I like this book a lot. I am drawn to it. It is fast paced, has interesting characters, and even Roland – who I found so difficult in the first volume – is more engaging.
Wounded!Want to write a good book? I’m learning something as I read Stephen King – one element that seems pretty important is: Make your characters bleed!
King starts the novel by doing something rather daring – he severely cripples his primary character. Does this seem like a good idea when the tower is so far away? As a reader, I love it. I would think that this would give King pause as a writer. He is limiting himself to writing around Roland’s missing fingers for all remaining dark tower stories.
In the Gunslinger, Roland seemed mythic. The monstrosities he encounters on the beach humanize the ole chap. Roland will be allowed to continue his quest, but he will do it as a wounded man. This reminds me of Jacob wrestling with God. God pulled his leg out of joint, forcing the father of the Hebrews to walk with a limp for the rest of his life. This knocks the arrogant Jacob down more than a few pegs! It also forces him to rely on God and be kinder to others. King does this with his creation. By wounding Roland, the self confident gunslinger must now rely on others. He is not so self-sufficient after all.
More than crippling Roland with the loss of a few fingers, King also allows Roland to experience deep guilt over his betrayal of Jake. Of course, to really get the full impact of that betrayal, I think you have to read the original version of the Gunslinger – as it seems more tempered in the new version. The Drawing of the Three reveals that Roland is a man in desperate need of redemption.
The people Roland will draw to himself are likewise very broken. If people seemed healthy in the Gunslinger, that well being is no where to be found in this novel! Not only is the gunslinger now in a world of hurt, but he will join to himself a druggie and a cripple. Some gang! But this is exactly what makes King’s writing so powerful.
Wounding the characters, limiting them in some way, makes them more interesting. What makes the story of David and Goliath so memorable? That David was small and weak. If Israel had just marched out their giant, and the Philistines had marched out there giant and the Hebrew giant killed the Philistine giant. . . there’s nothing to get excited about. It is only when little David comes out to fight mighty Goliath that his victory seems all the more incredible. In this case, it is this weak cast of characters coming against the Darkman and the Crimson King that make the story interesting. The deck is stacked against them.
Door Jam:One of my favorite parts of the novel is when Roland steps through the door and into Eddie Dean’s head! It’s brilliant! The first thing Roland sees is the horizon. He realizes that he is in a sky carriage. He has the good luck of stepping into someone’s body who happens to be smuggling drugs. Drugs are exactly what Roland needs!
New problems arise for me as I read through the Dark Tower again. These are problems I struggled with the first time I read this story. (Actually, I’ve read the first few books many many times).
Here’s my problem: Where did the doors come from? I don’t remember ever being told.
I once wrote a story – a very good story, in my 15 year old opinion of work – about a society cut off from the rest of the world. The discovered a cave full of books. The cave was lit by candles. (It was actually a bomb shelter) You see the problem. . . right? My sister immediately asked the most annoying question in the world: “Hey, who lights the candles?” I dunno! Maybe an old man with a dog named Harry. Beats me! Who lights the candles was not important to my story.
I fear that in much the same way – the origin of the doors is not important to King’s story. The doors simply move the story forward.
My wife says that the “how” is not important to the fantasy genre. Maybe that’s why I have trouble with this. At least in Science Fiction there has to be a bit of science. . . in fantasy, things just appear!
|picture credit by PAV|