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This is a great article revisiting Stephen King’s final three Dark Tower novels.  I absolutely adore these books, and I am not at all in the camp of Dark Tower fans unsatisfied with the ending of Mr. King’s magnum opus.  I spent quite a while reading and writing about the Dark Tower series a few years ago.  Feel free to follow these links to revisit the journey with me: Entering The Dark Tower — The Dark Tower Book I: The Gunslinger – The Dark Tower Book II: The Drawing of the Three – The Dark Tower Book III: The Waste Lands — The Dark Tower Book IV: Wizard and Glass — The Dark Tower Book V: Wolves of the Calla — The Dark Tower Book VI: Song of Susannah — The Dark Tower Book VII: The Dark Tower — Return to the Dark Tower — The Little Sisters of EluriaMarvel Comics’ Adaptation of The GunslingerThe Wind Through The Keyhole.

If you, like me, are starting to get very sad about the impending end of Parks and Recreation, then it’s time to fall down the rabbit hole of this epic Twitter exchange of great Parks & Recs clips between Alan Sepinwall & Linda Holmes.  Here’s just a tiny taste:

Oh my god I am going to miss that show.

Holy cow: a Wet Hot American Summer sequel is happening — with all of the original cast — as an eight-episode Netflix series???  That is bonkers!!

This is a terrific article about the central “text” of Star Trek, and the challenges that must be conquered in terms of making future good Star Trek stories, on the big-screen or (hope hope hope) back on TV.  I don’t agree with all of his points, but this piece was written by someone who gets and loves Trek, and I think he has the right idea.

Speaking of Trek, I sure wasted a lot of time watching these old trailers!

We just recently passed the tenth anniversary of the airing of the pilot episode of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, “33.”  Wow.  I remember watching that when it aired.  (I also watched the mini-series when that aired, about a year-and-a-half before the series kicked off in the States.)  I can’t believe it was that long ago!!  Here is a great, in-depth look back at the greatness of that pilot, and here is a nice Q & A from show-runner Ronald D. Moore.

This is a great list of twelve Simpsons characters who actually evolved.

This concept art for an Alien sequel, developed by Neill Blomkamp, is ludicrously tantalizing.  Ripley and Hicks together again??  … [continued]

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News Around the Net

So Seinfeld premiered twenty-five years ago last week?  Holy cow.  Here’s a great look back at the beginning of the show.  This is an interesting assessment of the show’s influence by noting, counter-intuitively, Seinfeld’s lack of imitators.  This is also worth your time: The New York Post’s list of Seinfeld’s 25 greatest contributions to the English language.

Somehow Community has once again escaped cancellation and is now so close to the attainment of the “Six Seasons and a Movie” dream.  Nice to see this much-loved (though I guess little-watched) show dodge death once again.

Devin Faraci’s reviews of the Transformers film series are absolutely hilarious.  His review of the latest debacle, Age of Extinction, is here.  After reading that, I encourage you to travel back in time through the terrible-ness, and enjoy his review of the third film, Dark of the Moon, as well as the second film, Revenge of the Fallen, which Mr. Faraci correctly identifies as one of the worst films ever made.  These are very funny pieces as well as astute dissections of why these films have been such disappointments.

Alan Sepinwall has another great “TV Rewind” column, this one looking back at “Thanksgiving Orphans,” a classic season 5 episode of Cheers.  (It’s the one that ends with the huge food-fight.)  Now I need to go back and re-watch that episode immediately.

Great article about a great movie: a look back at The Beatles’ A Hard Days Night.  The movie is a minor miracle, something which should have been dreck but instead was gold.  I really love this film.

I still love listening to Kevin Smith spin yarns, but it’s been a bit of a stretch since I was last excited for one of his films.  (I still haven’t seen his last flick, Red State.  I’m curious to watch it one of these days, but it’s been a low priority for me.)  I don’t have any clue what to make of his latest film, Tusk, a horror film inspired by one of his podcasts.  Like the new poster, though.

The apocalypse is un-cancelled!  Pacific Rim 2 is actually happening?  I have mixed feelings.  I love Guillermo del Toro and if he has another story to tell in this universe then I’m game.  Still, while the first film was a visual feast and the action was amazing, I felt the story fell way short.  I hope the sequel, if it really gets made, has more interesting characters anchoring the story.

This is a fantastic interview with phenomenal actor Alan Tudyk, in which he discusses several of his roles in-depth, as well as his commitment to never … [continued]

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News Around the Net

New production video for The Hobbit!  Yay!

