First published back in June of 2004, ‘The Dark Tower VI: Song Of Susannah’ formed the sixth instalment into US bestselling author Stephen King’s epic ‘Dark Tower’ series. The novel continues directly on from where the fifth instalment ‘The Dark Tower V: Wolves Of The Calla’ (2003) left off.
With Black Thirteen now in her possession, the demonic entity of Mia, through the use of Susannah’s increasingly pregnant body, opens up a doorway in the nearby caves. From here the twinned person of Mia and Susannah travel to New York. The year is now 1999, and Mia is here to keep her end of a deal that she made with the Man In Black. A deal that will mean the end to her immortality but the birth of a new demonic life – that of Mordred. And to do this, she must seek out the Crimson King at the Dixie Pig Restaurant.
Back in Mid-World and Jake and Father Callahan have entered the open doorway to also find themselves transported to New York in Susannah/Mia’s wake. Their mission is simple – to somehow prevent Mia from handing Susannah (and the unborn child) over to the Crimson King.
Meanwhile, Roland and Eddie Dean find themselves back in Maine in 1977 confronted with the task of securing the survival of the single red rose for all eternity. Their first task is to locate the owner of the vacant lot that the red rose is found in, a man by the name of Calvin Tower who Jake Chambers had previously met with before making it into Mid-World. But Mia sees the presence of the two gunslingers as a threat to her unborn child, and so sets in motion a plan to cut them down in their mission.
But 1977 has much more than just the fate of the red rose to keep Roland and Eddie there. The parallel worlds are somehow intrinsically linked to a writer who is intrinsically involved in the journey of their lives. A master puppeteer of sorts, who has the ultimate control over their destines. A writer by the name of Stephen King. And, as fate would have it, he is very close to where they are now.
The fate of the Dark Tower is in the hands of the gunslingers. Susannah’s life is at the mercy of the powerful demon that now possesses her body. A body that has a child growing inside. A child that is deeply linked to the ka-tet and the ultimate fate of the quest. The fight for everything that is important to the gunslingers is about to commence. The near impossible must be made possible, or it all ends here...
Split into three distinct storyline threads, the entirety of the novel is a finely interwoven and elaborate construction of bold and at times quite disorientating narratives which all converge upon one theme – the future of the quest for the Dark Tower. Indeed, with the fate of the Dark Tower itself now at risk, the challenges faced by the split ka-tet are now at an all-time peak in the epic journey, with parallel-world-jumping as well as the dislodging from a linear sequence in time becoming intrinsically involved in the tale.
The main body of the storyline is particularly action-rich, with plenty of fast-paced frolics taking place all over the shop to keep the reader firmly gripped in the tale. Along with the thrills and spills of the novel are a handful of mind-bogglingly elaborate qualities that only further pull the reader into the mythos. And none more so than the weirdly complex impregnation / fathering of Susannah/Mia’s child. Oh yes, it’s nowhere near a simple case of a demon’s seed impregnating her!
The gradual coming-of-age of Jake into a full blown gunslinger within is perhaps one of the most intriguing and enjoyable aspects of the book. Furthermore, the impactful and important progression and development of the key principal characters in the series is very much a predominant theme within this penultimate instalment. King clearly has a final plan in mind, and in this last but one stepping-stone, he’s making sure that all his characters are exactly where they need to be.
One of the most notable (and most referred to) aspects of the book is King’s inclusion of himself (as himself) in the storyline. Here we see the divide between fiction and reality not only blurred, but crossed to such a degree that we’re looking in on our own reality. It’s certainly a brave angle to take with the storyline, and laced with self-indulgent pitfalls all of the way. However, King has handled this somewhat elaborate concept well, without overindulging in the various questions that it undoubtedly throws up.
All in all, it’s an odd read, knowing as the reader does at this stage that the Dark Tower books will be drawing to an end in just one more instalments time. You very much get the impression that things are being established and concreted into place for the final book to conclude with. There’s a great feeling of getting everything just in place and those many loose threads wrapped up for the dramatic last book. And all through this King manages to keep the storyline interesting, exciting and completely taut. Quite simply, the book takes on a hell of a lot and manages to pretty much succeed on all counts...and it’s a damn enjoyable read to boot.
The novel runs for a total of 432 pages.
© DLS Reviews