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March 14, 2018

And so at last we come to the The Dark Tower, the final book in Stephen King’s series of the same name (the long tale he’s said is his Lord of the Rings).

The first act is fast-paced—more so than anything else in this saga of Roland the gunslinger and his “ka-tet” of misfit warriors. After the birth of Mordred, his horrifying son by a demon mother, Roland and his companions are reunited and set about trying to save the remaining Beams that support the multiverse. Doing so involves def...

November 6, 2017

Song of Susannah is my favorite of Stephen King’s Dark Tower books so far.

There are several reasons. For one thing, King picks up right where the last book, Wolves of the Calla, left off, with Roland’s companion Susannah partially possessed by Mia, a former demon determined to have her baby in Susannah’s body. And unlike some of the earlier subplots in the series, this one ties directly to the main story: Mia’s child will be no ordinary boy—he’s foretold to be Roland’s doom and the B...

July 28, 2017

At this point, I have a good idea what I’m getting into when I pick up one of Stephen King’s Dark Tower novels. The story will wander. It will take longer than it needs to. But it will also be chock full of originality. And in places, it will be nearly impossible to put down.

Wolves of the Calla, the fifth book in the series, lives up to all these expectations—and then some.

The opening chapter sets up a confrontation with the Wolves referenced in the book’s title, fearsome raiders w...

November 6, 2016

Wizard and Glass, the fourth installment in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, might have the strangest structure of any novel I’ve read.

The story begins by resolving the cliffhanger ending of The Wastelands, which saw Roland and his ka-tet of gunslingers about to engage in a riddling contest with Blaine, an insane, self-aware monorail. After surviving that encounter, the heroes resume their journey to the Dark Tower, but go astray when they cross from Roland’s world into the version...

August 25, 2016

The Dark Tower series, as Stephen King explained in his introduction to its first book, The Gunslinger, is essentially his Lord of the Rings—an epic fantasy tale stretching over several volumes to decide the fate of the world (or, in this case, worlds).

There are differences, of course: New Yorkers instead of hobbits; lobstrosities instead of orcs; western/horror/science fiction instead of medieval fantasy; the Dark Tower instead of the One Ring.

But there are also plenty of parallel...

June 20, 2016

Most authors wouldn’t start the second installment in a seven-book series by maiming the protagonist. But The Drawing of the Three was written by Stephen King, so hey, let’s chop off a few of the gunslinger’s fingers—he doesn’t need the dexterity to, I don’t know, operate a pistol, right?

This early crippling directs much of the ensuing story: the gunslinger’s wounds become infected, and he (Roland) spends most of the book on the edge of death, searching for medicine. But he never los...

October 22, 2015

The Eyes of the Dragon​ isn’t your usual Stephen King novel. For one thing, it’s squarely in the young adult genre (aside from an early reference to “The King’s Iron,” a.k.a. the royal penis). The book is also relatively short, clocking in at a modest (for King) 384 pages.

Both traits impressed me; changing your writing style is no easy thing. But King does so deftly, using short, punchy chapters and lean vocabulary to relate his fantasy of a kingdom thrown into turmoil by a devious m...

August 24, 2015

In Stephen King’s foreword to the revised version of The Stand, his 1,200-page apocalyptic tale about the impact of an accidentally released military super flu, King explains that he published the new edition in order to restore 400 pages that were originally cut “at the behest of the accounting department” (rather than for any “editorial” reason). I wish he’d gone the other way and cut an additional 400 pages.

I don’t say this to be mean. I think King is an extraordinary writer. His...

April 29, 2015

It’s easy to assume (and maybe even hope) that Stephen King isn’t a good writer—surely someone so prolific, popular, and obsessed with the supernatural can’t be much of an artist, right? But he is. He really is.

I was reminded of this several times while reading On Writing, King’s pseudo-autobiographical musings on how to author quality fiction. Some of the book’s more memorable lines:

- (On his uncle’s toolbox) “Inside the top was a silk lining, rather odd in such a context and made...

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I write mostly speculative fiction. Usually fantasy, with historical elements mixed in. Sometimes there's a bit of mystery too, or (shhh!) even a little romance.


But it's weird—it's always weird. Consider yourself warned.