New Superversive SF Post: Why I Don’t Plan to Read King’s “Dark Tower” Series

You know the drill. Comment here, there, both, or neither. Whatever you want.

UPDATE: Link added. Ahem. Sorry about that.

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16 Responses to New Superversive SF Post: Why I Don’t Plan to Read King’s “Dark Tower” Series

  1. Randy P. says:

    That’s why I’ve never been able to swallow nihilism in serious books.

    If he would have shot himself in chapter one of book one, then what would the difference have been? He’s essentially saying his own story is worthless, so why would I want to read it?

    Far cry from the ending to “The Stand”. No wonder why he doesn’t understand why it’s his most popular book and always will be.

    • It’s very, very difficult to make nihilism narratively compelling. Adams did it, and it still made people mad even when he actively wasn’t taking himself seriously.

      Lemony Snicket gave his best shot in the final book of “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, which is an excellent and darkly funny series. That, too, is actually a nihilistic children’s series, but it suffered from making too many promises near the end and then dropping most of the loose plot threads and claiming that that was the “point”.

      • Adams was also writing a comedy, which says something about nihilism right there…

      • Randy P. says:

        Comedy does work much better for nihilism. That’s probably why Pratchett and Adams were so well loved even by people who can’t get past their philosophy as a starting point for a story. They made it silly enough to work for them and their comedic styles.

  2. You’ve got me thinking of a double-nihilistic plot line: Tell the story with no point, but leave a priest or a monk in prison until the end, within earshot of the main character “discovering” there’s no point.

    Then, let the religious man be the withering skeptic of this view, and give us the point.

    I’m not sure it could be a good story, though it strikes me that the act of looking back at past events through a lens of purpose may give the protagonist the wherewithal to complete the journey.

    Or lead to a sequel! (Half joking)

    • “Double nihilistic” is not the most precise way to say it, but I’m playing off “double negative” and the idea that nihilism is essentially equivalent to a rejection of what appears obvious.

  3. I haven’t read it (only about it, and I read the comic some, stopped when I’m like, “this sucks”) but there is one thing I’ll give King and can’t take away from him:

    He actually worked his real life car hit into the story as a plot point in a moment of brilliant meta.

    Yes, he did a better job at putting “killing God” into a book than Philip Pullman did.

  4. It’s also why the the third book, “Life, the Universe, and Everything”, is probably my favorite – it’s the closest to having a traditional, if zany, plot.

    That’s because it was a Dr Who plot that got re-purposed for use in the Hitchhiker verse.

  5. Ilíon says:

    I once read an evangelical atheist say (*), as the cosmic evaluation (**) of his own life (in contrast to mine), “At least I asked questions.” And, of course, what he *meant* is, “My life will be judged as more worthwhile that yours because I *refused* to consider any of the answers offered by Christianity.

    The whole point of searching is to find. The whole point of “asking questions” is to get answers. Trying to make the goal of the search to be the search, trying to make the point of “asking questions” to be the questions, it merely to expose how hollow, and essentially absurd, one is.

    (*) in fact, his point was to condemn me

    (**) that’s another amusing thing about evangelical atheists — they refuse to understand the logically inescapable nihilistic implications of their own asserted metaphysics: if atheism is indeed the truth about the nature of reality, then there is no one with the ability and authority to judge the knowing atheist’s life as more worhtwhile than the deluded Christian’s

  6. luagha says:

    I would disagree that the Dark Tower’s ending is nihilistic.
    I think King drops the ball several times in the actual storytelling and that annoys me. I think it’s visible when King goes cold turkey off of drugs and alcohol due to a family intervention; and when he does in fact get hit by a truck and spend months in recuperation and realizes that if he doesn’t settle down and finish this epic he’ll probably die and leave it undone.

    But the ending isn’t nihilistic. It’s personal. Roland, the main character, finally gets to the Dark Tower at the center of all the worlds where all forces cross, opens the door, and finds out that the inside is all about him. This indicates the likelihood that anyone else who opens the door to the Dark Tower will find a place that’s all about them.

    Without spoiling it more, Roland does something.. or a thing happens, and we are given a hint of better things in the future. So the final portion is not nihilistic at all.

    • That goes counter to what the author I quoted described, then.

      Anyway, a hope of better things to come doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not nihilism. It’s really about ultimate truth. Granted, having not read it, I don’t actually know for sure. So I’ll be fair to King there.

    • Ilíon says:

      I’m not sure that solipsism is much an improvement over nihilism.

      • luagha says:

        It’s not quite solipsism, because Roland isn’t God, nor is he the only person in the universe, or even the most important one.

        So, the ending can have many interpretations. And if you aren’t going to read it, then it is fine, and if you are, spoiler warning. 🙂

        The intimation throughout the entire series is that the world is running down and going to collapse. And that by going on a quest to reach the Dark Tower at the center of all beams of force that hold the universe together, Roland can fix what is going wrong. Now, along the way he and his group face and defeat several forces that are actively trying to destroy the universe, so there’s that. But that’s just part of the adventure, not the ending.

        The funniest part of the ending is the author himself coming out and saying, “This ending sucks. If you like adventure stories, stop here. Roland beat the bad guys and made it to the Dark tower and all is well. But if you MUST go on, if you HAVE to know what happens to Roland when he opens that door, okay, go on, but you’ll be disappointed. I’m sorry, but it’s the real ending.”

        He goes in and is faced with all the memories of his life – all the good decisions he made, and all the bad. All his good deeds and all his real crimes. All the people he stepped on or sacrificed to get to the Dark Tower, all of the ‘for the greater good’ decisions he made. As he climbs up he goes through all the deeds of his life util he hits the present, meets himself…

        And he is back at the beginning of the first book, pursuing a man in black across a mysterious desert. Except this time, he finds that he still has the Horn of Gilead (much like the Horn of Gondor) a possibly-magical artifact of his homeland that serves as a beacon of hope. In his previous run-through, he had lost it prior to this point… but now he recalls having rescued it.

        And he gets to run through the seven books again… but… better this time. And better the next. The intimation is that he is in a loop until, perhaps, he makes a ‘perfect run’ or at least a satisfactory run. Only then can he rest with his task done.

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