Song of Susannah by Stephen King
Review by Floresiensis
Book six of the seven book Dark Tower series. Song of Susannah. For me, the problem child.
Before I continue with the review of this book I have to make an important admission. The first time I read Song of Susannah I put it back on the shelf part-read and left the Dark Tower series unfinished. After having read and enjoyed the previous five books so much this still strikes me as odd, and although over a decade has now passed and the reasons are a little hazy, two elements that upset me still remain quite clear, which I will talk about in this review.
Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla were big books, but Song of Susannah sees King return to the almost novella length first seen in the opening novel. I guess this book can be seen as a bridge between the first five books and the final climatic ending in The Dark Tower.
The dust has settled following the ka-tetís victory against the wolves but Susannah is missing. She is being controlled by Mia and has returned to New York to give birth to her "chap" and so, with the aid of the Manni, Roland, Eddie, Jake, Oy and Callaghan travel in time to the key world to save her and also meet a famous author who goes the name of King, Stephen King.
There is no getting away from it. This is my least favourite Dark Tower book and here are my major quibbles. There is a section in the book when Mia/Susannah is in a hotel. Into said hotel arrives a party of Japanese tourists and their portrayal made me very, very uncomfortable. Now I need to be very careful here and make it clear that I fully understand the difference between the author's thoughts and feelings and those of his characters, and in this instance I guess it was Mia who thought that the Japanese all looked the same and spoke in an annoying, twittering bird style but this is one reason I will never be at ease with this book. The second reason I struggled is that King wrote himself into it in a big way. I am getting more comfortable with this side of things each time I read it but there is a feeling of the fourth wall being broken, of the spell that had been so carefully cast dissipating. By approaching things this way King ran the risk of killing the characters that had come to life in people's imaginations. Of course they are figments of the authorís imagination but the most important element of reading fiction is that you are able to completely suspend your disbelief. And the first five books had allowed me to do this very easily so at times it almost felt that King was playing Major Party Pooper. But I also understand that this book came at a very significant time in the authorís own life: In 1999 King has been walking down a road near his home when he was hit by a reckless driver. Left very seriously injured the writing of book six and book seven were done at a time when the author was in serious pain, which had an impact on his concentration and endurance. I also think the book was in a way a cathartic experience in which King came to terms with his own mortality and looked to recover from his horrific injuries.
Writing this review is very difficult as the book caused real conflict within me. There are interesting developments and we learn more of the Prim, Discordia and Fedic but I am always glad to reach its end so that I can get to the final book, in which King, in my eyes, recovers to give the series a fitting and moving denouement.
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