Do you have $275 burning a hole in your pocket?  Then why not consider buying yourself (or me!) a print of Drew Struzan’s gorgeous Dark Tower painting (originally featured in Frank Darabont’s vastly underrated adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist)?

Star Trek geek red alert!  This is an outstanding, in-depth article about the special effects of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, including a focus on the brilliant redesign of the USS Enterprise for that film (which still stands, in my mind, as the definitive version of the Enterprise).

Speaking of Star Trek, this is an interesting — albeit completely wrong-headed — defense of Star Trek: Voyager.  The writer is correct in lamenting the complete absence on TV these days of the type of optimistic, humanistic sci-fi that Star Trek embodied.  And he is also correct in praising the strong female characters of Voyager, and the way that, on the show, “female authority was assumed and unquestioned.”  That’s still a surprisingly forward-thinking and not-all-that-common point of view for a mainstream TV show.  Unfortunately, I wish Voyager was actually the groundbreaking show that writer remembers.  I’m afraid to say that Voyager was derivative and boring, a show that totally failed to follow through on any aspect of its strong premise, instead presenting us with rehashed, watered down versions of Trek stories we’d seen done before, and far better.  It’s the worst of the Trek series by quite a wide margin, in my opinion.

Boy, I loved Ender’s Game when I first read it a decade or two ago, but the more I learn of Orson Scott Card’s political views, the more disappointed I become.  Meredith Borders at badassdigest.com has written a concise and powerful evisceration of Mr. Card’s most recent anti-gay rights statement, and I think it’s worth a read.

As a weirdly connected follow-up piece, allow me to recommend this spotlight on the life of Conrad Veidt.  I didn’t think I knew who he was, until I ready the article and realized that I did (and I bet you do too, if you’ve ever seen Casablanca), but I didn’t know about his incredible life.  Very cool short article.

Nothing particularly revelatory in this first teaser poster for Captain America 2 I’m excited that they will be adapting Ed Brubaker’s fantastic Winter Soldier storyline — I hope they don’t stray too far from his original story.  We’ll see.

Oh, I love this possible premise for a sequel to This is the End!  I can’t imagine we’ll ever actually see that, but if they made that movie I’d be there.

Let’s end with the most awesome thing I have seen … [continued]

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“Any Object Can Be Magic” — Josh Reviews Stephen King’s New Dark Tower Novel: The Wind Through the Keyhole

September 7th, 2012

“Stories take a person away.  If they’re good ones, that is.  Is it a good one?”

After concluding his Dark Tower magnum opus in 2004 with the publication of the seventh and final novel, The Dark Tower (click here for my review), I suspect that Stephen King did not intend to ever return to that series.  Certainly the story had come to a very definitive conclusion.  But I wonder if perhaps his involvement, over the past several years, with Marvel Comics’ comic book series (set during the youth of Roland of Gilead) didn’t spark something in Mr. King.  Whatever the origin, Mr. King surprised his readers last year with the announcement that he was working on a new Dark Tower novel.  The Wind Through the Keyhole was published last spring, and  after re-immersing myself in the world of the Dark Tower via the Marvel Comics this summer, I was extremely excited to read Mr. King’s new novel.

The Wind Through the Keyhole is a terrific novel, but let me say from the outset that I think it’s a mistake to consider it a Dark Tower novel.  Well, it’s set in the world of The Dark Tower, that’s true.  We get to spend a little more time with the ka-tet from the original novels: Roland, Jake, Eddie, Susannah, and Oy.  We also get to spend some time with the youthful Roland (who has been the chief protagonist of Marvel’s Dark Tower comics), and the novel is replete with little references and nods to various Dark Tower characters and phrases.  But the story doesn’t really have much to do with Roland’s quest that was so central to Mr. King’s original novels.  The events in The Wind Through the Keyhole are interesting, but they don’t really impact Roland or his ka-tet in any significant way.  Frankly, the events of the much-shorter novella The Little Sisters of Eluria (click here to read my review) are much more significant to Roland’s over-all story.

