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Song of Susannah (The Dark Tower, Book 6) Hardcover – June 8, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
There's something about a crippled, black, schizophrenic, civil rights activist-turned-gunslinger whose body has been hijacked by a white, pregnant demon from a parallel world that keeps a seven-volume story bracingly strong as it veers toward its Armageddon-like conclusion. When Susannah Dean is transported via a magic door on the outskirts of Calla Bryn Sturgis (the scene of much of The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla) to New York City in the summer of 1999, the "demon-mother" who possesses her, Mia, has only one thing on her mind. She must give birth to her "chap" at a predetermined location in Manhattan's East 60s, as instructed by the henchmen-or "Low Men"-of the evil Crimson King. Pressed for time, Father Callahan, preteen Jake and talking pet "billy-bumbler" Oy follow Susannah and Mia's trail in an effort to prevent an act that would quicken the destruction of the Dark Tower and, in turn, of all worlds. Meanwhile, gunslingers Roland and Eddie travel to 1977 Maine in search of bookstore owner Calvin Tower, who is being hunted down by mobster Enrico Balazar and his gang, who first appeared in Eddie's version of New York in The Drawing of the Three Avid readers of the series will either be completely enthralled or extremely irritated when, in a gutsy move, the author weaves his own character into this unpredictable saga, but either way there's no denying the ingenuity with which King paints a candid picture of himself. The sixth installment of this magnum opus stops short with the biggest cliffhanger of King's career, but readers at the edge of their seats need only wait a few short months (Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower) to find out how-and if-King's fictional universe will come to an end. 10 full-color illus. not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
King's epical Dark Tower hastens to a close, and its penultimate volume is one of the speediest. The gunslingers of Mid-World and other alternate Earths have defeated The Wolves of the Calla (2003) but lost one of their number. Susannah Dean, nee Odetta Holmes, lacking her lower legs after a minion of the Satan of Mid-World, the Crimson King, pushed her in front of a subway train, and whose personality is sometimes split between black bourgeoise Odetta and viciously paranoiac Detta Walker, has been taken over by the spirit Mia to be the body in which Mia will gestate a boy who will eventually kill head gunslinger Roland. The child is to be born in New York in 1999, which is where Susannah-Mia repairs through one of the doors between worlds. The other gunslingers pursue through the same door, but only 11-year-old Jake Chambers, accompanied by former 'Salems' Lot priest Don Callahan, get to New York. Roland and Susannah's husband, Eddie Dean, tumble into an ambush in New England in 1977. Each chapter--called a stanza and ending with two songlike quatrains--advances one subset of gunslingers' progress. King keeps us on tenterhooks throughout--and leaves us there. Before quite departing, he tacks on a clever coda about the gradual creation of the Dark Tower--but in which world? The series concludes with The Dark Tower in September. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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There are several reasons. For one thing, King picks up right where the last book, Wolves of the Calla, left off, with Roland’s companion Susannah partially possessed by Mia, a former demon determined to have her baby in Susannah’s body. And unlike some of the earlier subplots in the series, this one ties directly to the main story: Mia’s child will be no ordinary boy—he’s foretold to be Roland’s doom and the Breaker of the last Beams supporting the multiverse. Upping the urgency even more, one of those Beams fails early in Song of Susannah. In short, the stakes are high and the story gripping.
Until King enters the story. Literally—as a character.
This threw me at first. Earlier books in the series have referenced some of King’s other works, most notably The Stand and Salem’s Lot. And some of the characters were starting to realize that they might be characters, fictional constructs rather than actual people. But in Song of Susannah, King is one of those constructs.
It’s easy to see this as indulgent. Every character an author creates contains a bit of that author, but explicitly writing yourself into your self-proclaimed “Ur Story” like this is only a character sheet and a twenty-sided die away from roleplaying. And Song of Susannah isn’t a tongue-and-cheek take on self-aware literature like Redshirts. The Dark Tower series takes itself pretty seriously (well, as seriously as a series with “lobstrosities” can). It’s an epic tale that didn’t start with any indication that it would feature such a device.
I also balked out how King’s inclusion of himself took me out of the story. The best books allow you to get lost in them; they’re not just words on a page—they’re experiences. But when the author appears on the page, you’re forced to acknowledge that you’re reading something he/she wrote, and it destroys the illusion.
So given those reservations, why did I still like Song of Susannah? Because as I went further, King pulled me back in by making himself a believable character. He doesn’t shrink from his brushes with alcoholism and drug use. He’s not a hero: he’s a person, flawed but trying. And I’m okay with that.
I’m also excited to read the final book in the series. I wasn’t sure that would be the case when I set out on this journey with Roland and (later) his band of gunslingers, but if nothing else, Song of Susannah suggests the Dark Tower will finish strong.
Stephen King likes to center on walk ins and doorways to other dimensions and alternate Earths. Susannah went through the door and wound up in New York 1999. Things are rather strange. Susannah must flee to a computer center in her mind. It is called the Dogan and from here she can control things and speak with her friends. In New York she finally has some legs but they are white and she is African American. Using a charm she hypnotized a diplomat and convinces him to give her money. She is waiting to give birth to the chap at the " Dixie Pig" all the while Susannah and Mia both struggle with each other and learn each other's story.
Roland and Eddie Dean end up in Maine during the 70's or 60's by a lake. They are immediately set upon by gangsters who shoot up a liquor store trying to get them. Next they travel to force someone to sell them some land with a rose on it. It is connected the tower and beams that are falling apart. Finally they meet Stephen King himself and convince him to continue his story and of course they are hunting for clues.
Jake and Father Callahan end up in New York as well. After a scuffle with a cab driver and a meeting with another priest they go off searching for Susanah. In the end they'll meet at the Dixies pig and boy is everyone in for a surprise.
(Spoilers ahead.) So, here's what I didn't like. First, I bought the hardcover which comes with the usually-good illustrations. The illustrations were just awful in this book. Modern art nonsense. I suppose someone could argue that their schizophrenic representations are indicative of the mental turmoil Susannah suffers. Bah. They're junk. Fortunately, the drawings in Book VII are great! Second, I was disappointed that King prominently included himself in "Wolves" and was thoroughly disappointed that he brought Eddie and Roland to his house in this book. The way that whole scene ended up playing out sort of saved some of this for me and I came away not hating it as much as I did when they first suggested they needed to go find this wordslinger in Bridgton. Maybe some people are really down with this whole twist. I'm still not sold on it. I'm hoping that it doesn't feature nearly as much in the final book.
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