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Thread: Summer Reading List

  1. -11
    Rafiki's Avatar
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    Okay, so right on time yesterday I finished the seventh and last book of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series. The series was very long; I'm talking probably over 3000 pages of material. It was also complex, so if this turns into a very long post I'll now apologize in advance and put a TLDR brief at the bottom. I'll start by talking about what I believe the general theme of the series is, then the overall structure of the series. If you've read the series, please post your thoughts.

    If I were to generalize the series as a type of story, I'd say that first of all it's a story about the quest for redemption. It has a very archetypal hero, a gunslinger cowboy-type, and the more I think of it, it also has an archetypal plot structure, but done in a very complex way. In the beginning, Roland, the main character, is a very simple cowboy, following the "man in black" across the desert. It becomes evident that the reason why he wants to capture the man is to find out how to get to the dark tower to set right a world that has "moved on". What at first seems like a western setting quickly evolves into a post-apocalyptic setting where the world is on its last legs and slipping into non-existence. Roland has swore that he will find the tower, and all of his friends had died in this quest, and he is the last gunslinger.

    Perhaps the greatest paradox of the story is that to make things right, Roland is willing to sacrifice everything and everyone, thereby increasing his guilt and his need to make things right. Though he is willing to sacrifice new victims to his quest, he comes to understand that the pain of new sacrifice always outweighs the pain of old. Pain is ephemeral and does indeed heal over time. But he cannot help himself; he has set out with a quest and made promises to himself and to his old friends and is therefore unable to renege.

    The fact that the tower becomes the foundation of existence later, I think can be both understood metaphorically and literally. Literally in the sense that the series takes on a sci-fi "many worlds" context, and metaphorically as in the only thing the gunslinger lives for.

    Some people might say that the end of the series is the equivalent of a huge drawn out story ending with a single line: "it was all just a dream." But I think that the renewal of his quest shows a concrete progression towards his redemption. He does not achieve it simply by reaching the tower; he must run the whole thing over again until he no longer needs to seek the tower, or seek redemption.

    Also it would be hard to ignore the parallels with the Arthurian legend. Roland is a descendant of Arthur Eld, an ancient order of gunslingers (but gunslinger and knight could be interchangeable in a post-apocalyptic setting). He also has his weapons passed down through the ages, ancient and powerful. Also Maerlyn (Merlin), the man in black, or Walter, also known in other works (like The Stand) as Flagg makes several appearances throughout the story.

    The interesting parallel with the Arthurian legends is that instead of losing his one true love (Guinevere in Arthurian Legend, Susan Delgado in The Dark Tower) to another man, Roland loses her because of his responsibilities. He is simply preoccupied with duty and killing and therefore unable to protect his love.

    Instead of going through the books individually, I will say that the so-called genre of the story shifts back and forth between a science fiction, a western, and a cyber-punk theme, and sometimes two or three of the types combined. What I felt Stephen King did well in this series is developing round characters who experience, learn, and change. Nothing is more off-putting in reading literature than following the acts of characters you are unsympathetic to.

    TLDR Version:

    It was a good series. The main character loved, lost, and loved again, only to lose again in his quest to find the tower. It should remind us that the journey, and not the destination, is what is important in life.
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  2. -12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rafiki View Post
    Okay, so right on time yesterday I finished the seventh and last book of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series. The series was very long; I'm talking probably over 3000 pages of material. It was also complex, so if this turns into a very long post I'll now apologize in advance and put a TLDR brief at the bottom. I'll start by talking about what I believe the general theme of the series is, then the overall structure of the series. If you've read the series, please post your thoughts.

    If I were to generalize the series as a type of story, I'd say that first of all it's a story about the quest for redemption. It has a very archetypal hero, a gunslinger cowboy-type, and the more I think of it, it also has an archetypal plot structure, but done in a very complex way. In the beginning, Roland, the main character, is a very simple cowboy, following the "man in black" across the desert. It becomes evident that the reason why he wants to capture the man is to find out how to get to the dark tower to set right a world that has "moved on". What at first seems like a western setting quickly evolves into a post-apocalyptic setting where the world is on its last legs and slipping into non-existence. Roland has swore that he will find the tower, and all of his friends had died in this quest, and he is the last gunslinger.

    Perhaps the greatest paradox of the story is that to make things right, Roland is willing to sacrifice everything and everyone, thereby increasing his guilt and his need to make things right. Though he is willing to sacrifice new victims to his quest, he comes to understand that the pain of new sacrifice always outweighs the pain of old. Pain is ephemeral and does indeed heal over time. But he cannot help himself; he has set out with a quest and made promises to himself and to his old friends and is therefore unable to renege.

    The fact that the tower becomes the foundation of existence later, I think can be both understood metaphorically and literally. Literally in the sense that the series takes on a sci-fi "many worlds" context, and metaphorically as in the only thing the gunslinger lives for.

    Some people might say that the end of the series is the equivalent of a huge drawn out story ending with a single line: "it was all just a dream." But I think that the renewal of his quest shows a concrete progression towards his redemption. He does not achieve it simply by reaching the tower; he must run the whole thing over again until he no longer needs to seek the tower, or seek redemption.

    Also it would be hard to ignore the parallels with the Arthurian legend. Roland is a descendant of Arthur Eld, an ancient order of gunslingers (but gunslinger and knight could be interchangeable in a post-apocalyptic setting). He also has his weapons passed down through the ages, ancient and powerful. Also Maerlyn (Merlin), the man in black, or Walter, also known in other works (like The Stand) as Flagg makes several appearances throughout the story.

