It’s like when you have this really great idea but then you forget the most important bits but sally forth anyway and then your great idea becomes an okay idea

This post will probably be very short.

In addition to underestimating his readers and assuming they won’t be able to “keep up” with a really good story about time travel and parallel worlds, King has made the risky and ill-advised decision to try to combine a novel that’s mediocre at best with his heretofore original and engaging epic fantasy. At the end of Wizard and Glass, King talks about how he realised in writing that book that Midworld and the land of Roland Deshain’s Dark Tower is really a convergence of all worlds; it is a place where there are multiple doors to multiple wheres and multiple whens. This meant, of course, that King could bring in any number of storylines and plot elements from any number of his other books.

“Boo,” I said when I heard that. In fact, I was in the citrus fruit section of the grocery store when I heard that, and I suspect that some shoppers thought I was particularly displeased with some of the produce. But ‘boo’, indeed.

Part of my disgust at a large chunk of Wolves of the Calla is that it presents a continuation of one of Kings weakest novels (that being ‘Salem’s Lot). That book in and of itself came between Carrie, a stark and disturbing first novel, and The Shining, which is, arguably, one of the better examples of 20th century American literature. ‘Salem’s Lot is like the disappointing avocado which has gone decidedly off in an otherwise delicious deli sandwich. It’s a plodding tale about a small town beset by vampires. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

There are moments in the fifth book of the Dark Tower series that are part of the wild west high-ish fantasy that are still brilliant and wonderful. There are sections of Wolves of the Calla where the pacing is perfect and the scenery is so real you can smell the heat of late summer; there are portions of this book where you can hear the whisper of the wind as it tousles the dry stalks of corn in the fields. And then King goes and buggers everything up by tossing a character from a mediocre-at-best book into the mix and hijacks his own gorram story to write a second book in the ‘Salem’s Lot “series”.

I read an interview with the author where he talked about how ‘Salem’s Lot is his own personal favourite, and how he always wanted to write a sequel but then realised he didn’t have to because he could just incorporate that book into his Dark Tower series. And I said, “you twat”. I said it very derisively, too. If I wanted to read another book in that series, **I wouldn’t be reading the Dark Tower series**. So again, we’ve arrived at a point where Stephen King says, “screw you, reader. You’re not sophisticated enough/you’re too sophisticated for this whole story, and it’s not really the story I want to tell anymore, but since you seem to like this Dark Tower dreck, I’ll give it to you, but I’m going to tell this other story, and you can love THAT instead.”

To be completely fair, the story of the priest could have been a very interesting one. On its own. But because it’s an anecdotal recollection tossed into the middle of a book about something ENTIRELY DIFFERENT, King does *it* a grand injustice as well as the Dark Tower story he’s trying to tell. It seems to me that a good editor would have mentioned this to him, because it becomes readily apparent…very readily apparent…that King spreads himself too thin and tries to accomplish too much in this novel.

The story of the Calla itself; its history, its people…that story was thrown away, when it could have been almost as rich as the story of  Mejis in Wizard and Glass (arguably the best book in the series). If King didn’t want to do another Mejis story, he could have told the story of the Manni people, but he doesn’t seem too interested in them (although they provide one of the most massive plot revelations in the entire series). He could have, for all that’s holy, chosen to tell the story of the fricking Dogan* (and I’m not sure if Stephen King even knows why using that word is funny). By focussing so much of this tale on a character from another novel, King has really diminished the Dark Tower tale.

I guess this post wasn’t as short as I thought it would be. It got a bit ranty. But if the point…or if part of the point…of literature is to tell a story, then Stephen King, in this book, has really effed up. It almost makes me not want to finish the Song of Susannah. You already know how I feel about that character (Susannah), and now I have another toss-away character in the mix to be poopy about.

Incidentally, on the heels of reiterating how much I dislike the character of Susannah Dean and think she is a flat and boring two-dimensional character, let me just say that the character of Rosalita in Wolves of the Calla is, in the limited time we know her in this book, FAR more developed than Susannah.

I also have to say that characters recurring in books isn’t in itself a Bad Thing. One of my very favourite Stephen King books is The Eyes of the Dragon, which features Flagg (who also appears in The Stand and in the Dark Tower series). I like that there are hints in many of King’s books that there might be something grander going on among all of them; that they could all be inter-related. That’s *REALLY COOL*. Partly because it’s subtle. It’s the sort of subtlety you pick up on when you read the books. What’s picking my arse about what King’s done in some of the Dark Tower books is that he’s tossed the subtlety to the hogs and is hoping that if he POINTS OUT ENOUGH TIMES that THESE THINGS! THESE THINGS HERE! also appear in other works of his, you will “get it”.

I think you’d have got it if you hadn’t been tugged along by the nose hairs, but maybe I’m expecting too much.

