[Bea’s Ranting Book Reviews] The Dark Tower: Song of Susannah [2004] by Bea Harper


Author: Stephen King

Original publisher: Grant

Boooooooo-ee! Steve King went absolutely META in this one, baby.

As I am loathe to divulge any crucial details in regards to the overall story of The Dark Tower series, I guess there is no subtle way of putting this one other than if King was gonna commit the cardinal sin of inserting himself into a story, he had to so completely and yeah, ‘Song of Susannah’ sees our intrepid maestro insert himself into what is already a whacked out narrative. Regaled unofficially as the ’24’ installment of the series, this book takes place over an epoch of twenty four hours in one go with numerous plots to follow. Let me say this off the bat, this isn’t a black spot in the series at all, but it is perhaps the most pondersome. There are so many threads in this sweater that it is easy for it to unravel in front of your eyes. Characters are scattered hither and tither, plot-based curve balls are hurled in our faces like bullies at dodgeball and King is in the middle of it all like the ringmaster. Although not unintelligible, this one is perhaps the most fast and lose because that is exactly how it’s choosing to play it’s cards. There is a sense that King decided to walk out of the house he build totally naked and is showing himself to the world Ric Flair-ing “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!” without shame or personal reprimand that you can’t help but feel admiring for his candor, but also a little wary of where he is going.

The ka-tet has been separated due to the machinations of Randall Flagg, the Crimson King as well as his vile son Mordred (for some reason, I really like that name) and you get a true sense of the chaos that these three evil gentlemen intend to inflict on our heroes as well as the worlds that go on beyond that of which Roland of Gilead inhabits. Past story elements come to the fore in order to assist the progression of the plot, but I won’t lie, I found this one a little hard going. This wasn’t King being incompetent, this was King being a liiiiittle too cocky and it’s quite easy to puncture holes in this impressive ark he has built around himself. What I found most trying about reading this book was that I had to flip back several times while reading to get a bearing about who was doing what and where and why. Although I have nothing against the fantastical elements in any plot, what matters to me is being able to have a clue about where the players are on the board and in what direction they are headed next. Then again, I count myself as a literary basic, so my words should mean naught than a grain of salt. This book is a polarizer to say the least and the opinions of those who read it are valid and varied.

When you expand a story line such as this to the point of which various dramatis personae are defying time and dimension like it were a walk in the park, a handle of geography is paramount to remaining wholly invested. Hand holding doesn’t have to be an option, but everybody needs a baseline when it comes to  However, call me a sucker for punishment, but what this story ultimately gives birth to is the set up for the final showdown between Roland, Flagg, Crimson King and Mordred in what will no doubt be an epic Gunfight At The Ka-Tet Corral. King took advantage of the wild chaos of this book to reveal just how potent a threat our three Big Bads present and for that I am grateful. Up until this particular book you didn’t get a complete notion about how catastrophic it would be if the Crimson King and his kin were to get a hold of the Dark Tower… the sensible, compassionate mind shudders to think. Considering this is the second last official Dark Tower yarn, you best recognise that the finale to come will decide the fate of all involved… and as with all heroic quests, not everybody comes out alive or altogether well.

Generally speaking, ‘Song of Susannah’ holds a respectable place in this magnificent journey, but what you want may not always be what you get, and Stephen King reminds us of that for better or worse.

The Dark Tower is closer.

PS. Father Callahan still totally rocks and his confessionals have to be a badass experience to attend.



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