The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah (2004) – Stephen King

The penultimate volume of Stephen King’s magnificent fantasy western opus is on the book shelf this week, and leads us along many roads, some hauntingly familiar, all troubling.

With the abduction of the pregnant Susannah by Mia, the daughter of none, mother of one, at the climax of the previous book, everything is set up for a massive chase, and stunning revelations as this novel opens.

Roland, and the remnants of his ka-tet, Eddie Dean, Jake Chambers, the billy-bumbler, Oy, and their newest addition, Pere Callahan (who has recently discovered he is a fictional creation from a book called ‘Salem’s Lot by an author named Stephen King) prepare to give chase.

But time has sped up, and things need doing at a number of places in the timeline as the beams of the Dark Tower continue to shake under the assault of the Crimson King. They all travel to a world recognizable to the reader, our very own, but all thrown apart. Susannah and Mia are in 1999, and are due at a restaurant known as The Dixie Pig, populated by low men and vampires, where the child that may be the end of Roland Deshain may be birthed.

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Jake, Callahan and Oy end up in hot pursuit of Susannah in a New York at the end of the 20th century, one they almost don’t recognize.

Roland and Eddie end up in Maine, 1977 in search of Calvin Tower, the obsessed bookseller (collector) who has promised to sell them a very special lot in the heart of New York.

But the servants of the Crimson King, are waiting for them. But an even bigger surprise awaits them as they come face to face with their creator, a young author who makes his home in Maine.

It is here that Eddie begins to see all the connections between his reality and pop culture, but by book’s end, you wonder which is influencing which, and their conversations with sai King shake all of them to their core.

This one, while moving at a breakneck pace feels like a pause, a brief intake of breath before the final plunge. And this version of King begins to see how almost everything he has written ties in with this one big story that he claims he is but a conduit for.

The ending leaves readers scrambling, a baby delivered and an unexpected death in this reality portends disaster for the final beam that supports the Dark Tower… but Roland and his ka-tet will win through won’t they?

I’ll find out in a couple of weeks when I tackle the last volume in this brilliant story.

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