But while I can’t say that The Wind Through the Keyhole is a tale of great significance in the larger Dark Tower epic, it is nevertheless a marvelously entertaining story.  The book has an interesting structure, in that it is three stories nested within one another.  We open with Roland and his companions from the Dark Tower novels.  This sequence is set immediately after the events of book IV, Wizard and Glass, and before the start of book V, Wolves of the Calla. But after only a few pages with our old friends, they find themselves trapped waiting out a terrible storm, and Roland begins telling a story of his youth.  Not long after having earned his guns, … [continued]

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Marvel Comics’ Adaptation of The Gunslinger

August 31st, 2012

After pausing in my reading of Marvel Comics’ Dark Tower mini-series to read Stephen King’s Dark Tower short-story, “The Little Sisters of Eluria” (click here for my review), I was ready to resume my reading of Marvel’s Dark Tower comics.

The Little Sisters of Eluria — Adapting a short-story into a five-issue mini-series makes a lot more sense than squeezing an adaptation of a lengthy novel into a seven-issue mini-series (as happened when this Marvel Comics series of mini-series began, with the publication of The Gunslinger Born, an adaptation of much of Stephen King’s fourth Dark Tower novel Wizard and Glass).  The pacing of this adaptation works well, and the art by Luke Ross is extraordinary (particularly in the exterior “cowboy” sequences in the first issue).  They make a curious mis-step by revealing, right away at the start of issue #2, the true nature of the sisters (something Mr. King wisely kept in reserve until later in his short-story).  Spilling the beans on that mystery so early in the tale takes away a lot of the energy and drama of the story.  Since we know Roland will survive this story set in his youth, one of the most compelling aspects of the original story was the mystery of the sisters and the mounting dread felt by Roland as he begins to discover their true nature.  Giving all those answers right away to the reader, as this comic book adaptation does, spoils all of that suspense.  It’s a perplexing choice.

The Battle of Tull This might be my favorite of all the Dark Tower mini-series, primarily because of the absolutely perfect artwork of Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano.  Michael Lark is one of the finest comic book artists working today, and his gritty but incredibly detailed artwork is absolutely perfect for the rough-and-tumble “world that has moved on” of The Dark Tower. His depiction of the now-adult Roland is absolutely perfect, presenting Roland exactly as I had imagined him.  I love his choice to leave Roland’s face in almost-constant shadow throughout the mini-series.  This gives Roland an air of mystery and menace that is critical to the character, even though he is the “hero” of the tale.  The one thing that gives me pause is that there’s a weird jump between the Roland we have seen in all of the prior mini-series, and the Roland we see in this one.  This Roland is not only visually different — even in the previous mini-series, The Little Sisters of Eluria, Roland was still a boy, whereas here in The Battle of Tull he is unquestionably a man — but also a different character, much harder and tougher.  In Eluria,[continued]

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“If There’s to Be Damnation, Let it Be of My Choosing” — The Dark Tower: The Little Sisters of Eluria

August 20th, 2012

Between the publication of the fourth and fifth Dark Tower novels, Stephen King wrote a short story that was set in Roland’s younger days, after the Battle of Jericho Hill but before the events of the first Dark Tower novel, The Gunslinger.  This short story is called “The Little Sisters of Eluria.”  It’s been sitting on my bookshelf for a while now, a lingering piece of unfinished business.  After recently getting re-engrossed in Marvel Comics’ Dark Tower mini-series, I decided to finally read this story.

I don’t know what possessed me to wait so long!

“The Little Sisters of Eluria” is a fine addition to the over-all Dark Tower saga, and a terrifically entertaining story in it’s own right.  It puts Roland right in the middle of a horror story of the type that I have always associated with Stephen King.  What a clever idea!

The story finds Roland, alone, riding a sickly horse through difficult terrain.  The ka-tet of Roland’s youth are all dead, and he has not yet fully seized upon the purpose that would eventually grip his life: the pursuit of the Man in Black and, beyond that, the quest for the Dark Tower.  Though his life has been shattered and his heart hardened by tragedy upon tragedy, this Roland is not yet the stone-cold killer of The Gunslinger who we will meet in the opening pages of Mr. King’s first Dark Tower novel, The Gunslinger. As a result, Roland finds himself defeated by a group of slow mutants, and he is only saved from death by a group of nun-like healers.  No surprise, these healers wind up being far from altruistic, and Roland finds himself in an escalatingly horrific situation.

No one can tell a monster story quite like Stephen King, and “The little Sisters of Eluria” finds the master in top form.  I loved the slow reveal of the sisters’ true nature — we know immediately that they’re up to no good, but we don’t know exactly what they are or what they are doing — as well as the slow tightening of the screws on poor, injured Roland, unable to move.

