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Song of Susannah (The Dark Tower, Book 6) by…
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Song of Susannah (The Dark Tower, Book 6) (edition 2006)

by Stephen King, Darrel Anderson (Illustrator)

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7,43596471 (3.88)56
Member:BShine
Title:Song of Susannah (The Dark Tower, Book 6)
Authors:Stephen King
Other authors:Darrel Anderson (Illustrator)
Info:Pocket (2006), Mass Market Paperback, 560 pages
Collections:Your library, Favorites
Rating:*****
Tags:fantasy, Dark Tower

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Song Of Susannah by Stephen King

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Someone -- I forget who, and it may be several someones, the way ideas like this get spread -- has observed that the current proliferation of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction is more or less exactly contemporaneous with the entry of millions of Baby Boomers into their retirement years, their golden years, the years in which previous generations been put out to pasture to enjoy their remaining years in contemplative peace (if they're lucky) before going gently -- or not -- into that good night. The Boomers are fighting it like never before, of course. And so, taking the observation about the spate of fictional apocalypses a little further, it represents the Boomers' collective freak-out that they, too, might die someday, and this an expression of their inability to imagine the world moving on without them. Apres nous, le deluge.

Increasingly, this is how the Dark Tower series is looking to me. For all that the first novel. The Gunslinger, was written when King was a very young man (just 19 years old), the series as a whole, and especially Song of Susannah (I haven't read the final book yet, obviously), feels like King having a vast and rather elegant freak out of his very own: not just "the" world but all the worlds are disintegrating, as they have been practically forever* but the horrible and final end is going to happen now. Unless the ka-tet -- Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy -- can reach the Dark Tower in time and do something as yet unknown there to stop it all from falling apart.

That's all pretty standard fantasy/quest novel stuff. What makes this feel like a giant Baby Boomer freak-out to me is what King, the king of all Baby Boomer pop fictioneers**, has done in this novel in particular -- namely, writing himself and his obsessions right into the narrative. Yes, this includes the blue Dodge Caravan that famously struck and could have killed him in June of 1999, and which famously prompted him to finally finish this series lest he George R.R. Martin us and leave it unfinished forever due to his finally finding a bucket to kick as most of us suspect Martin is probably going to do with A Song of Ice and Fire. Whereas in previous Dark Tower novels King ingeniously tied a lot of his most beloved stories together and made them into satellite/spin-offs of his grand DT mythos, here he has made himself all but an early stand-in for the Tower, the Fisher King whom Eddie and Roland must seek out, query and assist in order to further their own quest. The closer they get, the better they feel. Everything seems wonderful, even the clouds are more beautiful, and they start wondering if King is really just a man at all.

I mean, check out how they speak of him as they approach:

"Is he immortal, do you think? Because I've seen much in my years, and heard rumors of much more, but never of a man or woman who lived forever." "I don't think he needs to be immortal. I think all he needs to do is write the right story. Because some stories do live forever."

Excuse me while I discreetly retch just a little.***

Anyway, Song of Susannah and all of its tying in is all kind of impressive, as technical achievements go, but it's also all a bit twee. My ribs are already bruised and sore from all of the digs they've taken in the hundreds of pages of DT I've already read. This time King's elbow drew blood. Dude, pop culture and literary references are fun to tease out and play detective over, but not when the fun of figuring them out for myself is taken away. And an overwhelmingly self-indulgent, explicit self-portrait of the author, however tongue-in-cheek, taking such prominence in a story just makes it all that much worse.

I would really like to visit the universe next door, where King's magnum opus went through the hands of a really serious editor who was committed into making these books the real towering achievements they could have and should have been. In that universe, these stonkingly amazing characters are allowed to be themselves, to tease out or create meaning from the world(s) around them, to discover what they needed to do and the tools they need to do it organically and never once descend into that most annoying of all hack fictional tropes of wondering if they are characters in a novel. In that universe, these books vibrate in glory on their own merits entirely and become cultural touchstones on the order of, well, on the order of all of the works King so desperately wants them compared to that he all but shouts every time he ganks something from one of them "See how I referenced the Wizard of Oz here you guys, isn't that cool?" "Hey look, Magnificent Seven!" "Dudes! JFK was totally a Gunslinger. You guys, you guys, JFK."****

As it is, I appear to be stuck in this one, where true greatness is buried in cruft. The greatness is so very great that it shines through the cruft in a lot of places, but buried it remains. I know a lot of people who love these books so much that they read them over and over and over again and find new wonders to behold every time, on the order of how I keep finding new ways to enjoy Lord of the Rings and The Anubis Gates and Middlemarch and all of the oeuvres of Philip K. Dick and Joseph Conrad and Gene Wolfe. And bully for them, I say.

