Stephen King

The Road to the Tower

I joined Twitter a good while ago now (I suspect it’s about 3 years, scarily enough), and almost 12,000 tweets  (oh, god) later, I finally discovered what it’s for.

It’s for reading The Dark Tower.

I’ve been vaguely aware of the Dark Tower series for a while, in a-on-the-periphery, oh-I’ll-read-that-someday sort of way. And so, on a whim the other week and passing my local bookshop, I picked up the first book: The Gunslinger.

I finished it this morning – having stayed up late to almost-finish it, woken up early to even-closer-to-almost-finish it, and finally got to the last page over breakfast.

I should also add that in between the “waking up” and the “over breakfast” bit, there was the “trudging through the rain and wind back to Waterstones, where I dripped my way up to the second floor and bought the next two books in the series” bit. And then sloshed my way back home.

I’ve not been this immersed in a book in ages – and apparently I’m not alone in that.

When I mentioned I was reading The Gunslinger on Twitter, I got a deluge of Dark Tower-related tweets back. I had no idea how much love there was for these books – and if I’d brought it up before I read one, I wouldn’t have got it, not even slightly. Some people liked the first book most of all (and I’ll be honest, I’m pretty besotted with it at this point); others told me that it gets better from the second book… and several people knew it well enough to quote bits at me.

On the latter point, I’m not surprised. The Gunslinger has proved itself to be eminently quotable. I sat in the hotel at AltFiction at one point reading a section aloud to anyone who would listen, and have gone so far as to turn down the corners of pages to mark bits I’ve particularly liked. That’s quite a big deal for an ex-librarian, I can tell you.

Something that struck me while I was reading was the depth of the world – and the sheer ballsiness of King’s refusal to explain it. He expects you to pick it up as you go, following the trail he’s left. And he knows the way – it’s clearly a world he’s been carrying around with him for a very long time. How closely you follow – or, indeed, whether you do – is up to you. But he’s going on ahead with or without you.

I have a feeling I’m along for the ride. And that – despite reading being by its very nature a solitary exercise – I’m not alone.