** spoiler alert ** Well, where do I start? This, the last Dark Tower book ever (sad face) - well, apart from The Wind in the Keyhole , which doesn't really count, I feel - is massive . Same size as The Wolves of the Calla , the next massivest book, and that's before you take into account the font, which is vastly smaller. Strangely, though, not that much actually seems to happen, and all of it is slightly traumatic.
Since you're still reading post-spoiler-alert, I'm not going to bother with a synopsis. Or not a long one, at any rate. Basically, the ka-tet meets up after their scattering across time and space to continue their quest for the Tower.
Actually, I tell a lie. Not all the ka-tet meet up. Callahan dies early into the book, on page 13 as it happens. This feels slightly unfair. You know, you've just come back to a story that's been around for quite a long time, you're just settling back into the rhythm of the story, getting comfortable - and WHAM! somebody you know dies, and you have to stop for a moment and think "Did that actually happen?" And the answer is, of course, yes. Sadly. And then you have to watch it again, only through Eddie and Roland's eyes. Like I said, traumatic.
Anyway, the basic narrative arc from then on can be summarised in the words of that old Queen song, "No-One But You": "One by one/Only the good die young/They're only flying too close to the sun/Life goes on." Everyone dies, essentially, many in quite gory ways. Walter (the man in black, remember?) is killed by the evil spider-baby Mordred (who reminded me a little of Stuey from Family Guy) in a truly nasty fashion. Then it's Eddie, and by God that's sad. Can you think of any other novel in which a main character who's not evil is killed in the middle? Julius Caesar, I suppose, but that's not really a novel. Ummm...any ideas, anyone? Anyway, my point is that Eddie was probably my favourite character (apart from Roland. And even that's debatable), and now he's dead . I knew someone was going to die, because it's that sort of story, but...well, as Jake points out, "Eddie was Eddie ". I explained this to my dad, who recommended the Dark Tower to me in the first place, and he said "There's more to come." Which was not exactly a confidence booster.
So the next one to die was Jake, and by this time it's not just sad, it's downright cruel. Also Jake has already died twice, so you have this little voice inside you that goes, "He's not dead, he's going to come alive again like in the other books, surely Jake can't die as well". And then you read this:
Once before he died and had come back. But not from this world. In this world, death was always for keeps.
Onwards with the tale of death: Sheemie, whose death occurred offstage, although much foreshadowed by King ("His death was in the splinter! IN THE SPLINTER, people!"). Susannah, who doesn't really die but kind of cries off for some reason, despite her saying several times that she was in it for keeps. Oy, which is just unfair. How can you kill something that cute? Mordred, somewhat anti-climatically shot by the gunslinger. And finally the Crimson King, or most of him. I loved the idea of the Artist creating and destroying with a pencil and rubber, which mirrors the idea of the Author creating with his typewriter or whatever. Although I'm pretty sure I've heard the rubber storyline before. In an episode of Noddy .
Now, to the ending. I know there are people who don't like it. In fact, I've seen The Dark Tower on a "Worst Ending Ever" list. But as for me, I love it. It makes sense with all those time-doublings and do-overs and twins that have echoed throughout the series. Haven't we been told, time and again, that ka is a wheel? And doesn't it seem a fitting punishment for a man who has sacrificed everything for one goal that he quests for it eternally? But I also liked the note of hope that the horn signifies.
Incidentally, I still don't like the fact that King included himself in the story. It's a really interesting concept, but it still feels too much like self-aggrandisement: at one point in the novel, he calls himself a "genuinely talented writer". That is an actual quote. It is later qualified, but still, there it stands, a testament to Stephen King, Mr Modest. And the remarks from the other characters - "a tin ear for language", according to one - go too far the other way. He is, after all, assigning the role of Creator to himself. You can't win with this self-reference business, so maybe you shouldn't try.
Final thing that made me laugh: the advert in the back of the book that says - I quote - "Don't miss the other books in Stephen King's epic Dark Tower books." Remember, this is the Last Book in the Series. It's like the offer on at Waterstones: buy the last Dark Tower book and you get the first one free...
Surely there is some essential logic missing here?
But I did like that they included the first chapter of The Gunslinger at the end. It was interesting to remind myself what Roland was like in the beginning, and it completes the illusion of the circle with Roland's moment of dizziness, which has clearly been worked in after the sequence was finished.
Oh, and it was nice that Susannah, Eddie and Jake all met again afterwards. It cheers the whole thing up a bit.
So, the quest for the Tower is ended. It's taken up a little more than a year of my life, and I'm going to miss it, I think. The Waste Lands is still my favourite, I think; and Eddie's defeat of Blaine the train in Wizard and Glass is still stunning. But I think I'll end with a quote from this last book:
Will I tell you that these three lived happily ever after? I will not, for no one ever does.
But there was happiness.
And they did live.
Beneath the flowing and sometimes glimpsed glammer of the Beam that connects Shardik the Bear and Maturin the Turtle by way of the Dark Tower, they did live.