But I'm pretty sure that once I've finally finished these books, and I have but one left to go, now, I'm never going to want to revisit these universes again.

My ribs may never fully heal.

*But, as Susannah's latest alternate personality informs her, men had managed to shore everything up when magic left the world by building machines to do the work of magic and spells, assuming that there would always be men like themselves around to keep the machines, and thus the universe, going. Foolishly, of course; in King's as in so many universes, man is only a pale and crappy imitation of God, whose creations never last and are tainted by original sin and a lot of other craptrap. I mean claptrap. Or do I? For all that King has Roland asserting that he doesn't believe in any gods, we're still very much in King's famous medieval morality play in genre fiction's clothes, here.

**I, at least, can think of no other novelist of his generation who has so thoroughly woven that generation's pop and high cultural tropes into his work. He is famous for larding up his work with references to Boomer-era music (in which his taste is impeccable, if he can be forgiven by Beatles haters like myself for his overwhelming adoration of their stuff), in particular (check out EssJay's fantastic Stephen King playlist over at Insatiable Booksluts and remember this is just a taste of what he's done).

***I must say, though, as "writer meets his characters in 'real life'" scenes go, this one isn't bad. It contains a nice excursis on how characters come to be, bubbling up from the writer's psyche as if they were real beings with pasts and identities and goals and longings and regrets, for whom the writer feels like a mere amanuensis. But this emphasized for me, of course, what a shame it is that King never felt he could trust his characters to enact his plots, even though both elements are coming from the same place. That said, though, it was more than a little amusing to see King treating himself-as-character the same way he treats all of his other characters. Tee hee.

****Which, I get it. JFK's assassination was a shocking and transformative event that traumatized everybody who was alive then. It was a turning point in history. It may have changed our world forever. But I'm sick to my eyeballs of being reminded of that all of the time. Sooner or later, every Boomer artist has his or her say about it to borrow its importance to make his or her art that much more important. The effect of this, though, is not to enshrine this event and its effects on American life, but to cheapen it. And, for me at least, JFK's assassination is about as cheapened as a historical event could possibly get (don't even get me started about all the conspiracy theories and whatnot about it. Enough already, people). I could very gladly live out the rest of my life without ever encountering it in novel, film or art exhibit ever again. Which is to say that I have absolutely zero plans to read King's 11/22/63. I'm pretty sure that if there is a Hell and I wind up going there, Bob Dylan will be reading aloud from its pages to me for all eternity, and hey, why allow for spoilerage? ( )
  KateSherrod | Aug 1, 2016 |
Being one of my favorites of the series, it’s ironic since Savannah is my least favorite character. This is a type of lead-in book to the last one, the big bang finale we all feel is coming book. The book may not solve many riddles of the series but it’s still exciting. All kinds of unsettling things go down, and the story is just fascinating urgency builds and stakes heat up.

There are so many mixed reactions on King inserting himself (or a version of himself anyway) into his books. Some call it egotistical, some call it cheap. I call it none of these things. It’s an unusual gesture, twisted, and while the idea holds flaws, I like it. The whole series remains meshed with the Kingverse; I still get chills remembering he saw IT staring back at him.

It took such a long chunk of his life to write this series, the story swimming around in his head years in between putting it down, inventing legend. It also strikes me that King is writing a younger version of himself when he was an addict to more than writing and that they, in the book, appear to him during these delusional years.
For much of the book, the Ka-tet is divided into twos of a sort.

As always Roland is an amazing hero to journey with. Eddie’s humor is welcome to break up the breakneck speed. Jake is one of the best again, it’s different with him because the reader has been able to watch him grow up and mature not only as a gunslinger but as a boy growing closer to becoming a man. Savannah is always battling some inner struggle – it makes sense she is the one to battle an inner demon. Father Callahan makes a return appearance.