    The interesting parallel with the Arthurian legends is that instead of losing his one true love (Guinevere in Arthurian Legend, Susan Delgado in The Dark Tower) to another man, Roland loses her because of his responsibilities. He is simply preoccupied with duty and killing and therefore unable to protect his love.

    Instead of going through the books individually, I will say that the so-called genre of the story shifts back and forth between a science fiction, a western, and a cyber-punk theme, and sometimes two or three of the types combined. What I felt Stephen King did well in this series is developing round characters who experience, learn, and change. Nothing is more off-putting in reading literature than following the acts of characters you are unsympathetic to.

    TLDR Version:

    It was a good series. The main character loved, lost, and loved again, only to lose again in his quest to find the tower. It should remind us that the journey, and not the destination, is what is important in life.
    Another fun aspect of the story is it's connection to other books in the Stephen King universe. I just started reading Bag of Bones, which apparently has a sizable connection to the DT series.

    Check out the graphic novels if you get the chance. They are awesome.





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  3. -13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gonzo View Post
    Another fun aspect of the story is it's connection to other books in the Stephen King universe. I just started reading Bag of Bones, which apparently has a sizable connection to the DT series.

    Check out the graphic novels if you get the chance. They are awesome.
    Stephen King said that the Dark Tower series is his magnum opus, and even contemplated retiring after its completion.

    I may read more, but I am afraid that after reading King's best, the others will be dull in comparison.
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  4. -14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rafiki View Post
    Stephen King said that the Dark Tower series is his magnum opus, and even contemplated retiring after its completion.

    I may read more, but I am afraid that after reading King's best, the others will be dull in comparison.
    I think they are more continuations. So far I really like Bag of Bones, and I've already noticed some connections. Apparently the number 19 and it's importance starts in Bag of Bones.

    BTW, just finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Meh. I don't get the hype, but I can't wait for Fincher's take on it. I think he'll top the source material.
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  5. -15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gonzo View Post
    I think they are more continuations. So far I really like Bag of Bones, and I've already noticed some connections. Apparently the number 19 and it's importance starts in Bag of Bones.

    BTW, just finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Meh. I don't get the hype, but I can't wait for Fincher's take on it. I think he'll top the source material.
    I d/l'ed that trilogy but haven't taken the opportunity to move any over to Aldiko yet.. Someone tells me that of the 3, the Girl Who Played With Fire was the best. On the basis of a friend's recommendation, also d/l'ed "The Hypnotist" by Lars Kepler, (in actuality, the pen name for a Scandanavian husband/wife writing team) which is along the same lines as the trilogy but even better. We'll see.

    Just started the dark, violent and good vs evil allegorical John Connelly's "The Burning Soul." (Part of the tortured detective Mike Parker series). Like James Lee Burke, who's known as the Faulkner of Suspense, Connelly is another Master of the skill of writing. Pretty engrossing so far.


    geno and idzik have done the impossible: make jets fans wish the tanny/sanchez days were here again > Darksider, Jetnation



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  6. -16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rafiki View Post
    Well, I finished a collection of H.P. Lovecraft's stories last night. They were enjoyable to read, not only because of his obvious command of prose, but also because of the way he develops horror into his stories.

    The themes in almost all of his stories seem to be centered around an obsession to gain hidden or primeval knowledge, and the horrific consequences of this search. In some the search is for knowledge of black magic, in a couple it is a faraway land, and in a couple it is a search for scientific knowledge in the form of anthropology and geology.

    I was very interested to see how he fostered a feeling of horror. The way he does this is by obscuring the image of the horrific, or leaving vital details out. Lovecraft doesn't go overboard on an image dump of the horrific things the characters see, and often times will tell you that its basically indescribable and moves on. Sometimes a character will shriek in terror, but will be unable to convey what they saw. What I think this does, is allows the reader to use their imagination to build a personal monster. It is effective because what one person thinks is scary doesn't always translate to another. With a blank monster, we can all fill it in with something we think would be particularly horrific and the desired effect is achieved.

    He also has a great habit of ending some of his short stories with a reveal, in this edition usually written in italics. It's a real "dun dun dunnnn" moment, but I love that in horror stories.

    Before I began reading the stories, I was aware of his Cthulu mythos, but only superficially from popular and internet culture. Surprisingly Cthulu himself never appeared in the collection of stories I read, but his children appeared in one (as powerful land octopi).

    All in all, I would recommend this to others. It has some tedious moments, especially his alternative earth history about Elder Ones or the Great Race (which reminded me of nautiluses), but I thought it was a good diversion and some of his short stories are particularly memorable.

    If you have a half hour and want a taste, check this short story out:
    http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/...fiction/td.asp
    BTW I love the opening paragraphs of his stories.

    I'm a big Lovecraft fan myself, and was wondering what your favorite stories of his are, Rafiki, or if you feel you've read enough of him to compile a list of favorites? My favorite one by him I think is the first one I read; and maybe it only is because it was my first taste into his world, I don't know, but its called "The Music of Erich Zann." It is a story that is more eerie and unsettling than true horror, but then, I think thats when he's at his best anyway. I highly recommend it, if you haven't read it.
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  7. -17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rafiki View Post
    Stephen King said that the Dark Tower series is his magnum opus, and even contemplated retiring after its completion.

    I may read more, but I am afraid that after reading King's best, the others will be dull in comparison.
    I've only read maybe five or six King books (haven't read any DT yet) but I really liked "'Salem's Lot," if you're looking for somewhere to start reading his others. Maybe someone whos read more King can offer better recommendations though. Sounds like Gonzo is familiar enough with him to offer up some good ones.
    Last edited by PortFin; 01-22-2012 at 10:41 PM.
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