Stephen King has described The Dark Tower as his "Jupiter."
The epic series, inspired in part by Robert Browning's poem, "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came"
, has spanned 22 years, 7 books and nearly 4000 pages. The first book in the series, The Gunslinger
, begins with a simple, memorable declaration, "The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."
The Dark Tower tells the story of Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger in a world that has "moved on", and his ka-tet as they quest to find the Dark Tower - a tower of obsidian in a field of red roses - where all space and time is bound together by a powerful energy. This is a world where the forces of the Red battle the forces of the White across the plains of existence, where there are countless worlds beyond our own, and where things don't look so great for the good guys.
On April 15th, StephenKing.com
launched a newly redesigned Dark Tower website
, with all sorts of goodies.
When King calls the series "his life's work", he is not exaggerating. The Dark Tower, ka and ka-tet, gunslingers and Gilead - these things, and Roland's struggle to set things right - provide the overarching backdrop to dozens of King's other stories
. And, like any great fantasy book, it's steeped in its own set of words
. The series also features some great illustration
by artists like Dave McKean
, Michael Whelan, Darrel Anderson
and Phil Hale (my personal favorite).
Although the last book of the series, The Dark Tower
, was published in 2004, that has not marked the end of Roland's saga. Recently, The Dark Tower has found new life.
Robin Furth was a PhD student in English at the University of Maine in 2000 when she heard from her advisor, Burt Hatlen, that Stephen King was looking for someone to do some part-time work. That part-time work turned into something more when King asked Furth to create a concordance for the first four books of the Dark Tower. After all, a series which had spanned, at that point, 18 years and 4 books, could prove hard to keep straight for even the most seasoned writer. "Never ask a frustrated folklorist to map out your imaginary world,"
Furth said of the thick tome that was the result of her effort.
That effort (and another for the last 3 books) eventually turned into Stephen King's The Dark Tower: The Complete Concordance
, one of two major books that have been published about the Dark Tower (the other being Bev Vincent's The Road to the Dark Tower
Stephen King and Marvel Comics have also recently come together to publish a 5 arc, 31 issue series of comic books
set in The Dark Tower universe, plotted and written by now-Dark-Tower-guru Robin Furth
and comic legend Peter David
, and illustrated by Jae Lee. The first story arc, The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born
, was released last year. The second arc, The Dark Tower: The Long Road Home
, launched last month.
And if that weren't enough, Stephen King recently sold the move rights to the Dark Tower saga to the creative team of J. J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof for the bargain price of $19
. King and Abrams have long confessed mutual-admiration for one another. Those who have read the series (or much recent King at all), will recognize the number 19 as having an unusual power in the universe The Dark Tower.
And no wonder.