After over 30 years since Stephen King breathed life into Roland Deschain and Mid-World, the tale finally came to a close. While I had only discovered the series a year earlier, after reading them so close together, I was excited to see how it ended. A few parts didn’t gel with me, but the book as a whole was excellent. King completely stuck the ending, regardless of which one you picked.
SPOILERS! As the final volume in the series, this book thankfully had strong, emotional payoffs with every character. After a bit of work and meandering, the ka-tet reunite and attack the breakers, psychics imprisoned and forced to use their abilities to damage one of the beams. Following a pulse pounding assault, everything seemed well until a dying enemy took a pop-shot, instantly killing Eddie. While this was a powerful moment, the worst was yet to come.
My biggest problem with this book, and the last, was King inserted himself as a character. I’m thankful he humbled himself a bit, making his character to be more like an instrument than some sort of god. In 1999 King was hit by a van while he was out walking. It took some time for the writer get back on his feet, nearly dying from the encounter. To clarify, this event actually happened. King included it here as part of the story, using it as a coping mechanism to help him understand why/how he survived. People have a variety of ways to exercise their demons, and I have no doubt writing would be King’s method. I just wish he would have done it in another book.
Roland, Jake, and Oy arrive to prevent King’s death. Acting quickly, Jake knocked King out of the way, taking the brunt of the hit. He died shortly after. I was still choked up when Eddie died less than 100 pages previously, Jake sacrificing himself stung. I broke down and cried when reading about Oy’s reaction to his friends death. To make matter worse I was finishing my shift, surrounded by fellow military personnel as I desperately tried to keep my composure. Oy’s despondent demeanor for the rest of the book was sad and haunting.
Susannah, Roland and Oy continued on to the tower. Their time in the cold was one of my favorite parts of the book. They were broken, beaten, and completely unprepared for the environment. The setting was so bleak that I couldn’t help but feel their pain, especially after the fresh wounds from everything they just lost. While much happened in the last two hundred or so pages, I stopped to cry when Oy died saving Roland.
After the long journey and hundreds of pages, the book finally came to an end. Overall, I had a few problems with the series, but the superb ending more than made up for it. Roland entered the tower alone, ready to finally end his journey. The book “ends” there with a message from King, imploring the reader to put the book down, taking satisfaction with the happy ending. He leaves the choice to continue up to you, but warns that no good will come of it. Roland climbs the tower, looking in different open doors as he passed, seeing various moments from his life. At the top, he sees a door with his name. Upon opening it, a horrible revelation occurs to him, he’s been here before. On the other side of the door was the desert, the same “The Gunslinger” opened up with. As he was pulled through, he cried out, asking how many times. Quickly, his memory faded, fully returned to that moment.
I cannot explain how impactful this ending was for me, personally and as a writer. What I took from this was, it’s the journey that matters. Roland focused so intently on the tower that people admired and followed him due to his compassion and drive, and they all died for it. Roland’s been poisoned since he touched the grapefruit in his youth. He’s brought nothing but death with him as he travelled. Letting your goals overtake you in life will due the same. Your family and friends will suffer for it, and you won’t realize until it’s too late.
As a writer, I saw how King taught the same lesson to his readers. He offered them the choice to stop, being happy with what they had. He linked their fate to Roland’s. If they were happy with Roland reaching the tower, things would have ended well. If they continued, not content with the story they were given until then, Roland would be damned, and their disposition damaged along with it. This was a masterful technique used by adept writer, and something that has inspired me since then.
Whose death hit you in the feels the most? Happy with the first ending? Satisfied with Roland’s fate? Comment below, on Facebook, or Twitter! You can now see my Saturday Morning Cartoon posts at The Two-Headed Nerd!
Second best ending behind Breaking Bad.