Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: the Complete Concordance

Reviewed: March 2, 2009
By: Robin Furth
Publisher: Scribner
609 pages, $29.99

A concordance is usually an alphabetical list of the principal words used in a book, presented along with the text reference where it can be found. Generally speaking, concordances are prepared in connection with religious works or works of great literary merit. If your minister has mentioned in the sermon that a certain work occurs “X” number of times in the Old or New Testaments, you can bet he or she didn’t count them personally.

Some works of fiction achieve a kind of cult status and, in this computer age, it is relatively easy for fans to compile concordances to go with their favorite works. One of the joys of Wikipedia is that it provides online guides to the works of musicians and writers, as well as entries on television shows and movie franchises, just the sort of stuff that would never have rated an encyclopedia entry in the days of print alone.

When a saga gets long enough it becomes difficult for even the author to remember all the details. The late Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series was one of those. There got to be so many characters that I was happy to find there was a website to look at in order to keep them straight.

J.K. Rowling worked on the Harry Potter novels for about ten years and found herself consulting Steven Jan Vander Ark’s online Harry Potter Lexicon as a means of avoiding contradictions. Ironically, she successfully sued Vander Ark when he decided to publish the contents of the website as a book. According to recent postings at all is now forgiven and he has figured out how to publish a Potter based book without treading on her toes.

In the case of the Dark Tower saga, which Stephen King wrote over a period of several decades rushing it to completion only after he was nearly killed by a hit and run driver, the author knew his limitations and hired Robin Furth to prepare this sourcebook to help him keep the narrative and the characters straight. It’s a combination 609 page glossary, index and commentary on the series, with sections on people, places, backstory, and dialects, including volume and page references for every entry.

It’s a browser for sure. I’ve been skimming through bits of it, looking at some major characters and letting it remind me of the many stories in the seven volumes of the series. I admit it’s probably not a book I would have bought, but I appreciate the fact that my son was inspired to give it to me for Christmas.