When I had first picked up the Gunslinger series, it was unlike anything I had ever read before. The descriptions of a post- apocalyptic future rang horribly true and real for me, and Roland had the dark appeal of a man with a noble cause doing questionable acts in the hopes that one day it would all be justified by the ends.
The more I read the more I became trapped in the world that King had created, and as a reader Roland's quest became my quest. What was the Dark Tower? What would happen in the final climax? Who would walk away in the after math to start the day anew?
Needless, to say King had me wrapped around his pinky in a manner of speaking.
However, the spell was not to last.
The fourth book came out, and with it came perhaps the one of the greatest insults to story and innovation I have ever witnessed a creator inflict on his own creations.
The DT series went from being a powerful tale that lampooned many of the stereotypes associated with the genre, to one that shamelessly espoused it.
The love interest has always been the bane of almost every form of entertainment be it film or literature. S/he is the anti-thesis of the hero and often makes one either gag or roll their eyes in exasperation at his or her blandness and/or sheer stupidity. Susan here is no different from every other typical damsel in distress we've been forced to swallow since childhood in fairytales. As another reviewer once stated there is nothing particularly beautiful or admirable about her, and we only know that she is pleasing to look at because King tells us so, however other than that she is merely a foil for Roland's own character rather than a real character herself. She isn't smart, she isn't strong willed, she doesn't actively try to refute the machinations of her aunt, nor does she have any real defining qualities but her supposed beauty. The maddening thing about this is that when one reads King's Dolores Claiborne, Rose Madder, and Gerald's Game it is quite clear that he is more than capable of writing interesting and strong females characters and as such one can only assume that he does this on purpose so as not to detract from the main characters.
However, Susan herself isn't the only thing that brings down the whole novel. The very idea that King has written a book about a single flashback into Roland's past that for all intents and purposes has no bearing on the current events is the problem. The concept is inherently flawed, then to devote 400 pages to it plus cliche characters , plus a cheezy love story makes one want to vomit all over the book, and a super sexually charged Roland- that no woman can resist- seems more like an ideal rather than the rugged fanatic he was depicted to be in the previous books... Add all these things together and you have a book that seems more like a Harlequinn Romance rather than a King novel.
The characters of Alain, and Cuthbert are no better than Susan in their cheeziness they are again identified by gimmicks: Cuthbert as the sly risk taker, and Alain as the sweet, innocent boy who would stick up for any of his friends *TM.. and dear god the bit at the end with the ruby cowboy boots was just taking pop culture too far...
The only thing I can think of in an attempt to explain the popularity of such below standard piece of work is the name of Stephen King, like other authors his name has such commercial drive that even if he slapped it on to a turd it would sell..
As I said even after revisting it years later, I find it to be as much an insult to me as a fan, a woman, and reader, as it had been when I picked it up so long ago as it is now, and maybe even more so. I still have difficulty accepting how something so good just went to hell and never came back, and how a creator could be so calloused as to let it happen.
ON a final note:
Please Mr. King go back to Robert Browning's disenfranchised and stoic Childe Roland, literary brother and the heart and soul of Roland of Gilead.