The story stands on its own, but there are some powerful callbacks to the events of The Dark Tower novels, particularly to Wizard and Glass. The most powerful sequence in the novel is when Roland finds himself drawn, as he always is, to the painful memories of his doomed true love, Susan:

He thought, as always, of Susan.

If you love me, then love me, she’d said… and so he had.

So he had.

It’s a short, simple, section, but one that powerfully draws upon the epic story Stephen King has … [continued]

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“Ka is a Wheel” — Returning to The Dark Tower

August 13th, 2012

Over the course of the last two summers, I made my way through Stephen King’s magnus opus: the seven-book Dark Tower saga.  It was magnificent, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  But somehow I knew when I finished book seven that I wasn’t quite done with the Dark Tower series.

My original entry-point into the world of The Dark Tower was Marvel Comics’ prequel series, The Gunslinger Born. I read and enjoyed Marvel’s series of miniseries, chronicling the tragic back-story of Roland Deschain, the Gunslinger who was the central protagonist of Stephen King’s novels.  After reading the books, I was eager to go back and re-read the comic series, to see what I made of it after now knowing the full story that Stephen King had written.  But somehow I never quite got to it this past year.

When summer arrived, though, I started to get a Dark Tower jones (since I’d spent much of the past two summers reading the Dark Tower novels), and so I decided to pull out those comic books and dive back in.  It was certainly fun to read through these stories now knowing the full picture of the saga.  I enjoyed being able to identify the disparate scenes, story-threads, and references from Mr. King’s seven books that the Marvel team (including Mr. King himself, Robin Furth, and Peter David) were able to pull together for this chronological re-telling of Roland’s youth.

I still feel that the first mini-series, “The Gunslinger Born,” is way too crammed with material (adapting such a long chunk of Mr. King’s hugely-lengthy fourth Dark Tower novel, Wizard and Glass), while several of the other mini-series (particularly “The Long Road Home”) are far too leisurely paced for my tastes.

I also remain disappointed by the story’s conclusion in “The Battle of Jericho Hill,” as ten years are packed into six issues, making me feel like we skipped a lot of good stuff.  I also felt that, after surviving for a decade on their own after the fall of Gilead, Roland and his men are far too easily defeated at the end.  And that no real explanation is given for Roland’s miraculous survival of the slaughter is a real jaw-dropper.  (The novels implied that he was wounded but mistaken for dead.  But the comics show him getting shot up all to hell, and the bad guys seeing that he is dead, before he somehow awakens/resurrects.  Really weird.)

Still, I love the idea of weaving different scenes/moments from the books into a chronological presentation of Roland’s youth, and I admire the ambition of telling the full story of what Stephen King merely hinted at in his books: the Fall of Gilead and the … [continued]

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“Well Met in the House of the Rose” The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower

October 11th, 2011

“We’ll go,” he said.  “We’ll find the Dark Tower, and nothing will stand against us, and before we go in, we’ll speak their names.  All of the lost.”

“Your list will be longer than mine,” xxx said, “but mine will be long enough.”

(Name withheld to prevent spoilers!)

And so, at last, I have arrived at the end.  The clearing at the end of the path.  The conclusion of Stephen King’s monumental magnum opus, The Dark Tower.  Seven books written over the span of over thirty years, which I have spent the last year-or-so reading.  (I read the first three novels last summer, book four last fall, and the final three novels over the course of this past summer.)

Long-form stories like this (whether one is talking about novels, movies, or TV shows) rise or fall, ultimately, on the strength of their ending.  (For five wonderful seasons, I would have told you that Lost was one of the greatest television series ever made.  Then that disastrously terrible final season destroyed almost every ounce of my affection for the show.  Conversely, for five seasons I felt that Babylon 5 was an entertaining but fairly mediocre sci-fi TV show.  But the incredible, heartbreaking final episode was so good that it somehow elevated, in my mind, all that had come before.)

I will admit that, as I approached the seventh and final book in the Dark Tower series, I was a bit nervous.  Book VI, Song of Susannah, while still enjoyable, had nevertheless been my least-favorite book in the series to that point.  It felt to me like the narrative was spinning its proverbial wheels, and with so much story as-yet unresolved as I began book VII, I wondered how Mr. King could possibly tie up all of the myriad dangling story-threads.  I also couldn’t quite conceive of what the resolution of the Gunslinger’s life-long journey towards the Dark Tower could be.  At the start of book VII I, as a reader, had not much more idea than Roland himself as to what exactly the Dark Tower was, and what Roland might find there should he actually be able to enter the tower and climb to the highest room, as was his proclaimed goal.  The tower was so mysterious, and the source of so much speculation on my part (and, I’m sure, the part of every other reader ever to make his or her way through this saga), that I began to fear that any resolution couldn’t possibly live up to all of that anticipation.

