Customer Reviews: The Dark Tower Boxed Set (Books 1-4)
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on February 28, 2012
It should be noted that this box set contains the first four books of the Dark Tower series in mass market paperback. The trade paperback editions contain about 10 or so full page illustrations and a different artist for each book save the first and last book those two books have illustrations by Michael Whelan which are excellent. The mass market editions do not contain any illustrations. I would say go for the trade paperback editions. If you don't care for the illustrations then you do save money with this box set although you can find good deals on the trade paperbacks in used condition.
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With two recent Dark Tower releases and a forthcoming grand finale, fans of Stephen King's dark fantasy series may want to brush up on the first four volumes of the series. "The Gunslinger," "the Drawing of the Three," "The Waste Lands" and "Wizard's Glass" all have their individual flaws, but the overall effect is excellent.

"The Gunslinger" introduces us to Roland Deschain of Gilead, the last gunslinger of a long-dead land. The hardened cowboy/knight wanders through a wasted world, tracking a "man in black" who can help him find (cue ominous music) the Dark Tower. Along the way he finds Jake, a young boy who was killed in a car accident in our world. But in the name of his quest, Roland may be called on to sacrifice what he loves...

"The Drawing of the Three" kicks off mere hours after "Gunslinger" ends. Roland is sick, and being pursued by carnivorous "lobstrosities." But then he ends up transporting his mind into our world -- specifically, into the minds of junkie smuggler Eddie Dean, and legless civil rights activist Odetta Holmes (and her evil alter ego, Detta). Roland "draws" these two into his own world, but Eddie's withdrawal and Detta's malevolence might kill his quest before it even starts.

"The Waste Lands" begins with Roland tutoring Susannah (formerly Odetta/Detta) and Eddie in how to be gunslingers. But while the newlyweds are rapidly getting the hang of it, Roland is not doing well. Because of a paradox he created when he saved the boy Jake, his mind is starting to deteriorate. In Manhattan, Jake is suffering from the same thing. To save them both from madness, the gang draws Jake away from our world. But no sooner has he joined them than they come to a ruined city, with an insane mono train and a sinister figure following them...

"Wizard's Glass" opens with the gang (or ka-tet) riddling desperately against an insane train, which is on a suicide run. Eddie barely manages to defeat it with a bunch of stupid jokes, and the ka-tet continues their journey. Along the way, Roland tells them the story of his first love Susan Delgado, a beautiful girl who was promised to a dirty old man, and how he lost her when he was only fourteen. And the story is linked to what is ahead -- a person from Roland's past awaits them, along with the hard-won Wizard's Glass that destroyed Roland's family.

Stephen King is best known for being a horror writer, covering everything from evil cars to telekinetic high-schoolers. But "The Dark Tower" is a gritty fantasy with a few horror elements in it, and though it has some grotesque images, it's more fantastical than icky. Not to mention that it has homages sprinkled through it to "Lord of the Rings," the "Childe Roland" story, "The Wizard of Oz," and even King's own books.

King's writing is full of slam-bang action, even if it doesn't excel in the technical sense. And the gunslinger is an excellent lead character, a mixture of rock-hard determination and affection for his friends. Eddie comes across as rather annoying at times, but he's evidently supposed to; on the other hand, Susannah is remarkably complex with her double personality. And Jake serves as a surrogate son for Roland, while displaying his own brand of eleven-year-old toughness.

As the release date for "The Dark Tower" approaches, fans may want to brush up on this epic series, and newbies may want to find out more about it. Highly recommended.
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on October 9, 2007
Roland is the last living member of a knightly order known as gunslingers. The world he lives in is quite different from our own, yet it bears striking similarities to it. Politically organized along the lines of a feudal society, it shares technological and social characteristics with the American Old West, as well as bearing magical powers and the relics of a highly advanced, but long vanished, society. Roland's quest is to find the Dark Tower, a fabled building said to either be, or be located at, the nexus of all universes. Roland's world is said to have "moved on," and indeed it appears to be coming apart at the seams -- mighty nations are being torn apart by war, entire cities and regions vanish from the face of the earth without a trace, time does not flow in an orderly fashion; even the sun sometimes rises in the north and sets in the east. As the series opens, Roland's motives, goals, and even his age are unclear, though later installments shed light on these mysteries.

