The Dark Tower series read by George Guidall and Frank Muller

Cover image of The Gunslinger audio-bookI read the Dark Tower books as they were published, ordered each new instalment as it was released, and thought the first three books were excellent. However, I found the going tough from there until, after reading book six, The Song of Susannah, I simply gave up. But I found that the story never left me and found it increasingly difficult to remember exactly why I never finished a series on which I had dedicated so much time.

So, after stumbling across the audio-book of the first book in a series of seven, The Gunslinger, I decided to listen, back-to-back, to the entire series. And it provided me with the most enjoyable 132 hours and 45 minutes of commuting time that I have ever experienced, so well do the books lend themselves to the format and in George Guidall and Frank Muller they showcase the talents of 2 excellent voice actors.

Yes, I still had big problems with the sixth book but it did not detract from the overall magnificence of the production.

For those who know absolutely nothing about the Dark Tower books, here is a brief outline of  Stephen King‘s magnum opus.

Set in a world that is weirdly related to our own, The Gunslinger introduces Roland Deschain of Gilead, of In-World that was, as he pursues his enigmatic antagonist to the mountains that separate the desert from the Western Sea. Roland, the last gunslinger, is a solitary figure, perhaps accursed, who with a strange single-mindedness traverses an exhausted, almost timeless landscape of good and evil. The people he encounters are left behind, or worse, left dead. At a way station, however, he meets Jake, a boy from a particular time (1977) and a particular place (New York City), and soon the two are joined, khef, ka, and ka-tet. The mountains lie before them. So does the man in black and, somewhere far beyond… the Dark Tower.

The Gunslinger is the shortest book of the series, and accordingly the shortest listen at 7 hours and 24 minutes. The narration is very good with George Guidall (who has recorded over 900 unabridged novels) fitting perfectly with the book’s western feel. But good as The Gunslinger was the second book, The Drawing of the Three, saw a change of narrator as Frank Muller took over the reins.

One thing is obvious – Frank Muller was born to read these books. He is simply magnificent and the way in which he brings each character to life is stunning. When I first heard him speak in Roland’s voice it was like hearing the voice I personally had for the character repeated back to me.

I had never heard of Frank Muller before but a little research showed that it was he that Stephen King always wanted to narrate his work and I instantly realised why. It is difficult to find the words to describe how good he is and so I will repeat an earlier point – when I read a book the characters will form a look and sound within my mind and somehow Muller managed to capture these perfectly (and I know I will not be alone in finding this).

However, my research into Muller also uncovered the tragic news that, in early June 2008, he died at the age of 57 following a courageous six-year battle to recover from a devastating motorcycle accident (Stephen King reads a dedication to Muller at the end of Wizard and Glass). And from that point on the recording was always tinged with a touch of sadness.

The following 2 books, The Waste Lands and Wizard and Glass, were great, with the latter book being much more enjoyable second time around. The 5th book, Wolves of the Calla, finds George Guidall once again behind the microphone and although he might not scale the same aural heights as Muller, he was the perfect choice to complete the series and, after a short period of transition, I found myself once again comfortable in his capable hands.

And then we come to Song for Susannah and I remembered the 2 reasons why I hadn’t enjoyed the book first time around. Firstly there is the fact that King had begun to write himself into the story. Not as a brief cameo (which would have been acceptable) but as an almost demi-god that was all-powerful. I found that this broke the spell under which the series has previously held me and King almost seemed intent on shouting “This isn’t real you know! These are just figments of my imagination!” from the highest peaks. To enjoy a series such as this you need to suspend your disbelief and as such the direction the author took seemed a peculiar one. Secondly there was the way the Japanese were portrayed in a section of the book. Now this might be by explained by stating that they could have been Susannah’s thoughts and words but it seemed completely out of place and reminiscent of George Lucas and his cringe-inducing Trade Federation in the newer Star Wars films. I have read a lot of Stephen King and have never found him the least bit racist (quite the opposite in fact) and this is why I was so surprised by the base ridiculing of the Japanese race.