Well, Mr. King, I cry your pardon.  I should never have doubted.

The Dark Tower Book VII: The Dark Tower is a magnificent conclusion … [continued]

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“O Discordia!” The Dark Tower Book VI: Song of Susannah

September 9th, 2011

Only a few hours after finishing Wolves of the Calla (click here for my review of that novel), I dove right into Song of Susannah, the penultimate novel in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.

Song of Susannah is far shorter than books IV or V, or the finale, book VII.  Perhaps that contributes to the small sense of dissatisfaction I felt when I reached the end of the novel.  The book is a compelling, engaging read, no doubt.  But it doesn’t feel like a complete meal the way all the previous novels did.  I felt like something was missing.  Song of Susannah doesn’t feel like a complete tale, and that’s because it really isn’t.  It’s the middle chapter in the three-book trilogy that is bringing this series to a close.  Now, in a way, none of the previous Dark Tower novels have been complete stories.  Some (particularly book III, The Waste Lands, and book V, Wolves of the Calla) ended on cliffhangers.  Even the ones that didn’t end on such “to be continued” moments clearly left huge swaths of story and back-story as yet untold, to be filled in by the future novels.  But in some intangible way, all of the previous books felt complete, each in their own right.  Song of Susannah feels like the great middle section of an awesome, lengthier novel.

And, I suppose, that’s exactly what it is, and if I look at it that way, I really shouldn’t be disappointed!  Things are really coming to a boil, and long-simmering plot threads are finally coming together.  It’s funny that I should write “coming together,” because throughout Song of Susannah, Roland and his ka-tet (his band of comrades, including Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy) have been separated from one another.  (Perhaps the fact that the book ends with the ka-tet still separated is part of why I felt the narrative to be less-than-complete.)  Susannah has been possessed by the creature called Mia, daughter of none, and trapped in New York City in 1999, only hours away from giving birth to her child.  Eddie and Roland find themselves in Maine in 1977, hoping to obtain ownership of the lot of land that contains the rose that just might be the very center of the universe.  And Jake, Father Callahan, and the bumbler Oy are in New York on the trail of Susannah/Mia, but hours behind their quarry.

Throughout the series, Mr. King has played with alternate worlds and alternate timelines, and that comes to a head in this novel as Eddie and Roland find themselves ambushed in 1977 by the gangster Jack Andolini and his men.  Despite the fact that Eddie and Roland … [continued]

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“Come Come Commala!” The Dark Tower Book V: Wolves of the Calla

August 24th, 2011

Stephen King waited a long time — six years — between writing the fourth book in the Dark Tower series, Wizard and Glass, and writing book five.  I didn’t take that long of a break, myself, but after reading the first four novels in the series last summer and early fall, I decided to stop for a bit, so I could give myself time to read some other books that interested me.

But once summer arrived again, I knew it was time for me to return to the Dark TowerIn my review of book four, Wizard and Glass, I wrote that I felt that novel was my favorite of the series to that point.  That opinion still stands, but Wolves of the Calla made it a VERY close call!

I’d heard some complaints, over the years, from folks who felt that when Stephen King returned to the Dark Tower series after a lengthy hiatus to finish the saga (books five, six, and seven were published in very short succession between 2003 and 2005), that those later books weren’t quite the same as what had gone before.  I can’t say that I agree with that assessment, at least not so far.  Wolves of the Calla is a ripping page-turner and an extremely strong installment of the series.

I will admit to having been a bit worried, though, going in.  Something about the cover art to the edition I read, and the title of the book, made me suspect that this was going to be something of a stand-alone adventure.  (“Wolves of the Calla” just seemed so RANDOM to me — What was this story about?  Werewolves?  What did that have to do with the gunslinger and his quest??)  I worried that the book would just be killing time before we got to the “good stuff” and the climax of the story in the final book.

No fear.  Wolves of the Calla is completely of a piece with the novels that preceded it, and the action of the book is not only exciting in its own right, but compelling in the way it moves forward the stories of Roland and each member of his ka-tet: Eddie, Susannah, and Jake.  (And Oy!)  The events of this tale affect each character in critical, pivotal ways, and one can feel the story moving at a rapid clip towards the end-game.

