I’m pretty excited about The Dark Tower movie. I realize it’s not an adaptation of the books, that would pretty much be impossible. Unlike most people I’m saving my criticism until after I see the movie. But judging from the trailer, released this past week, it looks pretty good. It’s been over a decade since the final book of the series was published and more years than I’d rather say since I read the first book. Needless to say my memory of the story was a little fuzzy. So I thought it’d be fun to reread the entire series before seeing the movie. In addition, I was basically a kid when I first read it. (Seriously, I started reading adult books at an early age, and Stephen King’s were among the first.) I thought it would be a different experience reading it as an adult, and also back to back. While the first three were already published when I started and the fourth came out about a year later, I still had to endure the tortuously long wait for the last three.
I wasn’t much surprised by the first book. While I may have forgotten details, I knew most of the basic plot. The biggest difference this time around was the “Hey Jude” reference. I only had a vague idea of the song when I was a kid. This time around I could not get it out of my head. Moving on to the later books, I was surprised by how much of the story I didn’t remember. I really can’t believe how much of the books I forgot, like the cliffhanger with Blaine, the entire Susan Delgado story line, main character deaths, and the actual ending to the entire series.
While my memory of reading it the first time was fuzzy I do think reading it all back to back was a very different experience. For one I really was so immersed in the world of the books I had moments where I caught myself thinking in Mid-World speak. I was also able to catch a lot more of the minor connections. I likely didn’t catch the references to other stories he wrote because I hadn’t actually read them yet. But the time between books in the series kept me from catching connections within the story. I’m sure there’s lots of things I missed the first time around. Some were minor and I’m already having trouble remembering them. One that stayed with me was the changes in the way time moved in Mid-World. I realized the changes reflect the character Stephen King’s progress writing. The first few books were written over a span of many years, that’s when time in Mid-World had slowed down. Later in the series time speeds up. Those books were all published much closer together and the journal entries of King’s character discusses the freakish speed of his writing pace for at least one of these later novels.
The last thing that struck me in a different way was King inserting himself into the story. When I first read it, I thought it was very strange and kind of narcissistic. But also it seemed almost like he just ran out of other ideas. I realized now that it really couldn’t have gone any other way. In fact, I started thinking that it was set up from the beginning to go that way. I felt like through out the books there were hints that the characters and worlds were a creation of someone’s mind. For example, Eddie Dean’s Co-Op city being in Brooklyn. (Another detail I didn’t catch as a kid, this time around I kept thinking that couldn’t be right.) The books specifically point out he’s not actually their creator or Gan itself, simply writing the story he hears in the song. But it is possible that because he writes them they exist, a power similar to Patrick’s, instead of drawing things into existence he writes them.
I’d love to hear what you other Stephen King and Dark Tower fans think. Comment to let me know if you’re looking forward to the movie, when you last read the books or any other thoughts you have.