This series was mostly inspired by the epic poem "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came" by Robert Browning, the full text of which was included in an appendix to the final volume. In the preface to the revised 2003 edition of The Gunslinger, King also identifies The Lord of the Rings, the Arthurian Legend, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly as inspirations. He identifies Clint Eastwood's "Man with No Name" character as one of the major inspirations for Roland. King's style of location names in the series, such as Mid-World, and his development of a unique language abstract to our own, are also influenced by J. R. R. Tolkien's work.

The Dark Tower is often described in the novels as a real structure, and also as a metaphor. Part of Roland's fictional quest lies in discovering the true nature of the Tower. The series incorporates themes from multiple genres, including fantasy fiction, science fantasy, horror, and western elements. King has described the series as his magnum opus; beside the seven novels that comprise the series proper, many of his other books are related to the story, introducing concepts and characters that come into play as the series progresses.
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on March 18, 2007
I only recently decided to enter the world of Stephen King's Dark Tower. This boxed set provided me with an excellent chance to do so.

The Dark Tower series is King's ultimate opus. It's a saga that entertains and constantly evolves with each book. In my opinion the series is a must read.

The set itself is a great introduction to the Dark Tower world. The first book is newly revised and exapanded. All these revisions make sense in the larger context of the series. All four of these books contain new introductions by Stephen King himself. Here he does a great job on introducing us to this wonderfully imaginative saga.

At a very affordable price, this box set is a must have. Each book has its own unique voice, and these four set up a strong foundation for the seven part saga. The overall presentation of the books is done well. A great pruchase for those looking to delve into the Dark Tower universe.
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on October 3, 2013
Other reviewers have given plenty of descriptions of what this series is about, and its influences. King's books are always prodigious, barely-disciplined torrents of story. In the Dark Tower series all restraints are cast off, and the story unfolds in all of its richness over multiple volumes. It is suspenseful, engrossing, terrifying, and ultimately satisfying. This is not for readers in a hurry, who wish only to hurry to the conclusion. This is for readers who want to escape to another world, and explore it, and get to know its people and care for them, and to embark on a truly heroic, epic journey. King cites "The Lord of the Rings" as one of his influences, and my only complaint about "The Lord of the Rings" is that it was too short. I would have been happy with it going on for another book or two, with digressions and characters and more events. The Dark Tower goes on, and on, and on...and I like it that way :) The tension never lets up, and it is leavened with a suitable number of triumphs and humorous interludes. Roland the gunslinger, Jake the kid, Oy the billy-bumbler, Eddie the junky, and Susannah the cripple form an unlikely ka-tet from multiple worlds with the mission of saving the world, a world that has moved on and is falling apart.
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on March 29, 2016
I have become in love with the Dark Tower series and I was already a fan of Stephen King. The interesting thing about the series is that it is difficult to put it in just one category since it is a Western, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, and Action/Adventure. It is where universes are connected to the Dark Tower and a Katet (group linked by destiny) must venture towards the dark tower and fight the forces that try to stop them on their way. The characters are intriguing and deal with their own personal dilemmas, or probably better worded as demons, in order to work together. The world in which they mainly stay in seems to have remnants of technology in it but are nothing but ghosts of the past that has been replaced with a setting that seems to be more like that from a Western. Elements of magic and the supernatural are made evident by the presence of thinnies, which are entrances or doors between worlds, and other things. I find it interesting to see how Stephen King also interweaves both the existance of magic and technology. If any of what I said interests you or your looking for something interesting and inviting, or even if you are a fan of Stephen King's other works I highly suggest that you read this.
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on March 15, 2016
If you want a good long summer read you might want to take this to the beach the plane or on vacation. King Calls this is magnum opus where he ties all his other works together. Perhaps putting himself into his own story is stretching things a but it's really interesting the way he ties all the threads of his works together here and the tried and true framework of the quest format is always a good bet to move a wider story along. It's not perfect- some of the characters and dialog are down right cringe worthy and painful to read (eg 'yo white candle'. you' know the sequence when you come across it- King doesn't seem to have the best handle on writing some of his female characters in The Dark Tower series.) But overall he keeps the plot going along in a mostly coherent semi logical way and if you get all 7 volumes it makes for a pleasant bit of escapism in your leisure time.
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on July 28, 2015
This was purchased as a gift for a friend of the series. I am excited to give this as a gift because it looks like something that a fan of the series could really appreciate.