But while all that is happening, Wolves of the Calla also gives me what I’ve been asking for since the start of the series: an exciting adventure story set firmly in Roland’s world.  Part of the fun of the Dark Tower series is the way in which the characters and story-lines constantly … [continued]

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“If you love me, then love me.” The Dark Tower Book IV: Wizard and Glass

November 12th, 2010

So here we come, at last.  Since first discovering the world of The Dark Tower with Marvel Comics’ The Gunslinger Born series of mini-series, I have been eager to reach this fouth volume.  That’s because I knew that the Gunslinger Born comics were mostly adapted from material found in Wizard and Glass, the novel that, from what I’d heard and read, finally revealed much about Roland’s past and the devastating events that set him on the path of his lonely journey towards the Dark Tower. 

Though I was familiar with the basic thrust of those events from having read the Gunslinger Born comics, I was excited to read the original source material which, I was sure, contained a lot more detail than the abbreviated (though still entertaining) Marvel comics.  I must confess that I was also, though, a bit anxious to begin, not only because of my high hopes but also because Wizard and Glass is a fairly lengthy tome.  It’s been looming on my bookshelf for quite a while now (as I’ve recounted before, I bought the first four Dark Tower novels after beginning the Gunslinger Born comic-books, but it took me about two years to actually begin reading them), and I knew it’d be something of an undertaking to begin.

Luckily for me, The Dark Tower Book III: The Waste Lands, ended on a ferocious devil of a cliffhanger — the likes of which I’ve seldom encountered in a series of novels.  (I wrote “luckily for me,” because I can only imagine the torturous wait that fans at the time had to go through, as they watched the long years pass before the publication of Book IV.)  Luckily for me, I barely had to wait a day between finishing Book III and diving into Book IV. 

The beginning of Book IV: Wizard and Glass picks up exactly where Book III left off, with Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy trapped in a deadly game of riddles with the insane Blaine the Mono.  It only takes about fifty pages, though, before that story is concluded, and Mr. King moves on to the real meat of Wizard and Glass, the narrative that will occupy the bulk of the novel’s page count.  This is the story that Roland finally tells to his friends: of how he became a gunslinger at the young age of 14; of how he and his ka-tet of younger days were sent off to the sea-side village of Hambry so that they’d be away from the danger that Roland’s father sensed was coming to their home of Gilead; of how the three young men encountered even greater danger in Hambry — the … [continued]

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“He just didn’t trust that smile.” The Dark Tower Book III: The Waste Lands

October 8th, 2010

I wasn’t sure quite what to expect when I began reading The Dark Tower series by Stephen King.  Could Mr. King’s “magnum opus” live up to all that I’d heard about it?  With three (of seven) books down, I can now tell you that I am unreservedly hooked.  (Click here for my thoughts on Book I: The Gunslinger, and here for my thoughts on Book II: The Drawing of the Three.)

With each of the first three installments, the novels have grown longer and the stories have grown more complex, as Mr. King gradually builds and deepens the strange and wonderful and horrifying “world that has moved on” which Roland Deschain and his new ka-tet (group of fellows) inhabit.  (Looking at the enormous Book IV which is sitting on my bookshelf, it looks like that trend will continue!)

Book III: The Waste Lands, has an unusual structure in that the novel is basically split in half.  Book One of the novel (subtitled Jake: Fear in a Handful of Dust) deals with a major dangling plot-line left by the conclusion of The Drawing of the Three.  In that novel, the third door into another world brought Roland once again in contact with Jake, the young boy he had encountered in The Gunslinger.  Except this was Jake in the past, before he had ever met Roland.  Although it’s easy for a reader to miss in the intensity The Drawing of the Three‘s climax, while in Jake’s past Roland makes a critical change to Jake’s life.  As The Waste Lands opens, we see that the ripple effects of that one change have devastating effects on Roland — and on young Jake — and the two must once again find one another in order to set things right.

That synopsis makes it sound like The Waste Lands has a story in common with a great many Star Trek episodes, but trust me that things are really must weirder than that.  Mr. King’s story has little to do with the butterfly-effect changes to a timeline caused by time travel.  Rather, this story is a vehicle for us to learn more Roland and Jake — and also about Eddie and Susannah — as all four must set their doubts aside and go to incredible lengths in order to make their ka-tet whole once again.  As a back-drop, we also gain fascinating hints about the nature of the parallel worlds in the Dark Tower universe, how they are structured and how that structure is breaking down due to the as-yet-unrevealed malady that has apparently affected the Dark Tower.

