The Dark Tower is a series of seven books written by American author Stephen King between 1970 and 2004. The series incorporates themes from multiple genres, including fantasy fiction, science fantasy, horror and western elements. They describe a gunslinger's quest toward a tower whose nature the books call both physical and metaphorical. King has described the series as his magnum opus; besides the seven novels that compose the series proper, many of his other books relate to the story, introducing concepts and characters that come into play as the series progresses.
The series was chiefly inspired by the poem "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came" by Robert Browning, whose full text was included in the final volume's appendix. In the preface to the revised 2003 edition of The Gunslinger, King also identifies The Lord of the Rings, the Arthurian Legend, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly as inspirations. He identifies Clint Eastwood's "Man with No Name" character as one of the major inspirations for the protagonist, Roland Deschain. King's style of location names in the series, such as Mid-World, and his development of a unique language abstract to our own, are also influenced by J. R. R. Tolkien's work.
In the story, Roland is the last living member of a knightly order known as gunslingers. The world he lives in is quite different from our own, yet it bears striking similarities to it. Politically organized along the lines of a feudal society, it shares technological and social characteristics with the American Old West, as well as bearing magical powers and the relics of a highly advanced, but long vanished, society. Roland's quest is to find the Dark Tower, a fabled building said to be the nexus of all universes. Roland's world is said to have "moved on," and indeed it appears to be coming apart at the seams — mighty nations have been torn apart by war, entire cities and regions vanish from the face of the earth without a trace, time does not flow in an orderly fashion; even the sun sometimes rises in the north and sets in the east. As the series opens, Roland's motives, goals, and his age are unclear, though later installments shed light on these mysteries.
For a detailed synopsis of the novels, see the relevant article for each book.
Each book in the series was originally published in hardcover format with a number of full-color illustrations spread throughout. Each book contained works by a single illustrator only. Subsequent printings of each book in trade paperback format usually preserve the illustrations in full, except for books I and IV. Pocket-sized paperback reprints contain only black-and-white chapter or section header illustrations.The illustrators who worked on each book are:
The Washington Post's Bill Sheehan called the series "a humane, visionary epic and a true magnum opus" that stands as an "imposing example of pure storytelling," "filled with brilliantly rendered set pieces... cataclysmic encounters and moments of desolating tragedy. The Boston Globe's Erica Noonan said "there's a fascinating world to be discovered in the series" but noted that its epic nature keeps it from being user-friendly. The New York Times' Michael Agger was disappointed with how the series progressed; while he marveled at the "sheer absurdity of [the books'] existence" and complimented King's writing style, he said preparation would have improved the series, stating "King doesn't have the writerly finesse for these sorts of games, and the voices let him down. The San Francisco Chronicle's Michael Berry, however, called the series' early installments "highfalutin hodgepodge" but the ending "a valediction" that "more than delivers on what has been promised."
The series has prompted related non-fiction books by authors besides King. Robin Furth has published the two-volume Stephen King's The Dark Tower: A Concordance, an encyclopedia-style companion to the series that she originally wrote for King's personal use. Bev Vincent has published The Road to The Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King's Magnum Opus, a book containing back story, summary and analysis. Stephen King has endorsed both books.
A prequel to the Dark Tower series, set around the time of the flashbacks in The Gunslinger and Wizard and Glass, has been released by Marvel Comics. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born is plotted by Robin Furth, scripted by Peter David, and illustrated by Jae Lee and Richard Isanove. The project is overseen by King. The first issue of this first arc was released on February 7, 2007. A hardcover volume containing all 7 issues was released on November 7, 2007.
Multiple mock trailers have popped up on Youtube. Also, the official Grand Prize winner of Simon & Schuster's (King's Publisher) American Gunslinger contest , "Roland Meets Brown" , by Robert David Cochrane , can be found there.
In King's 2007 film The Mist, the main character David Drayton can be seen painting a movie poster with Roland in the center, standing in front of a trans-dimensional Ironwood door, with a rose and the dark tower to each side.
In February 2008, Abrams announced that he and Lindelof had begun work on an early draft for the adaptation. However, Lindelof has said that the adaptation is unlikely to get underway until after Lost has finished.
The following is a list of 'specific' connections between books. Note that all Dark Tower books are connected to each other chronologically.