Getting Closer to That Tower: Stephen King – Song of Susannah

This is my year of finishing book series. I finished a few series already and it felt so nice to finally know the entire story, to get to that long-awaited ending, that I decided to pick up some of the series I had left on the TBR for way too long. Stephen King’s Dark Tower is one such series. I don’t even know when I read the last book but I have to credit King’s writing for me remembering everything really clearly, even after a few years. This is the sixth book in the series and I won’t spoil any of its plot, but there will by necessity be spoilers for volumes 1 through 5 below!

by Stephen King

Published: Hodder & Stoughton, 2004
Paperback: 450 pages
Series: The Dark Tower #6
My rating: 5,5/10

Opening line: “How long will the magic stay?”

Roland Deschain, gunslinger, hero, continues his perilous adventures in search of the key to the quest that will define his life.
Roland’s loyal followers Jake, Father Callahan and Oy set out the break Susannah’s date with destiny in New York.
Meanwhile, Roland and Eddie brave the state of Maine in the summer of 1977. It is a frightful world where bullets are flying. A world inhabited by the author of a novel called ‘Salem’s Lot
Driven by revelation and suspense, this pivotal instalment in this magnificent epic will leave readers gasping to read the electrifying conclusion, The Dark Tower.
And the Tower is closer…

I did not expect to get back into this vast univese as quickly or easily as I did. While I have an old paperback copy of this book on my shelves, I treated myself to the audio version as well and this may have been part of the reason why I read it so fast. Sure, Stephen King’s writing style is great to fall into, his books are usually page turners for me, and the short sub-chapters make it all the easier to read “just one more” before bed. But I don’t think that’s all of it.

The story picks up right where Wolves of the Calla left off and if you’ve read that book you know that Susannah is pregnant with a weird monster baby and also has been behaving very strange lately… That and the book’s title make it fairly obvious what we’re dealing with in this volume. I’m glad Susannah’s pregnancy wasn’t the only plot thread we followed, however.
While she is battling Mia’s personality who has taken over her body (and on occasion Detta… who’s back), Roland and Eddie take a trip to Maine where they visit a certain writer of horror fiction.

As the synopsis already tells you who they find, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that King actually did it. He wrote himself into one of his books and it was the weirdest, most delightful thing I could imagine. It takes guts to do that, to neither glorify yourself nor paint yourself in too bad a light and, for me, King pulled it off. I had so much fun reading these passages and – whether that’s true or not – it felt like we actually got to meet the real Stephen King. A Stephen King from the 70ies who’s still a fairly new writer but still. It was my second favorite part of the whole book.
Meanwhile, Jake and Father Callahan try to save Susannah from whatever fate awaits her. There are action scenes, we learn a bit more about the Low Men (which some of you may know from Hearts in Atlantis) but in general, there was too little Jake in this book, at least for my taste. And I’ve never truly warmed to Father Callahan which is probably why Wolves of the Calla took me ages to read.

I may have flown through this book but I don’t think it was actually all that good. I was hooked, of course, and I wanted to know what happened next. But the ka-tet is split up and that’s no fun. And Susannah’s part especially felt a lot like re-hashing the events of The Drawing of the Three where her split personalities battled each other to become Susannah. As much fun as it was, it felt like we’d been here before. Mia who’s possessing Susannah this time around was interesting enough and I found her backstory both intriguing and sad. But overall, I didn’t think the characters were developed much and their arcs weren’t pushed forward in this book. I just need my ka-tet to be together, okay?

There is one thing, however, that made this worthwile for me, and that was the last chapter. Don’t be fooled, it’s a nice and long chapter. I won’t tell you what it is about and while it also doesn’t really push the gunslinger and his ka-tet closer to the Tower, I had so much fun reading it. Many of Stephen King’s books tie into the Dark Tower universe and he did a fantastic job in showing how that came to be. It’s also a nice reminder of just how many characters, names, and stories feed into Roland’s bigger story. That’s all I can say without spoiling. You just have to trust me that it’s worth it.

The fact that this was only a meh instalment in an otherwise great series will not keep me from reading the seventh and final book, of course (and then the eighth which goes chronologically somewhere around volume four). Many series do that thing were the novel before the last is mostly set-up for the big climax and while I think authors should strive to do better, I’ve come too far to stop now.

MY RATING: 5,5/10 – Okay

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