Song of Susannah

December 6, 2017 at 7:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

susannahSong of Susannah by Stephen King


I didn’t have high expectations going into this book. It was my least-favorite of the entire series the last time I read it (2004), and I went into this re-read expecting to be disappointed. True to form, I liked the book a bit better than I did the last time, namely because I lowered my expectations, which of course sends me down this rabbit-hole of thinking where I question whether I know a good book or not, since how I feel about it depends on where I am in my life, what I think about it before starting the book, and what I bring into it when I start reading it. I feel like I shouldn’t have an existential crisis over how I feel about reading a book.

The book is still an interstitial volume, one that progresses the plot of the larger story, but doesn’t do much else. And it does go on: half of the book is Mia/Susannah giving birth to the Chap, and lord, does it take a while to get there. We have to get Mia’s background and story, and we have to take them to New York in 1999, and we have to show how much Mia is a fish out of water, etc., etc., etc. It feels long-winded and tedious, even though King’s telling of events moves along at its usual breakneck pace.

The other half of the book introduces Stephen King himself as a character, which is a contentious part of the story for a lot of people. I’ve said for years that this device is either stupid or brilliant, and I’m never sure which it is. I’ve always leaned just a skosh more to the “brilliant” side of the scale, because it makes sense for a writer to be tied in to the survival of the tower, and when you look at how much the tower permeates his other work (and the fact that King created the tower), it makes sense for that writer to be King. On the other hand, I recognize the amount of ego that goes into him using himself as a character, so the balance is still pretty close.

Anyway, both stories are important to the events that will happen in The Dark Tower, but I question whether we needed this much space to develop them. Wolves of the Calla was also long-winded, and the central plot of that book only tangentially related to the larger story, enough so that I wondered why the ka-tet didn’t just get what they needed to know while passing through the town. I think the reasons are: (a) we wouldn’t have Father Callahan as a new character in the story (no big loss); (b) we wouldn’t have any foreshadowing of Mia and the Chap; and (c) we wouldn’t have Black Thirteen and the door. I still can’t help that we could have had all that without a 900+-page Old West story.

The whole bit with Mia and Susannah was tedious, but I found myself liking the part of the story about Stephen King and the other characters in Maine. Of course, Roland and Eddie stumble across another no-nonsense gunslinger character in their adventures (two, if you count Deepneau), and the scenes between them and Calvin Tower were amusing. It still feels like these events could have been told more quickly, but at least I found myself entertained enough with half of the story.

Heading into the final volume in the series, I find myself more worried than anything else. The story has taken a turn from how he told the first four books, and I’m worried that I’ll be ultimately disappointed with its conclusion. I know what’s going to happen, but I don’t remember all of the details leading up to it, and with Wolves and Song feeling less like Dark Tower books than the first four books, I dread to see how it will play out. I remain committed, though, Constant Reader that I am, so I guess I’ll report back once I reach the clearing at the end of the trail.

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