The Guardian recently charged its readers to “stop sneering at fantasy readers,” arguing that fantasy and science fiction should no longer be considered the realm of the geek, the dork and the socially awkward. “The genre has produced some of the most forward-thinking, influential and linguistically advanced literature of the past century,” the Guardian argues, yet writers of this brand of fiction and their fans are often relegated to second tier status.
Though a read almost anything save romance, I started my life as a science fiction and fantasy reader and have not put down the genre since. Frank Herbert’s Dune, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the books of Madeleine L’Engle, Carl Sagan, and Isaac Asimov filled my childhood, and I still love these authors and their contemporaries today. I read JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series with reckless abandon, lining up at the bookstore at midnight to get my copy of the next installment. I’ve recently delved into the work of Philip Dick and found is short stories to be far ahead of their time. And a few years ago my buddy and I listened to Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber series and still talk about those stories today. I couldn’t agree more with the position of The Guardian. The science fiction and fantasy genre are full of great stories.
In this spirit, allow me to come out in defense of a series of books that I believe are simply spectacular: Stephen King’s Dark Tower series.
The story of Roland Deschain and his quest for the Dark Tower, inspired by Robert Browning’s poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, is rich, unique, captivating, and often profound. King has written some outstanding novels (The Stand, The Shining, and It) and some real clunkers, but this, I believe, is his magnum opus, and as fine a story as I have ever read. I’ve read the series twice and am now in the process of listening to it on audio (equally amazing), and each time, the depth and texture of the story become more pronounced and the characters, Roland, Eddie, Suzanna, and Jake, become more and more real to me.
I cannot recommend it highly enough.