When Stephen King published his breakthrough novel Carrie in 1974, I was just a young pup of -4, yes, that's a negative. When I was old enough to appreciate such things, I began noticing the alluring artwork on the massive volumes of books on my Dad’s friend’s shelves. One book stood out from the others. It featured a scaly green claw reaching out from a sewer grate (any of you worth your salt will know which book I’m referring to!). Against both of my parents better judgment, I read my first King novel. If I’m not mistaken, I was 12 at the time making it somewhere around 1990. A couple of years later, I remember buying Needful Things in paperback from airport convenience store in August of 1992 on my way to visit my uncle in Texas for a week. This was my first King purchase, but by then I was already a dedicated fan. I was due to start high school that fall.
Despite the lack of funds, in 1994 I started buying the new King books in hardcover as they came out, the first of these purchases being Insomnia. I quickly read through King’s entire oeuvre between then and the spring of 1996 when I graduated high school. In fact, besides the occasional Anne Rice, that was about the ONLY thing I was reading. That summer however, I realized I had run out of books… well almost.
There was this series of books, three to be exact, that I had always been avoiding. Looking back I’m not exactly sure why, though I seem to recall others telling me that these were their least favorite of King’s novels. Indeed I may have even read the first chapter or two of the first book and given up. But when a teenage fanboy has nothing else to read (heaven forbid I pick up another author) I found copies of The Gunslinger, The Drawing Of The Three, and The Wastelands and committed myself to them.
As I trudged across the desert with Roland at my side, I felt lost, probably a lot like the man himself did. I found Jake and let him go again. I tripped with the man in black throughout the hundred year night and woke up on the shores of the Western Sea. But when it was all over, I was still confused. How was this a coherent story? There was obviously so much more going on, but all I had been shown were dream-like glimpses. Sure, it had its moments, but was it really worth pushing on through two more books of this ephemeral writing? But like the loyal fan I was, I gave the second book, The Drawing Of The Three, a try.
And boy, am I glad I did. From the start of book two, King spooled his thread in an entirely different, yet familiar manner. This was the King I knew and loved. And as quickly as the book dragged me into Roland’s world again, I found everything that had been missing from the first. In a matter of days, I had finished the second and started on the third, The Wastelands. By now I had come to love Roland’s companions, his world was so much more vibrant and exciting with Eddie and Susannah in it. His Ka-tet was nearly complete and it really made a difference in the tale. And most importantly, by the start of book three, I knew where we were headed. The Dark Tower. The center of all things. The lynchpin of the multiplicity of universes.
There was no way I was turning back now…
To be continued...