This half of the novel is absolutely stuffed with … [continued]

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News Around the Net

I am speeding ahead with Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and loving every page.  (Click here if you missed yesterday’s review of Book II: The Drawing of the Three.)  Now comes word that Ron Howard and Brian Grazer have acquired the rights to the series, and are planning a trilogy of films AND A SIMULTANEOUS TV SERIES.  Here’s the juiciest quote from Deadline.com:

The plan is to start with the feature film, and then create a bridge to the second feature with a season of TV episodes. That means the feature cast—and the big star who’ll play Deschain—also has to appear in the TV series before returning to the second film. After that sequel is done, the TV series picks up again, this time focusing on Deschain as a young gunslinger. Those storylines will be informed by a prequel comic book series that King was heavily involved in plotting. The third film would pick up the mature Deshain as he completes his journey.

WOW.  That is an awesomely ambitious idea.  I hope this comes to pass, and that Ron Howard is up for tackling this dense, dark saga.

Here’s an intriguing rumor that Judd Apatow might be returning to television!  It’s hard to know, at this early stage, just how involved Mr. Apatow would be in this proposed show — surely nowhere near as centrally involved as he was in Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared.  But nevertheless, this is cool news.

Sooo… in celebration of the 75th anniversary of 20th Century Fox, the studio is sponsoring a series of one-night-only screenings, in different cities, of some of their most well-known films.  That’s neat.  Except take a look at which film is showing in Philadelphia.  What did those poor Philadelphians do to deserve that???  And what numbskull at Fox considers that one of the the studio’s best films??

OK, so I might need to make a trip to London.

Some cool pics have recently leaked from Captain America: The First Avenger.  I am really excited that Marvel has made the bold choice to set the film during WWII rather than the present day.  I hope we have some great Indiana Jones-style Nazi-stompin’ in our future.


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“Did-a-chick? Dum-a-chum?” The Dark Tower Book II: The Drawing of the Three

September 13th, 2010

Click here for my description of the beginning of my journey to the Dark Tower, and here for my thoughts on The Dark Tower Book I: The Gunslinger.

Although all of the Marvel Comics’ Dark Tower prequel comics (The Gunslinger Born and subsequent mini-series) were set entirely in the Wild West meets Lord of the Rings fantasy world (and I am aware, by the way, that I’m doing an enormous insult to the vastness of Stephen King’s fully-realized creation to try to encapsulate it in such a gross oversimplification) of Gilead and the Gunslingers, I knew from pop-culture osmosis that eventually the Dark Tower series connected in some way to the modern world.  I wasn’t sure how or when in the series it happened, but I knew it was coming.  (Actually, even the very first novel of the series, The Gunslinger, had a connection to the modern world in the form of Jake, who grew up in New York City before mysteriously appearing in Roland’s world at the Way Station.)

To be honest, I was sort of dreading that coming cross-over with modern-day characters.  Through the Marvel Comics series and through Book I: The Gunslinger, I had quite fallen in love with the world of Gilead and the men and monsters who inhabited it.  I was desperate for more of the history and back-story of this strange and wondrous and terrifying fantasy “world that had moved on,” and didn’t see the need for this fantasy series to connect in any way to modern-day characters or locations.

So I was disappointed, at first, to discover that in the early pages of The Dark Tower Book II: The Drawing of the Three, a grievously injured Roland Deschain (the Gunslinger) begins assembling a new ka-tet via mysterious doors that lead to the U.S.A. in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.  Urgh, I thought, here we go, so much for this fantasy series I had been enjoying so much.

I really shouldn’t have doubted Mr. King, and I cry his pardon that I did so.  The Drawing of the Three is a wonderful novel, gripping from beginning-to-end, and one that opens up the developing saga in intriguing ways.  (Being a newbie to the Dark Tower series, I have no idea where any of this is going — but for now I am really enjoying my ignorance!)

The first door that Roland encounters leads him to Eddie Dean, a junkie in the process of smuggling heroin into the U.S.  The second door leads Roland to Detta Walker/Odetta Holmes, a crippled African American woman who also happens to be a dangerously split personality.  The third door leads Roland to Jack Mort, … [continued]

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“In a World That Has Moved On…” The Dark Tower Book I: The Gunslinger

August 20th, 2010

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

So opens book one of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger. It’s a terrific opening line, and the rest of the story that follows ain’t too shabby, either.

