Last week, we closed out Song of Susannah on somewhat of an anticlimactic ending. This week, Stephen King flexes his writing muscles with a thrilling and chilling opening to the final book in the series, The Dark Tower.
The Dark Tower is very close, but our ka-tet is spread far and wide. Roland and Eddie are in 1977 where they have just finished meeting with the author Stephen King. In 1999, Father Callahan and Jake are about to storm The Dixie Pig lounge where Susannah is being held along with Mia, who is about to give birth to an unholy demon: this child has the DNA combo of Roland and Susannah and a “co-father” in the Crimson King. So, we are very close to our destination, the stakes are high, and it’s anybody’s guess who will live to see The Dark Tower.
*Remember: While this is a reread, please avoid spoilers in the comments. The point is to get there together!
The Dark Tower looms on the horizon for both our ka-tet and you, our loyal readers, as we count down the days to the premiere of The Dark Tower film. The plan is to finish the series on the Tuesday before the premiere, so we'll be splitting The Dark Tower into six sections (about 200 pages each) and meeting here at our usual time (Tuesday at 12 p.m. ET) to discuss major themes, motifs, and reactions. Make sure to bookmark the HQ page for the schedule and links to all of the chapter discussions as they go live! This week, we begin our final book in the series with a chilling and thrilling opening! Join us in the comments for a discussion of Part I of The Dark Tower: PART ONE: The Little Red King, Dan-Tete.
PART ONE: The Little Red King, Dan-Tete
We knew going into this final stretch that someone (or, for that matter, several someones) was going to bite the bullet, right? I assumed Callahan was high on the list, and sure enough, inside The Dixie Pig, the plan orchestrated by Jake to rescue Susannah while fighting side-by-side was heading south.
Roland and Eddie, fresh from leaving “Stephen King,” experience a todash of sorts called aven kal. When Roland sees the odds are up against Jake and Callahan, he tells the pere that Jake must live no matter what. Callahan begins slaying vampires, low-men, and other monstrosities with a renewed faith, something he’d been lacking for years, and in a bid to buy time for Jake’s survival, he sacrifices himself and experiences redemption in the process.
Pere Callahan, once Father Callahan of Salem’s Lot, turned the Ruger’s muzzle on himself. He wasted no time looking for eternity in the darkness of the barrel but placed it deep against the shelf of his chin.
“Hile, Roland!” he said, and knew (the wave they are lifted by the wave) that he was heard. “Hile, Gunslinger!”
His finger tightened on the trigger as the ancient monsters fell upon him. He was buried in the reek of their cold and bloodless breath, but not daunted by it. He had never felt so strong.
I liked Callahan’s final stand, though I feel it should have come at the end of Song of Susannah, which would have bolstered that book’s unsatisfactory ending. Nevertheless, the good priest went out with a good death in a blaze of glory. Electrifying passages.
While Roland and Eddie are in the aven kal state, Susannah mouths the word “chassit,” which Roland hears. After Roland and Eddie zip back to Maine, Mia’s Dan-Tete (“little savior”) is born with the gunslinger’s blue eyes, a full set of teeth, and an erect, larger than normal penis. Named Mordred, he is ravenous and begins to gruesomely consume his own mother.
King lives up to his Master of Horror status as he describes Mordred morphing into a spider, retaining its human face, and happily munching away on Mia. Susannah swipes a gun and eliminates everyone in the room with lightning speed, including Sayre, though the evil spawn escapes. She commands a blind servant robot named Nigel to carry her to the exit where she patiently waits for Jake.
Jake and Oy are pinned down in the Dixie Pig’s kitchen, but they manage to get to the staircase going underground and toward Susannah. The sustained action never lets up as one of the pursuing ghouls, Flaherty, tosses a mind-trap Jake’s way. Prehistoric dinosaurs cloud the boy’s vision, and though Jake knows it’s a trick, he can’t shake the larger than life image. So, in a mind exchange with Oy, Jack passes by the threatening beasts, arriving at the appointed door. Susannah relays the word “chassit” (which means “19” in the High Language) to Jake, and the door opens. He crosses the transom and closes the gateway just as bullets pound the door. This was another towering triumph of suspense in the series. I thought for sure either Jake or the billy bumbler was going to buy it.
Roland and Eddie convince John Cullum to help them on several fronts: keep an eye on Stephen King, convince Aaron Deepneau to help watch over the rose in the vacant lot, and be executive vice-president of The Tet Corporation. He’s further instructed to bring Moses Carver into the fold, which won’t be an easy task, and screw over Sombra and North Central Positronics every chance he gets. (That’s quite a laundry list of expectations, and one can’t help but think King has a book or two with John Cullum’s unlimited adventures.)
Satisfied he’s up for the challenge, Roland and Eddie go to the house on Turtleneck Lane, a virtual year-round “Monster Mash” of “walk-ins” roaming freely between worlds. Whisked along on the magic, they show up behind the vampires who had nearly killed Jake and Oy.
Flaherty drew as he spoke, a bushwacker’s trick he’d no doubt practiced and used before to advantage. And although he was fast and the forefinger of Roland’s left hand still touched the side of his mouth when Flaherty’s draw began, the gunslinger beat him easily. His first bullet passed between the lips of Jake’s chief harrier, exploding the teeth at the front of his upper jaw to bone fragments which Flaherty drew down his throat with his dying breath.
Our remaining heroes are then reunited with Jake and Susannah, and in a touching moment, Jake calls Roland “father.”
The Dark Tower VII begins on a high note with King utilizing every considerable talent he harbors to weave suspense, horror, and fantasy in one tight, unrelenting adventure. Originally had my doubts if he would let go of any of these beloved characters, but after Callahan’s death, I’m certain none of the remaining ka-tet is safe. Not a hard decision to arrive at since the author is hinting strongly at more deaths to come.
What did you think of the beginning of The Dark Tower? Head to the comments and start/join the conversation!
*Remember: Be careful with your comments—NO SPOILERS! We will be moderating the comments and deleting anything we feel is a spoiler, so pause before you post and make sure you're not ruining it for someone else.
|The Dark Tower Reread Navigation|
|Song of Susannah Part IV||| Index |||The Dark Tower Part II|
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David Cranmer is the publisher and editor of BEAT to a PULP. Latest books from this indie powerhouse include the alternate history novella Leviathan and sci-fi adventure Pale Mars. David lives in New York with his wife and daughter.