It comes in a special case for the four books to be displayed in. In the pictures you can see that the case has some special art on it. The books contain 'A new introduction by the author' which should be noteworthy.
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on October 31, 2010
Stephen King's Dark Tower series is one of the boldest, most ingenious, and most dividing tales of our time. Taken as a whole, these four books are remarkably uneven. It becomes very obvious that they were written at very different times in King's life, and the tone of each is unique and (if you read them back to back) quite jarring. Characters, however, remain consistent, charming and fascinating, and Roland himself is one of the strongest icons that King has ever created. Considering that King is one of the best character authors of our time, this is quite a recommendation in itself. The thing that makes the Dark Tower the most rewarding to me, however, is the world building. You will come to long for Gilead, and to feel that the world that has "moved on" is a character in and of itself. The only similar series I can point to that has this effect, of a dying world that you actually desire, would be Middle Earth in Tolkien's Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. In my opinion these books go off the rails a bit whenever the action shifts to the "real world," and a poorly thought out Wizard of Oz motif goes nowhere. But the rest of the tale, especially book 4, is unforgettable. I should warn you that, true to this series's confounding nature, books 5-7 are wildly uneven and make books 1-4 look like a pre-planned masterpiece. But by that time, you'll be so invested in the characters, the world, and the overall adventure that you'll probably be dying to see this through to the end. Just for fair warning though, think of these not as novels, but as a long series of nights with a master storyteller. Sometimes you'll yell at him, or shake your fist, or even doubt where he's taking you; but every time he bids you goodnight, you'll be counting the hours until the next time. Is there any better recommendation I could give you than that? I don't think so. Like most friends, the "Dark Tower" King will infuriate you at times, but looking back, you'll wonder how you enjoyed your life without him.
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on June 30, 2011
I have just completed Stephen King's The Dark Tower. This is not a review for The Dark Tower Boxed Set alone. It is for all seven volumes of The Dark Tower series, which should be read as one story.

The Dark Tower, SK's magnum opus, is based on two fictional concepts: 1) Robert Browning's long poem "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came" (provided in full in the Appendix of the seventh volume, THE DARK TOWER) and 2) Sergio Leone's series of movies starring Clint Eastwood as a gunslinging drifter.

Is The Dark Tower worth reading? If you appreciate epic fantasy, yes. If you can tolerate occasional gaffs in writing style and convention, yes. If you despise horror, the supernatural, adventure, and action, and if you think such literature must be trashy pulp, no.

THE GUNSLINGER introduces you to Browning and Leone's dual concept and to Jake. THE DRAWING OF THE THREE sets the mode: that of contemporary fantasy with portals to parallel worlds. And it introduces Roland's partners. THE WASTE LANDS is a good adventure in a parallel world. WIZARD AND GLASS for the most part digresses into Roland's past, but it is a superb story of romantic adventure. WOLVES OF CALLA stops along the way to the Dark Tower as Roland and his partners rescue villagers and display their gunslinging. SONG OF SUSANNAH is a story of unusual pregnancy, blending action and horror in a setting of modern America. THE DARK TOWER brings the long quest to a conclusion, with tragedy but also with ample good cheer. (Do read THE DARK TOWER'S Coda.)

Though SK is one of contemporary humanity's more prolific, famous, and wealthy writers, do not confuse ability to sell with ability to write. I quail from the idea of every aspiring author trying to emulate him. For example he has a certain habit with concrete imagery. Stylists encourage concrete imagery, but SK gets carried away, at times making his prose feel phony and cheap. Mostly apparent in his descriptions of sex and violence, this habit pops up in other regards, as when he describes disease and excretion. In Writing Tools, Roy Peter Clark says, "Know when to back off and when to show off." With universally familiar phenomena like sex and excretion, we do not need detailed concrete images. Those are times to back off.

Also, SK likes to show off his skill with offbeat jargon in dialog and character viewpoints. But this makes too many of his characters appear alike, and unconvincing.

And SK can be a bit verbose. Especially in the later volumes of this series, he seems to follow Strunk & White's admonition "Delete unnecessary words" less than he follows the apocrypha "The thicker the book, the more impressive it is."

Though I consider SK an occasional, worthy digression, I prefer standard prose, polished by authors (and editors) who pay close attention to Strunk & White's The Elements of Style. I award The Dark Tower five stars because I do not consider flawless prose a requirement and because The Dark Tower is a good story.

Be it ever so, and I thankya.
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