I enjoy my obsessions. I am enthusiastic about the things I follow. I tell fellow Blerds about the magic of IDW’s Transformers series (seriously…start reading this). I’ve decided that my page would be a good place to share the universes I follow. The first one I want is the one I’m most excited to see on the big screen, The Dark Tower by Stephen King. I’m still working out the formatting the New Universe pieces so bear with me.
I read the entire Dark Tower series in a 6 month binge. I typically devour books. This is nothing new. But the Dark Tower pulled me into its world and did not let me go. I recommend the series to everybody who reads Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror. But I know that many a lot of people’s first exposure to The Dark Tower will be when they see it on the big screen in 2017. So the inaugural edition of New Universe will serve as a primer for the Dark Tower Universe. There are mild spoilers for the book series but nothing too shattering.
Mid World is possibly the most confusing part of the story. Mid World is sort of a parallel Earth to our own. The best way to think of Mid World is the backbone of the Stephen King Universe. All of his major works intersect with Mid World in various ways. I will highlight a few of these crossovers throughout this article.
Mid World is a crumbling world where the concepts of time and space are eroding. Magic exists but it is portrayed as a corrupting force that unavoidably damages those that come into contact with it. Often characters will state that the world has “moved on”. This is shorthand for staying that the laws of physics, nature and in some cases magic no longer apply AND people no longer expect them to. Seasons no longer exist. Day and night don’t occur with any regularity. Weather patterns are unpredictable and deadly. Reality is unstable. Visible tears in reality, called ‘Thinnies’, are common and prove to be hazardous to the inhabitants of Mid-World. Creatures from the space between realities, Todash Space or Todash Darkness, enter the Mid World and find their way into our world. These are the creatures that you’ve seen in The Mist and many of the monsters that occupy Stephen King books and films. Probably the most famous Todash Creature is IT/Pennywise.
Many of the locations featured in Stephen King’s novels are actually levels of The Dark Tower. Characters from other Stephen King novels drift in and out and out of the later books in the series. A few of the central antagonists like the Red King and Randall Flagg are major villains in other books.
The Characters :
A Ka-tet is a group of people called together by fate or Ka. Ka-tets are led by a Dinh. Roland has been Dinh of two Ka-tets that the readers are told about in the original series. As a young Gunslinger, he was involved in a Ka-tet comprised of his childhood friends. As an adult, his Ka-tet is comprised of people from other realities and time periods that he encounters on his way to the Dark Tower.
Roland Deschain – The Gunslinger: The Gunslingers are an order of Knights who serve as Law Enforcement and Military Officers. They are descendants of King Arthur. Roland is the Last Gunslinger on Mid-Earth. He carries two Sandlewood pistols that are forged from the blue steel of Excalibur. Roland is an experienced warrior, leader, diplomat, hypnotist, arbitrator etc. When Roland is focused, he is an unstoppable force of death and destruction. Roland is essentially, Clint Eastwood’s “Man Without a Name” except the readers are given his backstory. Roland has spent decades of his life in pursuit of the Man in Black who Roland believes to hold the secrets to entering The Dark Tower. Roland is kind of an unwilling protagonist. He’s forsaken his nobility in his quest to enter The Dark Tower. When we first encounter Roland, he is a Ronin pursuing the Man in Black across a desert. Roland has a difficult time reconciling his noble nature with his obsession with The Tower. Throughout the series, Roland keeps finding himself thrust into the role of Mentor, Leader, Father and Protector. These are roles that Roland never expected to be in since the world had moved on and in conflict with his obsession with the Tower. Roland transverses many different worlds and realities in his quest for the Dark Tower…in the process he meets the members of his second Ka-tet.
