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The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah Paperback – April 5, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Picking up right where "Wolves of the Calla" left off, our heroes Roland, Eddie, Jake, and the relative newcomer Father Callahan prepare for yet another sojourn out of Roland's world and into ours. Right off the bat, though, things do not go quite as planned. A Beamquake shakes the foundations of all the worlds, and we learn that the Tower is in much greater jeopardy than we may have previously suspected. And as always, wherever Roland goes, gunplay is sure to follow, but this time, it's waiting for him...
King's further explorations into the rich world of the Dark Tower are as rewarding as they ever were. The characters, by now, have become as comfortable as old friends. Still, there are new facets to be seen yet, and we get a closer look at each of them as the story goes on.
It's very difficult to write about this latest installment without giving what makes it so different away completely. The events and revelations found in "Song of Susannah" are so central to the themes of the overall story, and yet revealing them here would entirely ruin the fun of discovering them as King has presented it. Some readers will doubtless dislike the road King has begun to travel as the story approaches its conclusion, but I am convinced that many more will absolutely love it. It is a credit to King's growth as a writer that he can even attempt this ambitious sort of storytelling, and more, that he can do it successfully... at least, so far.
One thing is certain: love it or hate it, "Song of Susannah" is King's riskiest and most surprising work yet. One the one hand, he is taking one of the most overused plot elements in fiction -- the baby of uncertain parentage -- and making something original and interesting out of it. On the other, he is attempting something seen in modern fiction only rarely... a self-relexive work that engages the reader on multiple levels. By the end of "Song of Susannah" you may find yourself thinking about the realities that fiction creates, and the fictions that "real" life presents us with every day. And if you do, I believe that is entirely the point. King seems to be angling not only toward a conclusion to Roland's quest, but also toward a deeply personal statement about what it is to be a writer. It is an ambitious road to travel, but so far, King has not let us down. In fact, what he has begun with this book has the potential to exceed all the expectations I had for it.
'Ware, Constant Reader: "Song of Susannah," like "The Waste Lands," ends with a cliffhanger. In fact, there is not only one cliffhanger here, but two. The last pages of "Song of Susannah" should leave many readers, as it left me, powerfully hungry for the final book in the series. What lies in wait on the final page is, to say the least, quite a shock. It leaves the fate of Roland and his companions, as well as that of the Tower itself, enshrouded in doubt.
"One more turn of the path, and then we reach the clearing."
I, for one, can't wait to get there.
That said, it is sad to think that this epic journey seems separated into Books 1-4, and Books 5-7 (or at least 5-6, one hopes King jumps back on the right track in 7). Where the first four books were engaging, suspenseful, moving and heroic, Books 5 and 6 seem unimportant and done with much less care.
It's still our favorite crew--Roland at the mast, Eddie and Susannah behind with Jake quickly growing to match them--but they don't have the same spirit. Time has muted their shine. When Roland used to speak, he demanded our attention. I find him withering in these latest books, and not because of his arthritis. What a shame.
Overall 5 and 6 are enjoyable, in and of themselves. As a lover of these worlds, with their strange similarities and inconsistencies, it was great to once again spend a little time with the ka-tet. Yet the Tower's unfolding mystery seems too easily unraveled since the end of Book 4, and without much imagination. King is a gifted writer, to be sure, and occasionally we are flashed with his signature wit and intellect. What we miss are the high stakes that arose from this being an honest tale, with fantastical elements.
Instead we are treated to some gunfire for arbitrary reasons (ka, I guess?) with stock antagonists--and not terribly charismatic ones at that (Andy the Robot? Jack Andolini returns in two more installments?--Stephen, come on, the Lobstrosities had more personality). Most of `Wolves' was a diversion from the tale, detouring to reconnect with Peter Callahan. Slight frustration aside I was fine with that, thinking King was laying some subtle groundwork. Yet in `Song' he continues to wander, and this time THROUGH time (and, apparently, the Northeast).
Much of the story focuses on Susannah's wrestling with her other personality, Mia, hence the title. These two take row after row with one another, battling over her unborn chap. This offers little to no suspense, and the story unfolds in literal fashion, each scene working into the next in an ordinary manner. King connects the dots in lackluster numerical order, quite unlike him, and we miss the Mid-world shocks and specificity he once graced us with. His larger themes are drawing closer together, and--surprise!--we're not in the least surprised by his answers, and nod in polite acknowledgement.
When time and worlds begin to break loose, it's just accepted by the gunslingers--always fascinating that they seem to know both nothing and everything at the same time. Rather than the author spending the time to find complex ways to tie together these loose elements, we are given a premise that is lacking, at best. Readers started to see it at the end of `Wizard,' with his other book references and the like, but it culminates with a trip to Maine where we meet Mr. King himself, one--if not THE--apparent creator of all worlds [while I have a personal (and literary) objection to the author choosing himself as the epicenter of this journey, I must concede it was cleverly crafted, and one of the stronger portions of this book].
Also, King has fallen back to silly pronunciations and syllogisms in this installment, as in `Wolves.' The people speak with stilted and forced language, as if trying too hard to be the characters they once were. There is little ease or subtlety here, and very few surprises that won't make a fan shake his head and say, "No, no, please don't do that, Stephen you're off the Beam." He is successful in providing a cliffhanger ending, and King is always his best when he's in the midst of action. Yet such contrived storytelling on top of the numerous missteps in the last two volumes can leave one fearing the Dark Tower is little more than a mirage at the end of this tale, nothing more than gun smoke and mirrors.
I hold out hope that he is able to return to some of his earlier brilliance, as in `Drawing' or `Waste Lands' for his finale, but even if he continues along this skewed path, it will still have been one heck of a journey. King knows the face of his father, and his work is always worth devouring. This volume, if for nothing more than nail-biting curiosity, is no exception. 5 and 6 are (to me) lesser works in the series, yet it's a good sign that `Song' proved more exciting and a better read than `Wolves.' You might optimistically feel he is wading in the water, keeping you treading just long enough to overwhelm you with one last somersault from under the surface. Ignore the obvious foreshadowing, and you'll find reason enough to keep you looking towards the fall, when (for good or bad) Roland finally ends his journey.
As a last note, the illustrations by Darrel Anderson were mysterious and haunting, a great departure from the uninspired artwork of the last book. Each one delighted, surprised and struck me. Here's hoping `The Dark Tower' does the same, with the striking force of the Gunslinger.