And so, more than 10 years after I read the first page of The Gunslinger, I finally reached the 7th and final book, The Dark Tower. And once King himself finally (and belatedly) took a bow, the story moved towards a fitting climax. In fact, the ending still resonates with me now, many weeks after having listened to it, and I could not see a way in which it could have been done better. And so the decision to listen through the series in its entirety was rewarded amply as the series became a fine companion over the period of many months. As winter turned into spring and as spring turned into summer, I followed Roland Deschain across the desert all the way to the foot of The Dark Tower itself. It is a journey I will never forgot and one I will always remember fondly.

If, like me, you have a lengthy commute, I could not recommend more highly that you spend that time in the company of Stephen King’s epic, so wonderfully brought to life by Guidall and Muller.

Listen and enjoy.

9.3/10

The Dark Tower series (unabridged) by Stephen King
Narrated by George Guidall (The Gunslinger, Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susannah, The Dark Tower) and Frank Muller (The Drawing of the Three, The Waste Lands, Wizard and Glass)
Length: 132 hours, 45 minutes
Publisher: Penguin Audiobooks

6 thoughts on “The Dark Tower series read by George Guidall and Frank Muller”

  1. Did George get kicked in the mouth between book one and book five? He sounds really different from his original rendition. Not bad, mind you, but different. He seemed hard pressed getting into the characters, not fluidly like in Gunslinger.

  2. Just started listening to Wolves of the Calla and couldn’t understand why the voice actor had changed. Your news of his passing was quite sad. I have also not finished the series yet and am a bit worried about your comments on Song of Susannah but I’ve come this far and I’m not stopping now. Though I am happy to hear that you found the climax to be quite satisfactory. Thanks for your write up and if you read this, what other AudioBooks would you recommend for a fellow lengthy commuter.

    1. Hey Matt, the untimely death of Frank Muller was indeed sad – he was Stephen King’s narrator of choice and did a fantastic job on The Green Mile as well. I do like George Guidall though, his performance is excellent too. Let me know how you find Song of Susannah, it’s relatively short compared to the volumes that proceed it.

      We have put together a page of our top fantasy audiobooks – http://www.fantasybookreview.co.uk/blog/recommended-fantasy-audiobooks/ – and I hope this provides you with some inspiration. The Harry Potter series is a good companion for a commute. The Name of the Wind and Wise Man’s Fear are also great, as is The Bartimaeus Trilogy. I would also recommend some of the Robin Hobb, Farseer audiobooks but mention that the ones on which Anne Flosnick narrates do not work for me personally.

      Happy listening,
      Lee

  3. I just started listening to book 5 and almost immediately started googling to see if Frank Muller had finished the series. I had no idea he passed “into the clearing”. Guidall is good Muller was perfect. I find myself repeating the lines of Wolves of the Calla with the same inflection that Muller might have. I just wish mostly that Guidall had a NY accent for Eddie but whatever. We’ll see but books 2-4 might always be my favorite because of Mullers narration. Maybe one day soon a technology will be developed which could copy the voice of Muller and dub it reading the other books lol.

  4. I agree with you 100%. Frank Muller was an AMAZING audiobook narrator. If you haven’t heard him read “The Body” or “The Green Mile” or “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” run out and find copies. In my opinion, Frank Muller is the best in his field of any performer/artist/etc I have ever seen. What I mean is, I think he’s better than Tiger Woods is (was) to golf, better than Pavarotti at singing, etc. The man was born to read books.

    I love how in a book with a large group of supporting characters like “Wizard and Glass”, Muller is still able to give each of them a distinctive voice. For example, most audiobook narrators would probably have a very similar voice for, say, Roy Depape and Clay Reynolds since they’re almost the same character in terms of age or demeanor, etc, but Muller gives them all a distinct voice.

    I didn’t start listening to the DT on CD until about 2006 or so and “read” the first 4 DT books (I actually read DT2 first) and was hooked on Muller’s voice. You’re right, he IS Roland and Eddie. I was very disappointed to find out he had passed away and would be unable to do the last 3 DT books. George Guidall does a fine job, don’t get me wrong, but stepping in Frank Muller’s shoes is difficult. It’d be like trading Michael Jordan for Karl Malone back in the early 90s. Sure, Malone is a great player but he’s just not Jordan.

    I’ve actually never READ Wizard and Glass because I have the audiobook version and just never saw the point lol. But thank you for talking about a subject I’m also passionate about and it’s good to know I’m not the only one!

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