dark tower came

Well, i just finished Stephen King's Dark Tower VII. There's been a lot of tumult on the ending and how "disappointing" it is, and part of me wants to agree. There's this little segment of asshole in me that wants to make demands in outrage, but in the end, a day after turning the final pages, i'm ultimately as satisfied as i could hope to be. However, there are other things that bother me. It is incredibly hard to discuss the book without bringing up spoilers, since nearly every action taken has pretty massive consequences. I will speak on general terms however.

I thought the Crimson King's demise was incredibly underwhelming, so was that of Mordred and of Marten. For all of King's preaching of how it's the journey that matters and not the end, i would consider besting the 3 major villains of a 7-book story part of the journey. Book 1 begins with Marten as the major villain, who has done rather nasty things to Roland. To see him almost forgotten in the latter segments of the story is a little bewildering.

To elaborate, part of what, for me, has made the Dark Tower series so great, has been about its tale of great warriors. From book 1, King has described warriors of incredible skill besting villains of incredible evil. There is a very base, almost primordial truth to this alignment. A form of vicious purity versus a pure viciousness. Roland is the consumate badass from page 1, even in Book 4 where he was scarcely more than 17, he was a royal badass. He is the linchpin on which the secondary characters spin and eventually learn his brand of wicked badassedness. He is the guarantee that things will work out, he is in fact a form of deus ex machina put center stage.
When we follow this guy around, we want to watch his fantastic ability to solve problems and best the odds. We wish we could do the things he can, but have to make do with watching him work, and for the most part it's a work of beauty.

King excels at describing raw, vicious battles.
I can almost imagine him plotting the battles on a piece of paper, describing visually to himself how units would move and interact. There is a cohesion to the battles and a glee in the display of destructive hardware that you simply don't find with contemporary writers of the same skill.
These battles drive the story in much the same way the interludes do, because they give the readers affirmation of the characters' part in the world. We follow them to see them best evil. This is really the core of the story. The fact that Eddie loves Susannah is fine, and Jake and Oy are fun and cute and ruff etc. This isnt why we watch them and love them. We watch them and love them because they are fighting for our cause. What gives them depth is their dualistic nature as lovers and coldblooded warriors, and their constant struggle to balance the two. Without the battles, they are flat. Troubled but flat.

So it hurts the story a good bit when the battles are downplayed and the characters' weaknesses are emphasized. The conclusion is completely up to King, i thank him for finishing at all, but the weakness in Book 7 stems from rushing the final battles, which i consider part of the journey.

Anyone out of the loop here wanting a look, do begin at Dark Tower 1: The Gunslinger. Work your way through it. Its a long, winded and complex series but i heartily recommend it even after its conclusion.

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