The Dark Tower VI : Song of Susannah
Reviewed: August 15, 2006
By: by Stephen King / with illustrations by Darrel Anderson
Publisher: Pocket Books
560 pages, $12.99
When we left Roland Deschain and his
Ka Tet (a group bound to a quest) it was both a fair and foul day. Fair it
was as they had beaten the Wolves of the Calla, the robot creatures which
had plagued the villages, stolen one of each set of twins, and returned “roont”
brain eaten things to their parents. Foul it was because the fourth personality
in Susannah Dean’s body, the mother that called herself Mia, had finally taken
control of their shared physicality and stepped through one of those mystic,
just hanging there in the air, doors that have been a feature of this saga
since volume two. With her she took the malevolent Black 13 crystal which
allows control of the doors.
We knew where she was going because
some of the Ka Tet have been through that door already. It leads to one of
the many New Yorks that exist in the multiverse connected to the Dark Tower.
In fact, it leads to the primary Earth of the multiverse, where the influence
of the Tower has been making itself felt on a certain writer of horror novels
named Stephen King. We had a clue that something like this might happen in
the last book when Pere Callahan found his own life’s story in a copy of Salem’s
Lot, but we didn’t know how far it was going to go.
When Roland and Eddie Dean attempt
to follow Susannah, they find themselves instead in New England, ambushed
by crooks who are after the owner of the lot where grows the sacred rose which
must be protected in order to save the worlds. The rose is somehow a manifestation
on Earth of the power which binds all thing together.
They meet King, who is at that point
in his life where he is drinking way too much and sampling some of the other
substances his unexpected affluence can afford (see On Writing for
details). Under hypnosis, King gives them certain information they need to
carry on their quest, and he is given posthypnotic commands to clean up his
life and get on with the Dark Tower books, for it appears that he is somehow
channeling the events of their lives and the record is important to their
Meanwhile, Susannah and Mia reach enough
of an understanding so that we are able to find out exactly what Mia is (not
just another personality), what “the chap” is, who his father is, and what
Mia thinks is supposed to become of her and him. The struggle between the
two personalities is quite intense, and Susannah does win a few rounds, but
the final battle goes to Mia, who has an appointment to give birth to her
chap in the strange back rooms of the Dixie Pig Restaurant.
In the other meanwhile, young Jake
and Pere Callahan manage to follow Susannah’s trail, retrieve Black 13, and
put it somewhere where it will never bother anyone again (after September
11, 2001). Then they follow the trail to that strange restaurant, home of
a portal between the worlds, and attempt to rescue Susannah.
The story ends, however, with the birth
of the chap, one Mordred Deschain, son of Roland (and one other...)
But no, it doesn’t end there. The chapters
of the novel have been verses in the Song of Susannah, each ending with a
stanza and chorus of the “commula” style folk tune that Roland danced in Wolves
of the Calla. This song ends with a coda, “Pages from a Writer’s Journal”,
the journal of the Stephen King we met in this volume, who is similar, but
not equal to fellow who wrote the book. The entries cover highlights of some
twenty years, from July 27, 1977, about a decade before he would have met
Roland and Eddie, to July 18, 1999, when he really got serious about finishing
One of the big differences between
the two Kings is that this one’s journal ends with a death notice. In one
world, at least, Brian Smith’s van managed to finish him off. That bleak bit
of prose leaves us with a double cliffhanger at the end of the book.
He does manage to tie up all those
loose ends by the end of book VII, which I have read by now, though I’ll wait
until the mass market edition comes out to tell you about that.