I realized I was a terrible person the day that Stephen King was hit by a van. Because my first thought was “Oh, no! Who’s going to finish the Dark Tower series?!” A man lay wounded, his career potentially over, but I was more disappointed that my reading fix wasn’t going to be satiated. I became aware that I had no soul. And so I became a film critic.
I recognize more than a little of myself in that paragraph. It’s kind of scary, actually. But it’s hardly unique: King himself has said that one of the things that most annoyed him after getting run over by that van was that he was constantly reminded by Dark Tower acolytes that he hadn’t yet finished his opus. Imagine that for a moment: You’re one of the most amazingly successful writers in the history of the publishing industry, yet everyone is relieved you aren’t dead because you’ve yet to finish three books from a series of middling popularity. I think he had a right to get upset.
So he rushed through the final three books in the series, not exactly as a “F You” to the readers so much as a “F This, I’m Finally Sick and Tired and Done.” The only way to describe the final three books is “rushed.” They felt incomplete and at least a little shoddy, as if King was trying to crank them out and be done with it so you (well, we) sick bastards would just leave him alone about it. He wanted out. And out he got.
Though I disagree with Brian re: the ending of “The Dark Tower” — I won’t spoil it, but it’s intriguing, to say the least — I can understand his frustration. And, really, King kind of has himself to blame. If he hadn’t sped through those last three novels — if he had crafted a somewhat more climactic final battle with the Crimson King, say, or been a little less dismissive of the man in black — readers would have been far kinder.
That being said, I’m pretty excited at the thought of a JJ Abrams version of “The Dark Tower.” Done right — a 13-26 episode run on HBO would suffice quite nicely — it would be a lot of fun. And I get goosebumps (literally, I have them right now) every time I think of the opening line in “The Gunslinger”:
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.