Stephen King started writing the first Dark Tower novel in 1970, although a mass market edition of the first novel in the ‘cycle’ did not appear until 1988. It quickly earned cult status, apparently concluding with the seventh novel in 2004. King returned to the story of Roland Deschain and his quest for the mysterious Dark Tower with The Wind Through the Keyhole last year. So far, the epic is barely contained in in eight novels, a novella, and links to many of his other books and short stories.
The basic Dark Tower tale is straight forward – Roland is a gunslinger knight, the last of a fallen autocracy, self-tasked with saving the central hub of all Universes from an attack designed to destroy all realities. This isn’t King in classic horror or mainstream mode – this is a western/horror fantasy, with all the complexities of a long narrative. King admits to a number of loose ends and even false starts, and there are areas uber-fans debate endlessly online to this very day. So, a guide to the series can be a useful tool.
Robin Furth, whose work appears in the most recent edition of Midnight Echo Magazine, is a former research assistant for King. She published a work which sources and defines each character, place and thing in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: The Complete Concordance, Revised and Updated.
Bev Vincent, who previously offered The Road to the Dark Tower, goes about the task differently in his The Dark Tower Companion. In patient and well written chapters, he explains each novel and other King stories that have Dark Tower import. There are also a number of shorter chapters dealing with such things as Roland’s enemies, locations in our own world (there is significant action between Roland’s world and ours), the many graphic novels (written by Furth) the series has spawned, and even a section on Dark Tower art (which is probably a bit too obscure for many).
New readers and Dark Tower fans alike will benefit from this book. There is always something to learn about the Dark Tower universe. Even if you might not agree with Vincent’s opinion, it’s worth remembering he’s had access to King in compiling both of his books. In fact, he includes a short and enlightening interview with King (now we know the name of Roland’s sister!). Vincent has a strong commitment to opening Mid-World and its secrets to all readers, and this book proves he knows how to deliver.
Rocky Wood is the Bram Stoker Award winning author of Stephen King: A Literary Companion.
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