Home > Literature, Reviews > Review of Song of Susannah by Stephen King

Review of Song of Susannah by Stephen King

I've been looking out for a copy – a cheap copy, that is – of Song of Susannah since I read the previous Dark Tower book, Wolves of the Calla, a few months ago. I almost bought the American import version from Forbidden Planet shortly after I moved to London. Then I changed my mind and thought I'd get it anyway; I haven't seen that edition since. Because of Mr King's popularity it's difficult to get a good price for these books on ebay. Then Song came out in paperback last month and the cheapest deal (I don't have a lot of disposable income – poor me (d'you see what I did there?)) seemed to be £2 off in Borders. Again I ummed and ahhed. And then – what do you know? – it was Tescue to the resco once more and I picked up a new copy for £3.74.

OK, review then.

It's a decent enough book.

Should I say more?

Yeah, go on then.

Song of Susannah feels too short. Again it has the cliffhanger ending of The Waste Lands, but even if it contained the aftermath of the birth of Susannah/Mia's baby it would feel too short. Mind you, I only started reading it a few days ago and a good fantasy novel really ought to take at least fortnight to read.

As I said, it is a decent read. King's style relies a lot on free indirect discourse (a item of terminology that was possibly the only useful thing I learnt from my creative writing degree) – the third person narrative expresses the thoughts and speech patterns of the view point characters. In fact it reflects the speech patterns of minor characters as well (there's probably some nomenclature to describe that, but I don't know what it is). As a result the text is colloquial and diverse and very readable, and just the tiniest bit annoying – smug and pretentious.

The distinctive feature of this novel is its über-self-referential quality. Stephen King becomes a character in his own book; The Dark Tower is a fictional story within The Dark Tower. It also contains that old circular time-travel cliché wherein the characters cause something to happen and are only able to do so because they've done so. If you see what I mean. Again, the word that comes to mind is pretentious; the other word is juvenile. Interestingly, King, in other bits of the book, talks about being a teenager, about always having felt like one. Song of Susannah demonstrates that: most writers would surely dismiss such a plot.

Having said all that, it seems to work – it's readable, it works within the overall plot of The Dark Tower, King paints himself as a flawed character. Pretention isn't too bad in small doses.

So, come July, it's on to the slightly unfortunately entitled The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower.

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Categories: Literature, Reviews
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