In a not especially festive turn of events, I am undertaking, slowly, the task of rereading Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. I first read it in my early days at university, I can’t remember exactly when. I wasn’t quite sure if I liked them at first, but I couldn’t stop reading them, so I guess I did. I certainly liked the genre mash. The series, as best as I can describe it, is a post-Apocalyptic fantasy western.
Truth be told, I can’t remember much that happened in them, especially the later books. But I do remember the mood, the way the series made me feel, and just like with public speaking, that is the important thing. This is partially helped by the fact that I was listening pretty much to the one album the whole time I read the series, KMFDM’s Blitz. Now every time I hear one of those songs, I am taken back to Midworld. It is a bleak place. An apocalyptic despair pervades each novel.
The series follows the last gunslinger, remnant of a disappeared society in a dying world or series of worlds, on his quest to find the Dark Tower. We don’t know why because perhaps he doesn’t either. His quest is probably doomed, but it is necessary. Driven by mysterious forces, dubbed ka or fate, Roland is joined by three companions on his journey.
It is always dangerous to read as an adult of something you loved as a child or adolescent. What if the writing is terrible? What if there are elements that you didn’t notice then, but which have become inescapably awful now? What if the book was what you needed then, but won’t have any resonance now? What if the book just doesn’t bear reading more than once — there are some out there?
Fortunately, for the most part The Dark Tower stands up. There are some elements which King himself has acknowledged were clumsy, namely matters to do with the Detta Walker character in book two. These have been dealt with by better-informed people than me, but suffice to say it relies on some very negative stereotypes of black women. And… well, I’m only just finished book three, so who knows after that point.
I have mixed feelings about the upcoming movie. Casting rumours are flying about. Of the rumours I’ve heard, I’m excited about the potential of Idris Elba as Roland, and ambivalent about Matthew McConnaughey in anything. But my worries are more that it will be a more obvious than usual cynical money grab, and that it will be poorly executed. I don’t expect it to match my own vision of King’s world, let alone King’s own.