I don’t like horror. Ghosts and ghouls have never been my thing. I don’t read horror books and I don’t see horror movies. I probably couldn’t even eat a horror cookie if there was such a thing. And believe me, I like cookies.
I think it’s all because I’m a fraidy cat by nature, prone to nightmares and mistaking shadows in the dark for hideous alien creatures or axe murderers, all hovering over my sleeping body just waiting to suck the remaining life out of me.
Plus there’s the evil factor. I think most horror is simply evil stuff, bad medicine for the soul, if you know what I mean. It’s just not Sunday reading — not that everything we read has to be, of course, but horror is just bad news. And why fill your head with bad news? The world gives us plenty of that already.
So it should come as no surprise that I’m no fan of Stephen King. The man writes a lot of horror, often gruesome, gory stories of zombies and killer dogs and (worst and most evil of all) little children possessed with some deadly malicious power. I have better things to do with my time than read something that’s only going to keep my up at night.
Then I read The Gunslinger, the first book in King’s The Dark Tower series. Well, actually, I listened to it. Seven months ago when we moved from California to South Carolina, I wanted to have several books on my iPod to listen to during the long, cross-country trip, and The Gunslinger was one of them.
Even though I had reservations about listening to it — it was written by Stephen King remember? — I decided to give it a go, partially because my dear friend Eric Smith, whose opinion of good fiction and all things soul related (He’s LDS like me), had read it, liked it, and suggested I give it a go and partially because it had a picture of a cowboy on the front, and I’m a sucker for Westerns. As it turned out, I enjoyed The Gunslinger very much indeed. It had a gritty circle-the-wagons feel to it mixed with a hearty dose of contemporary fantasy and just a smidgen of what King does best: horror.
I’d recommend it to anyone, except for maybe my Dad and only then because he’s already read it and didn’t like it.
Despite having enjoyed the first volume so much, I didn’t rush out to buy the second one. My reading list is long as it is, and tackling a seven-volume series just wasn’t on the agenda.
Then the second event in this little tale occurred. (The first was my reading The Gunslinger, in case you’re keeping track). I spoke with a friend at work about fiction. Turns out his favorite author is King, a fact I decided not to hold against him; my aversion to King decreased drastically after The Gunslinger.
When he learned that I had, despite enjoying the first book of The Dark Tower series, not continued reading the remaining books, he returned to work the very next day with a copy of the second book to borrow. I thought it a nice gesture, and since it precluded my having to go to the library and check it out or, worse, buy it with my limited supply of real American dollars, I gladly accepted.
And boy am I glad I did! The Drawing of the Three is one of the best works of fantasy I’ve ever read. Dark? Yes. Spooky? Yes. Filled with heavy profanity? Goodness yes! But none of it could keep me from loving the story therein.
The Drawing of the Three is a nothing less than a fast-paced yarn of two worlds colliding — ours and that of the hero Roland, the last gunslinger, as he continues his quest toward that ominous, still undefined Dark Tower.
King is a poet. There, I’ve said it. The man is a genius. He can capture the rhythm and cadence of street speech, ethnic speech, gangster gab, anything, and still make it sound genuine. This isn’t hokey pulp dialogue. This is hear-as-it-comes talk, a believable look into some pretty scary and seedy places. It’s what King is best at, pulling back the curtain of those places we would never dare to visit and showing us what would expect and a thousand things we wouldn’t.
I once heard someone say that King will be remembered from our generation just as Dickens and Steinbeck are remembered from theirs. And I believe it. Critics love to pan the man because his fiction is guilty of that unpardonable literary sin: appealing to the masses. Good fiction can’t be popular, shouts the literary elite. Good fiction is that fiction that only we, the intellectual giants, can appreciate and understand. Well, to them I say poopie. King is a giant. A legend. And will be for many years to come, long after he’s gone the way of the dodo.
So, as you can see. I loved The Drawing of the Three. Loved it immensely, in fact. And I have since decided to read nothing else until I’ve finished the remaining five books of this series. And I will READ them. Audiobooks will be too slow to fill my need for a Dark Tower fix. I want it straight and intravenously. Give me the good stuff, Mr. King, at a speed that fits the craving.
Sure, I’ll listen to audiobooks in the meantime; I have to drive to work, after all. But when it’s time to pick up a book, my next five are spoken for. Sorry, reading list. A new drug is in town. Let’s only hope King can keep the magic alive.