Okay, so, this isn’t so much a review of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, but a brief look at why I hate every single word in all seven books.
Hate. Hate. I hate these books like I hate the Nazis. I hate these books so much Emperor Palpatine is somewhere in space getting a woody. If we could somehow harness the power of my hate into an energy source it could become a renewable energy that would support the entirety of the human race for hundreds of years but still wouldn’t be utilized to its full potential because the capitalist pigdogs are willing to let humanity kill the planet in the name of stock options.
Let’s back up. Like most people my age, I went through a Stephen King phase. It started in fifth and sixth grade as a true crime phase. We all went through that, right? A bunch of ten and eleven year olds running around knowing all the details of the Zodiac killings? Right? That wasn’t just me? If the internet has taught me anything (it hasn’t) it’s that I am in no way unique, so I know there’s at least a few of you out there who thought serial killers were just the bees knees when you were in middle school do not leave me hanging on this.
That morphed into reading Stephen King. I think I first read The Shining? Maybe The Dead Zone. One of the ones my parents owned, anyway, and soon it wouldn’t matter because in the space of, like, five years I had read everything of his I could get my hands on. My youth has already become a hazy web of sense memories with very few hard lines, but I do remember the days I would spend so much time reading I would become dissociated from the world. I also remember how terrified I was after reading The Jaunt in his Skeleton Crew collection. No written media has ever scared me as badly as The Jaunt. I finished that story, put the book down, and had to take a walk. I didn’t go back to the book for two days. I avoided The Stand for years because I didn’t think I could handle apocalyptic fiction. When I was finally ready, I read the whole unabridged version in three days. And I mean three entire days. I was fifteen, summer break had just started, and for three days I woke up and did nothing but read, occasionally getting up to eat or just move to another room.
All of this is just to say I love King’s work, and that’s probably why my hate for The Dark Tower is so visceral. If I simply didn’t like King novels, then I just wouldn’t like them and that would be the end of it and I could go about my day. But Stephen King’s work is a major part of my tween and teen years. I couldn’t point to specific examples, but the idea that he didn’t influence the way I write is laughable. Hell, for a very long time, like, over a decade, I would tell people ‘Salem’s Lot was my favorite novel (and while I still like it I can no longer ignore how fucked up Susan is as the only woman protagonist in the book).
I avoided The Dark Tower until I was in my twenties for the same reason I avoided Fleabag: sometimes I’m an irrational idiot who decides I’m not going to like something before I even experience it. I was immediately wrong about Fleabag. I was less immediately but more intensely right about The Dark Tower. The first novel was…fine. It was fine. And the opening line really is one of the best opening lines ever. “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” God, what a hook. I can understand being struck with that line and just dropping whatever you’re doing to rush home and figure out what to do with it.
I liked The Drawing of the Three best, mostly because it’s entirely possible Eddie is the only character I actually like in the whole fucking mess. I mostly dislike Susannah, the kid is a drip, and Roland…oh, Roland. God, I hate him. What a fucking jackass. What an absolute tool. What a shitty excuse for a human being. Maybe I just don’t like spending so much time with unredeemable characters. I also super didn’t like Uncut Gems. Just shitty jackasses screaming at each other for two hours. And Roland, as a main character…is bad. He’s a bad person and his quest is shit.
I almost liked Wizard and Glass. I liked what it was in the beginning. And then the whole book turned into a flashback as Roland told a story of his shitty, shitty childhood and once I realized this stupid flashback was the whole fucking book I almost rage quit right there. Does it ever fucking bother this asshole that everyone around him just dies because he sucks so much? That’s how I read these books. The universe just kills everyone around him because he sucks that much.
I didn’t stop reading, but the only reason I read the rest was out of spite. The self-insertion stuff couldn’t deepen my hatred because by then I was already in a deep sea pod exploring the Marianas Trench. I never stopped hating it. My hatred became gleeful. I didn’t enjoy the books, but I enjoyed how much I hated them. It became a vicious cycle. There are pieces of these books I might have enjoyed if they were not a part of the larger story, but because they were I automatically hated them. I hated all the characters and I hated all plot points and I hated how everyone died. Maybe these were the books that made me realize how fucked up Susan is in ‘Salem’s Lot because these were the books that made me wonder if he hates women. I mean, he can’t, right? I follow him on Twitter, he seems pretty liberal, but oof. Everything having to do with Susannah’s arc is straight out of the Clueless White Guy’s Handbook for The Only Problems Women Could Possibly Experience. Of course she somehow ends up pregnant. Of fucking course.
The only thing I didn’t hate was the ending. Like, the real ending. The sentient shitpile shaped like a human named Roland finally reaches the tower and it turns out time is cyclical and he’s already done this countless time and now here he goes to do it all over again. “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” Oh my God, I fell out laughing. I laughed for days. Even now, thinking about it makes me happy. This motherfucker who wasted so much of my time has to do all of this again. He didn’t learn his lesson, but I learned mine. Fuck you, sucks to suck, have fun getting all your friends killed again, asshole.
I hate The Dark Tower, but with such an intensity that can only be born from twisted love. I only hate it so much because I love most everything else Stephen King wrote. And I wanted to love it, but I didn’t even like it, so the only avenue left to me was to hate it. I’m not even saying it’s bad, I’m just saying I hate it. And I fucking paid for those books, so who’s the real loser?
Roland. Roland is. I cannot express to you how much I hate this fucking guy.