Stephen King’s THE DARK TOWER Book Profile: SONG OF SUSANNAH

SoScoverYear Published: 2004

“Re” Word: Reproduction

Dedication: “For Tabby, who knew when it was done.

Interesting that it took until the sixth book for SK to dedicate one of these to his wife.  However, I’m not so sure that she really did know when the book was done.

SoS5Overview: Her body overtaken by Mia, Susannah finds herself taken to New York in 1999, where she must give birth to her “chap.”  She is followed by Jake and Callahan, who must deal with Black Thirteen, while Roland and Eddie travel to Maine in 1977 to deal with Calvin Tower…and a certain writer.

SoS1Critique: Well, every series has to have a weak link.  SONG OF SUSANNAH is the low-point of the series.

On the positive side, I do like Stephen King appearing as a character, I like the Dixie Pig scene, and Sayre is a good villain.  John Cullum is also a nice character.  It’s just the way all these things are put together.  As I said in the previous article when I brought up BACK TO THE FUTURE PART II, I like a lot of the plot points that occur here, but not the story itself.  It feels even more padded out than the previous book; I think that when mapping the series out, King thought “Wouldn’t be in interesting to have one of these books set almost entirely in our world?”  Yet once he actually wrote it out, he realized that there was a lot less material than he thought.  So he adds filler such as an entire chapter on a character named Trudy who we never see again in the series, or Susannah and Mia having endless conversations about the conversations they’re going to have. Before setting out to create this blog, if you had asked me what was the shortest book of the series, I thought it was likely to have been this one.  I was surprised to discover upon doing my research that this book has a higher word-count than both THE GUNSLINGER and THE DRAWING OF THE THREE, yet it has far less scope than either of those two.  If you were to make a film version of either THE WASTE LANDS or WIZARD AND GLASS, I could see those being made into three-hour epics each.  If you were to make a film version of SONG OF SUSANNAH, even if you were to adapt it as faithfully as possible and put every single thing that happens on screen, you’d have a film that’s barely 75 minutes.

SoS6This is also the only book that seems to actually forget that Roland is the protagonist of the series; the fact our hero doesn’t even appear in the entire final three chapters of the book makes it feel even more unfocused.  Plus 9/11 is weaved into the story as a bizarre plot point, which may have been a little distasteful.  Instead of having Callahan and Jake hide Black Thirteen in the World Trade Center and wink at us by going “You know what’s gonna happen to it,” wouldn’t it have been more satisfying to have them put it in a demolition site and watch it be physically destroyed?

SoS3Being a middle installment in a saga, it’s understandable that this book would end abruptly, but the book ends in a really bad spot.  It’s one thing to try to end on a cliffhanger, but here there isn’t even really a sense of buildup.  The book ends with Roland and Eddie just driving around in Maine without much purpose and absent for the entire final few chapters, and with Susannah giving birth without any real plot climax.  Basically plot points just happen and then stop at a random point, giving this book a lack of completion, more so than any previous entry.  The first few chapters of DT7 serve as the true ending of this book and should have been included here.

SoS4Trivia: :

-This and THE GUNSLINGER are the only two books of the series to just be a straightforward collection of chapters, not split into sections.

-Contains an epilogue (called a Coda, to keep up the song motif) that shows diary entries of the fictional Stephen King, leading up to his accident in 1999.  In my opinion, this is an interesting gimmick but only ends up adding to the unfocused feeling of this entry.

-In July of 1977, SK was only a few months shy of 30.  Yet the character we meet here doesn’t sound at all like a 29 year old.  In fact he’s described as a heavy-drinker on death’s door.

-Only book of the series in which Susannah does not use a wheelchair of any kind.

-Walter’s Cameo: Walter only appears once, during Mia’s flashback.  This chapter is notable for me in that, prior to this, I was still confused about whether or not Walter and Marten/Flagg were the same person: the 1982 version of THE GUNSLINGER was unclear and WIZARD AND GLASS seemed to indicate that they definitely weren’t.  However, the 2003 version of THE GUNSLINGER hinted otherwise, and this chapter finally definitely stated that they were.  Maybe other readers figured it out before, but at least for me, this was where I understood it.

-We learn that we actually met Mia way back in THE GUNSLINGER though we didn’t know it, and she made a vocal appearance in WOLVES OF THE CALLA.  Here we finally meet her in full.  Sayre, also discussed heavily in the previous book, becomes the main villain in this entry.

-Final appearances of Calvin Tower, Aaron Deepneau, and Balazar’s gang.  While Enrico Balazar himself doesn’t appear at the ambush, I wish he had.  It would have been nice to have seen Eddie kill him again, this time putting the past to rest.  One could argue this is also the final appearance of Odetta Holmes; throughout DT7, Susannah only ever references her Detta personality.

-I recently learned that SK originally intended for Susannah to die at the end of this entry, thus making SONG OF SUSANNAH her swan song.  This is an interesting point to consider; however, I actually think SK made the right decision in the end.  Having Susannah die would have made Jake & Callahan’s quest completely in vain and made our heroes seem like failures.  DT7 would also have suffered tremendously as Susannah’s presence elevates the entire second half of that novel.

SoS2FINAL SCORES

The Book Itself: There’s stuff in here I like a lot, and it’s definitely fun.  But there’s too much filler, too little material or sense of scope, and an incomplete ending.  Susannah took over and Roland became absent for too much of the book, resulting in an unfocused narrative.  Verdict: This is the WORST book of the seven.

Afterword: At least this time we actually got an afterword, though it was essentially an Acknowledgements Section.  It also contains one of my favorite lines ever.  After thanking a bunch of people, SK says “But, hey, this ain’t the fucking Academy Awards.”  Verdict: This is the FIFTH best afterword of the series.

Illustrations: The illustrations in this book by Darrel Anderson are a miserable failure.  Once again, they’re impressionistic, this time using digital illustration techniques; the thing is, unlike Dave McKean’s work in WIZARD AND GLASS, these aren’t even enjoyable as works of art.  They’re just random depictions of unattractive things.  The only one I like is the taheen drawing below.  Verdict: This book has the  WORST illustrations of the entire series.

SoS7Click here for the final book in the series, where the Tower awaits!

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2 thoughts on “Stephen King’s THE DARK TOWER Book Profile: SONG OF SUSANNAH

  1. Pingback: Stephen King’s THE DARK TOWER Book Profile: WOLVES OF THE CALLA | Let Us Nerd

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