Let me first start off by remarking that the Dark Tower series is one of the most remarkable Sci-Fi/Fantasy series that I have ever come across. Perhaps because the author has not typically written fantasy, this series is truly a breath of fresh air to the genre. The Dark Tower series contains many new and original concepts and a host of interesting characters. After a semi-slow beginning in "The Gunslinger" the book builds momentum and creativity throughout the second book and, IMHO, peaks at the tail end of book 3 and the beginning of book 4, at the height of its creativity and suspense. Books 2-5 are all very solid and are amongst the best fantasy stories I have read. However, in book 6, I believe that King's series begins to slump a bit under its own weight. By this final book, the unusual characters and novel bits of twisted creativity that were the halmark of this series have lost most of their luster. Roland's band of unlikely fellows increasingly display more and more characteristics of "stock fantasy characters", present within innumerable (and forgettable) fantasy novels. Increasingly, the gunslingers also draw upon classic means of resolving the obstacles they encounter, and the overall tone of the book becomes that of a relentless grind to the finish. Also, the rather odd (and somewhat arrogant) device of the author appearing in his own fantasy novel is overplayed far too much in the 6 & 7th books and really is only very detrimental to the overall storyline. These qualms aside, the Dark Tower series itself is truly remarkable - and if you have made it this far in the tale, you will of course continue through to the end. I will also echo the sentiment of other reviewers and say that if you are satisfied with the sugar-coated ending before the 'coda', by all means stop. But chances are, if you have followed the dusty trails of Roland in his journey thus far, you will be much more satisfied (as I was) with the "real" ending.
I have very much enjoyed R.R. Martin's previous books in this series, and while this book still maintains some of the charm that the former ones did, it plods on at a frustratingly slow pace. I will also stand in with the people who have previously said that the new reader is just fine. I liked Roy's vocal range, but I have no particular problem with the new reader either. My real problem with this novel isn't that it is "only half a book" or that some "favorite characters" have been eliminated in book three, it is simply that the plot lines keep on fracturing and unraveling the further you proceed. All of the characters are cut away from one another and off on their own agendas in this book and so not only do we have to have seperate text for each individual character that we were originally introduced to in the first books (and there were plenty), but new characters are introduced as well - requiring more and more text. As the story proceeds, nothing is resolved and instead the loose ends just continue to multiply. In the end, one is left with a little bit of the feeling that while 31 hours have passed, nothing much has really happened. It reminds me of Robert Jordan's work, and I worry that we will get another 4 gigantic books down the line and still be no where near a finish.
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