I started my journey to the Dark Tower at the beginning of this past summer.* I had just finished my second reading of IT and read online that Stephen King's Dark Tower novels had connections to many of his other books, IT included. I had recently decided IT was my favorite book of all time so I had to satisfy my curiosity on what this gunslinger business was all about. I found out that over the course of the past thirty years, the series of seven novels had been published one at a time. The first starting way back in 1970, the final installation was due out in November. It being June, I decided the timing was great, I'd finish the six that were already out just in time to read the last. It was a choice time to begin because some people had been waiting quite possibly their entire lives, some even going to their death bed in unfortunate ignorence, without knowing what was at the top floor of the Tower.
As it turned out, I churned through them all at a decent pace, not having to wait more than a few days between each book. I finished the last one about a week ago. A day hasn't gone by since that sunny day in June when Roland's quest wasn't on my mind. When I started reading The Gunslinger, I was jobless, I just finished my second year of college and I had a lot of free time. Besides hanging out, the only thing I really did that summer and the following fall was read. Roland's quest became my quest. I became a member of his ka-tet, for better or for worse. I started seeing the number 19 everywhere, and still do! The characters of the novel became so real to me, travelling with them for what seemed like forever made the quest so much more personal. I had a stake in their success or failure. No other book I've read has actually made me feel a part of the story like this one; I've never forged such connections with the characters as this one.
A few of my friends had read the earlier ones years ago and once the last one came out they finished it in days. They wanted me to do the same so we could go over theories and favorites parts, etc. but I really made myself take it easy. I never really rushed myself except for the last 100 pages of each novel, that manic frenzy to finish it taking over at 3am... It's irresistable and with no job it was entirely feasible. I spent about a month with each one, finding it hard to stay away from internet message boards and spoiler pages. A couple times I got close to ruining the whole damn thing, but I stopped myself.
The ending... My initial reaction, moments after finishing, was almost disappointment. That's too strong of a word. Maybe it was regret that it was over. After putting it on the shelf, I sat out in the darkness of my living room (it was around 4am, I think) and just compiled and dissected and digested the whole thing and decided that I loved the ending. It was perfect. Anything else would have been false and a failure, I think. The ending is so... romantic is the word I think I'm looking for. It's hard to find words that accurately describe my feelings on this saga. I know that I can read this mammoth text five or six times and still find new and exciting revelations I didn't notice my first read through. Half his other novels are connected to the Dark Tower somehow as well, so it's as if there are still chapters to be read, miles to go before I rest and all that.
I've never gotten so much out of a story before, I've never read a story that flat out changed who I am and how I see things before reading this novel. This is the kind of story that makes me want to be a writer and go farther in college, pursuing english. If I could write a story that "touches just one person" as dramatically as this one touched me, I guess I'd die happy. I'm not saying I'm naive enough to think that all the money Mr. King has made in his success wouldn't be nice as well, but... I'm 20 years old. I can be idealistic still, am I right?
* - Written around November, 2004.