The titular gunslinger is Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger in a world that has moved on. When we meet him, he has been on the trail of the mysterious man in black for many years. We don’t know who exactly this man in black is, or what exactly he did that caused Roland to begin his lengthy pursuit, or just what happened to Roland’s former and the rest of the gunslingers that left him the last. (Those answers, one hopes, lie in the later books in the series.)

We are given many hints – small fragments of information as Roland recounts moments from his youth. Here is where I really appreciated having read Marvel Comics’ Dark Tower prequel comic book series (which began with The Gunslinger Born), before beginning this novel. I got to know the world of Roland’s youth through those mini-series, so when he refers to Cort or to Alain in the novel, those references have great weight and meaning to me, and I’m able to place images (Jae Lee’s beautifully illustrated images) to those names, names which wouldn’t have meant nearly as much to me had I been reading this novel cold. These glimpses into Roland’s past were some of my favorite parts of the novel, and I found myself eagerly anticipating the later installments that will further flesh out Roland’s back-story (particularly, from what I’ve heard, book four: Wizard and Glass). It will be interesting to see how well what we learn in those later books matches with the comic book series.

The Gunslinger is a very short book – by far the shortest of the Dark Tower series. It’s a quick, engaging read. The story, while entertaining, is pretty slight. Many intriguing characters are introduced and questions are raised, but we’re given precious few answers. The back-story that we’re given to the situations and characters in the novel is sketchy at best. Those hints, scattered like crumbs throughout the narrative, are extremely intriguing, and the sense of mystery that pervades the story definitely draws the reader into the tale and makes one want to read more. But The Gunslinger is barely a story. It reminds me of one of the cliffhanger episodes of The X-Files, when in part one we’d see all sorts of intriguing and mysterious goings-on that would definitely capture an audience’s interest.Yet it would be near-impossible to figure out what was actually happening, because we didn’t yet have … [continued]

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On the Road to the Dark Tower…

August 16th, 2010

Back in 2007, Marvel Comics released the first of a series of comic books based on Stephen King’s The Dark Tower novels.  Called The Gunslinger Born, that first seven-issue mini-series chronicled the back-story of the Dark Tower novels: specifically, the youth of Roland Deschain, the titular gunslinger.  From what I have read, the events of the comic book series were pieced together from various hints and references throughout the Dark Tower novels, especially from information in the fourth novel, Wizard and Glass.


I had never read any of Mr. King’s Dark Tower novels, though lord knows I’d heard about them.  I knew many people who considered the series Stephen King’s magnum opus.  I also knew some who had loved the series but who felt let-down by the later books in the saga.


Despite my having not already been a Dark Tower devotee, I was intrigued enough by the idea behind the comic book series to purchase the early issues.  I was immediately hooked.  Jae Lee’s artwork (ably assisted by the digital coloring of Richard Isanove) was jaw-dropping, and the story was powerfully gripping.  I am a sucker for GREAT BIG epics (be they in movies, novels, comic books, etc.), and this story looked epic indeed.  Having never read any of the Dark Tower novels, I wasn’t sure where the work of Stephen King ended and where the work of plotter Robin Furth and scripter Peter David began, but I was instantly taken by the scope of the fully-realized fantasy world into which the reader was thrust.


After that first mini-series, The Gunslinger Born, ended, I immediately went out and purchased the first three Dark Tower novels.  I had relished my taste of some of the back-story of this world, and now I wanted to dig into the main course.


But the books sat unread on my bookshelf.  Hard to say why, exactly.  Mostly I guess the time never seemed quite right to start such a lengthy series of novels.  I didn’t want to begin until I could be reasonably sure that I’d have the time to make my way through the series without any lengthy interruptions, and that magic moment never quite arrived.


In the meanwhile, though, I continued to follow Marvel’s continuing Dark Tower comics.  Four more mini-series were published: The Long Road Home, Treachery, The Battle of Jericho Hill, and The Fall of Gilead.  I enjoyed them all, though I must confess that my enthusiasm had waned somewhat by the end.  The series was hurt by the choice of doing without artist Jae Lee for the penultimate miniseries.  That really broke the story’s momentum for me as a reader, and things didn’t pick up for … [continued]