In my review of Wizard and Glass a few months ago, I said that I was planning on finishing King's magnum opus before the end of 2016. And then, given just how good Wolves of the Calla turned out to be, I reiterated that it would be hard for me to read anything else in between.
Which is why you are now reading a review for Stephen King's Song of Susannah. I went through this novel in a few short days, and I'm now reading the final installment, The Dark Tower. With such a cliffhanger ending to cap off the sixth volume, it was impossible not to pick up the seventh to find out how the author would bring this grand saga to an end.
Here's the blurb:
The next-to-last novel in Stephen King's seven-volume magnum opus, Song of Susannah is at once a book of revelation, a fascinating key to the unfolding mystery of the Dark Tower, and a fast-paced story of double-barreled suspense. To give birth to her "chap," demon-mother Mia has usurped the body of Susannah Dean and used the power of Black Thirteen to transport to New York City in the summer of 1999. The city is strange to Susannah...and terrifying to the "daughter of none," who shares her body and mind. Saving the Tower depends not only on rescuing Susannah but also on securing the vacant lot Calvin Tower owns before he loses it to the Sombra Corporation. Enlisting the aid of Manni senders, the remaining katet climbs to the Doorway Cave...and discovers that magic has its own mind. It falls to the boy, the billy-bumbler, and the fallen priest to find Susannah-Mia, who, in a struggle to cope with each other and with an alien environment "go todash" to Castle Discordia on the border of End-World. In that forsaken place, Mia reveals her origins, her purpose, and her fierce desire to mother whatever creature the two of them have carried to term. Eddie and Roland, meanwhile, tumble into western Maine in the summer of 1977, a world that should be idyllic but isn't. For one thing, it is real, and the bullets are flying. These are the simple vectors of a story rich in complexity and conflict. Its dual climaxes, one at the entrance to a deadly dining establishment and the other appended to the pages of a writer's journal, will leave readers gasping for the saga's final volume (which, Dear Reader, follows soon, say thank ya).
Worldbuilding did not play much of a role in the first couple of volumes. I've often said that Stephen King played his cards way too close to his chest, that readers learned next to nothing about the series' universe. To all ends and purposes, it felt as though the author was making everything up as he went along and that there were no definite plans as to where the story was going. In the fourth installment, King finally put the story into high gear and from then on it became obvious that this tale resounded with depth.
With Wolves of the Calla, King put this story back on track and it was now evident that the author knew exactly what he was doing. Though there were no definite hints as to what the endgame would be like, no book moved the tale forward the way this fifth installment did. Revelations about the Dark Tower, the Crimson King, the rose, the various whens and wheres, etc, added several more layers to an already convoluted plot. Song of Susannah follows in the same vein, raising the bar even higher and setting the stage for what should be a memorable grand finale. And yet, though it provides answers, this novel also raises its own share of new questions. Only time will tell if The Dark Tower will contain all the answers that readers have been hoping for for decades.
It wasn't until The Waste Lands that Eddie, Susannah, and Jake truly came into their own and took their rightful place in the narrative. Understandably, Roland's back story in Wizard and Glass relegated them to the background for the most part. Yet in Wolves of the Calla, the four of them became a true ka-tet and the narrative was pretty much evenly split between their four perspectives. What I loved the most about Song of Susannah is that they are forced to split up, as they are thrown into different wheres and whens by the magic door in the Doorway Cave.
With the help of Black Thirteen, Mia compels Susannah to travel to the New York City of 1999. Mia must contact the Crimson King's henchmen, but she needs Susannah's help to navigate the enormous metropolis. The revelation about the identity of Mia's chap hits you like an uppercut and sets the tone for everything that will come after. Although they weren't the ones meant to attempt to rescue her, the magic door sends Jake, Oy, and Father Callahan after Susannah. Meanwhile, Roland and Eddie are sent by the doorway back to Maine in 1977, where they must secure the ownership of a vacant lot in New York City from Calvin Tower. During their misadventures, they will meet a writer named Stephen King, a man whose importance might be capital. I'm aware that King was trying to find a way to explain how most of his novels are linked to the Dark Tower saga, but that was a bit too much.
As I mentioned, Wizard and Glass was indeed the best volume in the series and set the bar quite high for what would follow. If anything, Wolves of the Calla set the bar even higher, even if it was not quite as amazing as its predecessor. Ending with another crazy cliffhanger, Song of Susannah puts all the pieces on the board and sets the stage for the endgame.
All I can say is that I'm happy I didn't have to wait for months or years to find out what happens next. I finished Song of Susannah one night and began The Dark Tower the very next day. In a way, it feels as though Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susannah, and The Dark Tower are the three parts of one gigantic novel. For that reason, this sixth installment doesn't stand all that well on its own, especially with its ending that offers absolutely no resolution.
Having said that, Song of Susannah remains a veritable page-turner. At this juncture in the series, every step that takes us readers and the members of our favorite ka-tet closer to the Dark Tower is a wonder to be cherished. I know that many fans consider this to be the weakest Dark Tower installment, and I understand why they feel this way. As I mentioned, on its own it may not be as awesome as the last two volumes. Still, for acting as a bridge between Wolves of the Calla and The Dark Tower, it does the trick. And then some! Personally, I couldn't put it down.