It was a simple concept: a single man must confront evil and destroy it for the sake of his own life and all life around him. But few, perhaps not even the writer himself, thought that such a tale would resonate in the literary world for decades to come.
That magical tale is Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, a breathtaking epic of immense proportions, centered around one of the most memorable protagonists in modern literature. Roland Deschain of Gilead is the world’s last gunslinger, an ageless knight-like figure, burdened with his destiny of reaching the Dark Tower, the imposing and ominous structure that serves as the nexus of the universe. Roland’s entire existence is predicated on making it to the Tower in time to save it, and us all, from utter destruction by the hand of a sinister force.
What begins in the first novel, THE GUNSLINGER, as a mere game of cat and mouse across the desert between Roland and his nemesis, the ever-elusive Man in Black, quickly turns into an engrossing adventure in the second book, THE DRAWING OF THE THREE, which finds Roland as the leader to an odd grouping of New Yorkers who have been forcefully pulled into Roland’s home, Mid-World, from separate time periods. These equally vivid characters quickly become gunslingers in their own right to assist Roland on his all-consuming quest, one that spans the remaining five novels. Battling the forces of evil in the form of maniacal talking trains, horse-riding wolf bandits, and demonic spider-children (the ka-tet, as they call themselves), the group travels a grueling—and thrilling—road to the Tower in hopes of preserving light in the ever-darkening worlds.
Created over the course of 30-plus years, Stephen King’s Dark Tower fantasy stands as the writer’s magnum opus; it is a cohesively formulated series he has returned to time and time again during his storied career. Written with his trademark flair for suspense, King offers the ultimate master class on storytelling, while infusing a crass sense of humor any dedicated reader will recognize. While drawing inspiration from fantasy epics of the past, such as Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series, King succeeds in creating a distinct, complex web of worlds and characters, each more brilliant and unforgettable than the last.
With eight books in total (one being a standalone novel), what makes The Dark Tower series so rich and profound is not the actual length of the text but rather the story’s distinct approach to the fantasy genre. Best described by The Washington Post, the series is a “uniquely American epic.” Strongly influenced by spaghetti Westerns, the plot breathes the classic Western motif while it simultaneously incorporates an impressive array of American pop-culture references, ranging from The Wizard of Oz and gangster films to King’s own works of fiction. The series gives readers of all ages a pleasing sense of nostalgia throughout a compelling dystopian storyline.
The final book in the series was published in 2004, allowing dedicated readers to depart The Dark Tower odyssey with a bit of closure. Still, with an upcoming movie releasing August 4th, and future television projects slated for 2018, the books are destined to remain a fixture of the fantasy genre for the foreseeable future, drawing readers to embark on a gripping quest for the Tower for the first time or to saddle up for another entertaining ride.