It’s definitely a book that’s leading to the final one. The stakes are higher, the bar is raised, tension is amped. Onward, forward, whatever, to the finish line. Most Dark Tower fans will likely enjoy Song of Susannah.
( )
  ErinPaperbackstash | Jun 14, 2016 |
I am probably a minority here when I say that I don't care for this series. I tried it once before and thought I would give it another go; still nothing. Stephen Kings's stand alone books are outstanding but I just can't get into these. The scariest part of the book? King's journal entry reference to his dream regarding the date 6/19/1999. That gave me more chills than anything in the entire book. ( )
  Carol420 | May 31, 2016 |
Taking place mainly in our world (New York City and East Stoneham, Maine), this book picks up where Wolves of the Calla left off, with the ka-tet employing the help of the Manni to open the magic door inside Doorway Cave. The ka-tet are split up by the magic door, or perhaps ka, and sent to different 'wheres' and 'whens' in order to accomplish several essential goals pertaining to their quest towards the mysterious Dark Tower.

Susannah Dean is partially trapped in her own mind by Mia, the former demon and now very-pregnant mortal woman who had taken control of her body shortly after the final battle in Wolves of the Calla. Susannah and Mia, with their shared body mostly under the control of Mia, escape to New York of 1999 via the magic door in Doorway Cave with the help of Black Thirteen. Mia tells Susannah she has made a Faustian deal with the Man in Black, also known as Walter, to surrender her demonic immortality in exchange for being able to produce a child. Technically speaking, however, this child is the biological descendant of Susannah Dean and the gunslinger, Roland. The Gunslinger's 'seed' was passed to Susannah through an Elemental who had sex with both. The technical parentage of her child matters little to Mia, though, because The Crimson King has further promised her that she will have sole charge of raising the child, Mordred, for the first part of his life - the time before the critical destiny the Crimson King foresees for the child comes to pass. All Mia must do now is bring Susannah to the Dixie Pig restaurant to give birth to the child under the care of the Crimson King's men.

Jake, Oy, and Father Callahan follow Susannah to the New York City of 1999 in order to save Susannah from the danger Mia has put her in by delivering her into the custody of the Crimson King's henchmen. In addition, the ka-tet fear the danger posed to Susannah by the child itself; still unaware of the biological origins of this child, the ka-tet believe that it may be demonic in some way and may have the ability to turn on and harm its mother or mothers. While in New York, Jake and Callahan also hide Black Thirteen in a locker in the World Trade Center. It is implied in the text that Black Thirteen will be destroyed when the towers fall in the September 11, 2001 attacks.

While Susannah, Jake, and Callahan are in New York, Roland and Eddie Dean are sent by the magic doorway to Maine in 1977, with the goal of securing the ownership of a vacant lot in New York from its current owner, a man named Calvin Tower (who first appears in The Waste Lands as the proprietor of The Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind, where he sells Jake a copy of Charlie the Choo-Choo, a book that has turned out to be important to the ka-tet's quest). The gunslingers have seen and felt the power of a rose that is located in the vacant lot and suspect it to be some sort of secondary hub to the universe, or possibly even a representation of the Dark Tower itself. The ka-tet believe that the Tower itself is linked to the rose and will be harmed (or fall) if the rose is harmed, the reason for this being the Dark Tower and the Rose are somehow connected, the two images very similar in the series. Calvin Tower is in hiding in Maine from Enrico Balazar's men (see The Drawing of the Three), who have almost succeeded in strong-arming him into selling them the lot. Tower has so far resisted, with the help of Eddie Dean (see Wolves of the Calla). Upon their arrival in Maine, the gunslingers find themselves thrown into an ambush by these same men, headed by Jack Andolini. Balazar's men were tipped off on Roland and Eddie's potential whereabouts by Mia, who hoped that they would dispose of the people she perceived as threats to her child. Roland and Eddie escape this onslaught with the help of a crafty local man, John Cullum, who they deem to be a savior put in their path through the machinations of ka.

After accomplishing their primary goal, the deeding of the vacant lot to the Tet Corporation, Roland and Eddie learn of the nearby location of Stephen King's home. They are familiar with the author's name after coming into possession of a copy of his novel 'Salem's Lot in the Calla, and they decide to pay him a visit. King's presence, and his relationship to the Dark Tower, cause the very reality surrounding his Maine town to become "thin". Strange creatures called "walk-ins" begin emerging and plaguing the community. The author is unaware of this and has never seen one, though most of the walk-ins have been appearing on his own street. During their visit to him, the Gunslinger hypnotizes King and finds out that King is not a god, but rather a medium for the story of the Dark Tower to transmit itself through. Roland also implants in King the suggestion to restart his efforts in writing the Dark Tower series, which he has abandoned of late, claiming that there are major forces involved that are trying to prevent him from finishing it. The ka-tet are convinced that the success of their quest itself depends on King's writing about it through the story.