_____

*In Canada (and I don’t know where else “they” use this expression), a “Dogan” is a Roman Catholic. The etymology of the derogatory term is unclear, although I suspect it has something to do with it sounding vaguely Irish, and with a large portion of poor, dirty, drunk Irish immigrants being Roman Catholic. Poor and dirty and drunk because they have altogether Too Many Children. Because they’re Roman Catholic. Anyway, in Wolves of the Calla, the character I’m peevish about is an Irish priest who drinks too much, loses his faith, becomes a ghoul, etc., etc., etc. and finds himself in another world eventually. During the course of the story (the main story, not the crappy Priest’s Tale), a book surfaces called “The Dogan”, and it’s a rare book because the title is misprinted (it’s supposed to be called “The Hogan”), the author is miscredited, and the author died before his Western series is completed. That book has a connexion with the Calla (“town”) in which the Gunslingers find themselves. Anyway. The Irish priest, the Dogan…it made *me* giggle something awful.

cenobyte
cenobyte is a writer, editor, blogger, and super genius from Saskatchewan, Canada.

21 Comments

  1. Dogan is an English thing – as in Mother England, not the english language. It’s pejorative for Irish Roman Catholic. Wop or Spic RC’s aren’t dogans, they’re just Dirty Roman Catholics.

    1. Not according to the etymology of the word. According to my etymological dictionary, “Dogan” is a particularly Canadian thing, and it’s applied to Roman Catholics, regardless of whether they’re Irish or not.

      Your family has probably just been using the term wrong all this time.

  2. I would like to point out that my comments about Dogans are tongue-in-cheek. Well. No. My comments about poor, drunk, “white niggers” is tongue-in-cheek. That might not come across well if you don’t know that I a)am Irish and understand the colonial history of my ancestors; b) use racist epithets like they’re going out of style because that’s one of the many ways in which I mock bigots.

  3. Maci-moniyasqua. :)

    Dude. I’m highly doubting your enjoyment. I really liked ‘Salems Lot, especially the multitude of short stories he’s written about the place. I really liked Wolves, especially Callahan’s story. And since I’m not sure if you’ve read the final book and the final final of that book, I’m going to stop there before this all goes 19.

    1. I liked Wolves of the Calla too. I liked Callahan’s story. But not as part of Wolves of the Calla. It distracted too much from the main thread of the story. I’ve no doubt that something comes up later on, and I’ll probably think *that* is too highly fabricated, too. I would have much rather had Callahan’s story not put in that book, but as a novella, a sequel to the mediocre ‘Salem’s Lot with tie-ins to the Dark Tower series.

      Trying to smoosh them together, regardless of how they’re tied in later, was too much of a stretch, IMO. I mean, when your *main character* is telling a new character to “speed it up, get on with it”, I think you should take that as a hint that the story he (the new character) is telling doesn’t mesh well with the main stuff.

      I think there are other things King should have focussed on in the book.

          1. The maci should be prounced maa-chi. means evil. Ma-chi, that means big. Moniyas, that’s white people. Funny how it’s one letter off from Soniyas, a word for money, or barter material. And squa, well. It’s just a compound word, and insulting. Like adding -ish to the end of a noun to indicate displeasure, as in, Cenobytish! means damn Cenobyte. So either way it’s a racial slur in Asnishinabe, where either you’re evil or big and a sickly pale woman. Fun stuff. :) Y’dogan. :)

              1. Actually, it was intended to be a racial slur, but can be heard differently in my bad accent. I am not actually calling you fat. I was just going with your mocking of racial slurs.

                No offense intended and I’m sorry if I did.

                1. And I guess I should also mention that the big is usually interpreted as great, like maci-manitou, meaning great spirit. So it could also be heard as great sickly pale woman. Ahh languages that depend on subtle shifts in sounds are fun.

                  1. Why wouldn’t you use Bogan and keep the Hogan/Dogan thing going. :)

                    BTW, not only is it a racial slur for Indians, it’s also a racial slur in Australia for immigrants. Fun stuff. Oh that reminds me…

  4. From what I am reading in your above post, it sounds like Michael Moorcock did a much better job of establishing his own ‘multiverse’. This is disappointing to me since the Dark Tower series are the only Stephen King books I have ever really had any interest in reading. Perhaps I will stick to the graphic novel adapations.

    1. Séamus, the problems I’m having aren’t solved in the graphic novel adaptations. The series *is* worth reading. At least, the first, most of the second, and all of the fourth books are worth reading. The third book is okay, and there *are* redeeming things about the fifth book. Since I’m not quite yet done the sixth and haven’t started the seventh, I can’t say much about their relative worth.

      ALL of this being said, I think Stephen King is a MUCH better fantasy writer than he is a horror writer.

      1. It was King’s gritty wild west fantasy setting that of initially got me interested in the Dark Tower series. Then I heard that King wrote himself into the series and created a whole multiverse (much like Moorcock did when he tied his various novels and characters together in his multiverse). If I am reading your critique correctly, the very thing that I am interested in has been spoiled by sloppy continuity errors & patronizing his readers. This comes as a bit of a disappointment as I really have not interest in any of King’s other writing. The reason I mentioned the graphic novel adaptations is because I have seen samples of the artwork which are breathtaking. This, and perhaps the editors on the graphic novels can clean up some of the continuity problems.

        1. Sweetie, if the editors of the novels couldn’t clean up the continuity problems, don’t hold your breath for the GNs. The artwork IS breathtaking.

          That being said, I recommend taking the books out of the library rather than buying them. Then if you decide my critique is way off base, go ahead and buy them.

          1. Ceno, you beat me to it. While the GNs are very pretty, they don’t hold a candle to the original series of books. Among other things, “the voice” is off.

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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