Last year, I told myself that I was going to try and re-read as many of Stephen King’s Dark Tower-related books as possible. I pretty much only got through It. I forgot how incredibly long (LONG. SOOOO VERY LONG.) some of these books are. And because of the way I read*, it takes me forever to get through some of these.
Last week, I finished listening to Insomnia. I had only read this one once before, way back when it came out. I remember being totally confused by it, and only picking up on the Dark Tower references when Patrick Danville shows up in book VII.
Insomnia takes place in Derry, about 10 years after the events of It. Ralph Roberts is an aging widow, missing his wife, and suffering from insomnia. As his sleeplessness gets more severe, Ralph starts seeing things. He notices colors that nobody else can see. He can see a person’s aura (a color around the person, with a balloon string going up into the sky) and tell if they are happy or sad, excited or angry, healthy or sick.
And then he starts to see the doctors. Two little bald men with giant scissors who appear outside the home of a sick (soon to be dead) neighbor late one night. And while the two little doctors seem to be “good”, they have a third counterpart who is most definitely bad. And Ralph can see him, too.
With the help of his friend Lois (who has also been suffering from insomnia), Ralph works with the good doctors to stop a terrorist attack at a pro-choice rally.
This book is still mostly a mess.
There’s also kind of a great story underneath all of the mess. The story of what it means to get older and what it means to be alone. This time around, these are the parts of the story that really got me. Ralph Roberts is a very fine hero for the King universe, and I was sorry that the majority of his bravery was muddled down with all of the nonsense with the little bald doctors.
How does it relate to the Dark Tower?
*The doctors take him to different “levels” of his world, explaining that all worlds are simply different levels of a very tall tower.
*The Crimson King is here, too, urging on our villain, Ed Deepneau, to blow up the Derry Civic Center.
*I’m guessing Ed Deepneau is probably somehow related to Aaron, one of the founding members of the Tet Corporation.
*Ralph’s job is to save young Patrick Danville, valued above all others.
*Patrick draws a picture of Roland Deschain and the tower.
*There’s lots of Dark Tower lingo here: Ka, Ka-tet, death bags…
And then, I finished The Talisman, which was co-written by King and Peter Straub. I fondly remember this as one of my favorite books when I was younger, and probably read it two or three times over the years. But it had definitely been a while since I visited it.
The Talisman is about Jack Sawyer, a 12 year old boy who finds himself at a weird hotel in New Hampshire with his dying mother. His father is dead, and his father’s business partner Morgan wants Jack and his mother to come home. But Jack stumbles into an adventure and finds himself on a journey to save his mother.
Jack finds that there is another world called The Territories, very similar to our world, that he can “flip” to, and that the Queen of the Territories, who happens to look exactly like his mother, is also dying. And Jack is sent (by a gunslinger, no less) to find something called The Talisman, which will not only save his mother and the Queen, but will right all wrongs in all worlds.
And Jack sets off on his way, across both our world and the territories, to California. Along the way, he meets some horrible people and some great ones. He sees the best and the worst that all worlds have to offer.
I loved this book back in 1984. 1984 me loved Jack, loved Wolf, and wanted to drive around in a limousine blasting Run Through The Jungle.
2016 me? I liked it. But I didn’t love it as hard as I used to. Yeah, I still got choked up when Wolf gets sent out to the shed at the Sunlight home, and yeah, lots of the stuff about Jack’s trip and the general awfulness of people was still spot-on. But all of the stuff at the black hotel was a garbled mess. And I just couldn’t deal with that big of a mess after such a long story.
And how does this mess tie to the Dark Tower?
*The territories are an alternate world on another level of the tower. When Jack gets his hands on the Talisman, he flips through level after level of the tower, worlds that he’s never seen and will never see again.
*There’s a theme introduced here that most everyone on our level of the tower has a “twinner” in the alternate level. Jack’s mom and the Queen are twinners. Jake Chambers and Bobby Garfield (from Hearts in Atlantis) are twinners, too.
*In the story, The Little Sisters of Eluria, Roland finds himself back at the pavilion where Jack first sees the Queen.
Long story short, these two books aren’t my favorites. But I’m glad I revisited them. I’ll still continue with Black House (the sequel to The Talisman), and see if that one has improved at all since my one and only time reading it. If I remember correctly, that one has some direct ties to the Crimson King.
*Here’s a brief view of what I’m reading right now:
from the library: Kindness Goes Unpunished by Craig Johnson
for the gym: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
on my iPad: Sand by Hugh Howey
on my phone: The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushness
on my nightstand: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
audible in my car: Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
audible out of my car: Black House by Stephen King
on my kindle: The Regulators by Stephen King