For me the release of The Dark Tower as a major motion picture is a countdown. I’m on the clock, literally, as I want to finish the book series before the film comes out on Friday. I don’t know if I’ll make it. While you wish me hopeless luck, meet me after the jump to find out why I’m doing it, and my re-read thoughts.
I’ve talked here before about how linked I felt to Stephen King and how his first novel Carrie seemed to call to me. The sensation continued from there, buying and reading each successive book as they came out. Then, sometime in the early eighties rumors began to circulate about something, someone, called the Gunslinger.
According to word of mouth, a few stories had surfaced, in magazines and limited editions in these days before the internet, about a lone Western warrior who pursued The Walkin’ Dude, the horrific villain from The Stand. And these tales were just part of a bigger epic called The Dark Tower. As The Stand is my favorite King novel and one of my favorite all-time books, I had to know more. I was properly enticed.
Without the internet, and with limited resources, I never actually was able to read these stories until they were released to the mainstream as The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, the first book in the mid-1980s. The first thing that struck me about this book was its language. This was not typical Stephen King, not the relatable New England friendliness that lulled us into a homegrown world before unleashing monsters on us.
The words of The Dark Tower, itself loosely based on the poetry of Robert Browning, were purple poetic, stylistically pulp western, and set in an other-dimensional world different and yet similar to our own. This was a different King. Over the years we’ve seen the writer handle other genres with a deft hand, this was the first time I saw him do it though.
Despite it not being the King I knew, I was hooked, and pulled into his world-building of Roland’s home that had moved on. Soon The Drawing of the Three followed, then The Waste Lands, then Wizard and Glass, I was all in, as I think all Stephen King fans were. I will however confess to some fatigue regarding the terminology and mythology of The Dark Tower in his other books. When it keyed into Hearts in Atlantis I was all right with it, but The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon seemed a bit much.
Recently on my personal pop culture blog, Welcome to Hell, I reviewed the uneven and hard-to-watch TV series The Mist. I casually mentioned the upcoming big screen adaptation of The Dark Tower, ironically referencing how King’s longest work was being squeezed into ninety-five minutes while his novella The Mist was turned into a longform TV series. I was quickly schooled in Facebook comments that The Dark Tower movie featured events after the books, not the books themselves.
Regardless of the weird time loopiness that reminded me of Doctor Who a bit and explained this paradox, a scary thought occurred to me. I had never actually finished reading the books. Shocking, but it’s true. At some point around the fourth or fifth book, I decided arbitrarily that I would wait until they were all out, then read it all at once. I did buy all the books, but somehow, until a week or so ago, forgot that mission.
So I set upon the path of doing it, reading the whole series before seeing the movie this week. Again, as I picked up my copy of The Gunslinger for the first time in decades, I immediately noted the language, that beautiful and descriptive pulp elegance. That alone establishes that one is in another world. Now, as I begin Wizard and Glass for the second time, I doubt I’ll make my deadline, but I will accomplish my mission, sooner or later.
Until then however I am excited for the movie. The casting is perfect. Both protagonist and antagonist, while not physically as described in the books, spiritually are those characters. This will be a grand adventure, whether I finish the books in time or not. Now… back to Wizard and Glass…