“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” Stephen King’s seven-volume epic The Dark Tower begins and ends with the same sentence, the protagonist having come a full circle, like Gilgamesh praising the walls of Uruk in the ancient Sumerian myth. The Dark Tower –which Stephen King labels his magnum opus– can, in fact, also be regarded as a myth, though with modern content.
Stephen King is probably best known as a prolific horror novelist, but, while he remains fascinated by the horrific, he has written many types of stories as well, particularly in later years. The Dark Tower defies easy classification, but can be described as a kind of dark post-apocalyptic fantasy with the elements of science fiction and horror.
The massive seven volume epic was written over the course of Stephen King’s career. He began writing the first book, The Gunslinger, right after graduating from the University of Maine in 1970. The Gunslinger would not be finished for twelve years, but King’s thoughts kept going back to it even while he was writing other novels, like the contemporary Salem’s Lot and The Shining. The remaining six volumes of The Dark Tower took another 22 years to complete, published at very irregular intervals to the dismay of the readers. All this time, The Dark Tower’s world waxed and waned in King’s mind, influencing many of his other works to varying degrees. Some, like Insomnia, are very closely related while others make only passing referance to places, characters or concepts from The Dark Tower. Still other works by the prolific author were tied to The Dark Tower retroactively, by writing characters or concepts from them into that great overarching story.
In King’s epic tale, the world has “moved on”, and the whole multiverse is in danger of collapsing. The protagonist, Roland Deschain of Gilead, is on a quest to find the Dark Tower, which supposedly exists at the very center of creation. Unlike the companions he picks up...