Meanwhile, in New York, Jake and Father Callahan prepare to launch an assault on the Dixie Pig, where Susannah is being held by the soldiers of The Crimson King. Their discovery of the scrimshaw turtle that Susannah has left behind for them gives them a faint hope that they might succeed, though Jake is filled with a strong sense of dread and neither Jake nor Callahan particularly expects to leave the place alive. The book ends with Jake and Callahan entering with weapons raised. As a postscriptum, the reader becomes familiar with the diary of Stephen King the character which encompasses the period from 1977 to 1999. It is said that the character, Stephen King, dies on June 20, 1999.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
One thing that is good and bad about this series is that each book is completely different. Much of the time I'm thinking, "what does this have to do with the quest for the Dark Tower", but most of the time it is interesting. I enjoyed this book, but like the past few books, it's purpose is unclear. Certain events move the story along, but most of it goes in their own direction. A lot of information is given out that is most likely relevant to the main story and hopefully it will be more clear in the last book. There seems to also be a lot more connections with Stephen King's other books in this one, possibly due to the addition of an unusual character (trying to avoid any spoilers). I like this series for what it is. It's not a typical fantasy/SF book. In its wacky way, it is more realistic. You are following around these characters in multiple different scenarios (many not related to a dark tower), and the detail is so great I feel like really know them. It seems realistic because there are many things that take us off our quest in life, whether big or small diversions. Though in a book setting it is starting to drag on and I'm looking forward to the ending of this series. ( )
  renbedell | Feb 11, 2016 |
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Reading "Song of Susannah," the penultimate novel in Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series, is rather like taking on the third leg of a triathlon.
added by stephmo | editBoston Globe, Erica Noonan (Jul 1, 2004)
 
It's no coincidence that Stephen King began the final sprint of his marathon "Dark Tower" epic shortly after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. What's now clear -- and certainly wasn't when some of us read "The Gunslinger," the first story in the sequence, more than 25 years ago -- is that this saga is more than just an unlikely mishmash of spaghetti Western, Arthurian high fantasy and post-apocalyptic sci-fi.
 
Reviewing the fifth volume of Stephen King's Dark Tower sequence, Wolves of the Calla, for this paper I suggested that this probably wasn't the best place for new readers to begin. Volume Six, Song of Susannah, however, almost works as a stand-alone novel, and is highly recommended for readers who enjoy the more metafictional side of King's oeuvre, and especially those who have been waiting for something along the lines of his greatest novel to date, Hearts in Atlantis.
added by stephmo | editThe Independent, Matt Thorne (Jun 6, 2004)
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stephen Kingprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anderson, DarrelIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bergner, WulfTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"Go then. There are other worlds than these."

John "Jake" Chambers
"I am a maid of constant sorrow

I've seen trouble all my days
All through the world I'm bound to ramble

I have no friends to show my way..."

Traditional
"Fair is whatever God wants to do."

Leif Enger

Peace Like a River
Dedication
For Tabby, who knew when it was done.
First words
How long will the magic stay?
Quotations
Lemons.
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Book description
Taking place mainly in our world (New York City and East Stoneham, Maine), this book picks up where Wolves of the Calla left off, with the ka-tet employing the help of the Manni to open the magic door inside Doorway Cave. The ka-tet are split up by the magic door, or perhaps ka, and sent to different 'wheres' and 'whens' in order to accomplish several essential goals pertaining to their quest towards the mysterious Dark Tower.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743254554, Paperback)

Set in a world of extraordinary circumstances, filled with stunning visual imagery and unforgettable characters, The Dark Tower series is unlike anything you have ever read. Here is the penultimate installment.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:05 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Stephen King The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah with 10 full-color illustrations by Darrel Anderson 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. For another, it is inhabited by the author of a novel called 'Salem's Lot, a writer who turns out to be as shocked by them as they are by him. 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).… (more)

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