Eddie Dean (New York 1987) : Eddie is Roland’s right hand man and the second member of the Ka-tet. Eddie is a drug addict who is currently smuggling cocaine for a mob boss. Roland enters Eddie’s world, helps him elude the mob and helps him overcome his addiction. Explaining how Roland and Eddie became partners would lead to a ton of spoilers for the second book in the series. Where Roland is pragmatic in his pursuit of the Tower, Eddie is idealistic. He is always armed with a joke or a wisecrack to lighten the mood. Eddie’s unconventional way of thinking and his ability to detect a con has saved the Ka-tet on multiple occasions.
Susannah Dean/Odetta Holmes (1964 New York): Susannah is the merged personality of Odetta Homes and Detta Walker. She suffered a head trauma as a young child that left her with a split personality. Odetta is timid, smart and well mannered, Detta is aggressive, bold and willing to kill to protect herself. Odetta is wheelchair bound after losing her legs to a subway train. In Midworld, Susannah is a natural sharpshooter and is the brains of the Ka-tet. Susannah and Eddie fall in love and are married during their Mid-World adventures.
Jake Chambers (1977 New York): Jake is the first member of the Roland’s second Ka-tet. He is about 12 years old, possesses “the Touch” and has many unrealized psionic abilities (think Tommy in The Shining). Roland encounters a version of Jake in the first book, “The Gunslinger”. Failing to save this version of Jake due to his obsession with discovering the secrets of The Dark Tower. Roland is haunted by this failure to save Jake and doesn’t miss an opportunity to save Jake when he is afforded the chance in the second book “The Drawing of the Three”. Jake is Roland spiritual son and has a natural aptitude for being a gunslinger. He is described as wise beyond his years. Jake and Susannah share a common plot point. I’m going to leave that out because it would be a MAJOR spoiler for “The Drawing of the Three”.
Oy the Billybumbler: Oy is creature called a Billybumbler that is native to Midworld. Oy is described as a mix between a raccoon and a dog. The Ka-tet encounters Oy in third book, The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands. Oy is exceptionally intelligent for a Billybumbler and is able to duplicate some basic human speech. Oy is loyal to Roland’s crew but shares a special bond with Jake.
Father Callahan: A disgraced priest last seen in Salem’s Lot. After his faith faltered in a confrontation with Vampire Lord, Kurt Barlow, Callahan has spent years in vagrancy. Callahan was forced to drink the Barlow’s blood and is now marked, unable to enter any church.
The Man in Black/Walter o’Dim/Randall Flagg: Stephen King’s most prominent villain. He is an agent of chaos and perpetual starter of shit. He was directly and indirectly responsible for every terrible thing that happened in The Stand, Eyes of the Dragon and Hearts in Atlantis. In this series he is the servant of the Crimson King. He did the majority of his damage prior to the first book in the series but he is a problem Roland’s Ka-tet must contend with.
The Crimson King: The main villain and the de-facto ruler of Mid-World. The Crimson King is a being that exists in multiple realities, is extremely long lived and possess a formidable amount of dark magic and technology. The Crimson King is working to destroy the pillars of reality that the Dark Tower represents. He is responsible for the destruction of the Gunslingers and has been waging war on the inhabitants of Mid-World for centuries.
Why You Should Care about this Universe:
The Dark Tower is a portal to Stephen King’s literary universe. It will either tie a lot of loose ends for those familiar with Stephen King’s books or introduce new worlds to those who aren’t as familiar. This series combines many different genres. It blends elements of fantasy, horror, westerns and sci-fi pretty seamlessly. The Dark Tower is Stephen King’s magnum opus. It doesn’t contain many of the literary tropes and/or shortcuts King has admitted to in other books. Since this series is his passion project, the ideas he introduces in The Dark Tower appear to be fully realized. For all the spectacle, this is a character driven story. Every member of the Ka-tet has a distinctive voice that is important to the narrative. Readers are left hungry for more Dark Tower stories after each installment. The world of The Dark Tower is so rich, it made me want to read the other Stephen King books The Dark Tower intersected with. Stephen King is one of the most prolific writers of this era and The Dark Tower serves as a road-map through his work.