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Old September 10 2013, 05:25 PM   #1
DigificWriter
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Dark Tower/Tie-Ins Reading Order Help

Hi, all. Inspired by a panel I attended this past weekend at the Salt Lake Comic-Con, I'm exploring the possibility of delving back into - and finishing - Stephen King's epic The Dark Tower, while also reading all of the major connected tie-in novels. However, I've been having a hard time figuring out exactly in which order I ought to read everything in order to get the absolute most out of the overall tapestry of the story, and thought I'd get some help - and opinions - from you guys.

I've already identified this tentative reading order, but am not sure how to flesh it out:
The Talisman
It
The Eyes of the Dragon
The Gunslinger (Revised Edition)
The Drawing of the Three
The Waste Lands
Rose Madder
The Stand (Revised and Uncut Edition)
Wizard and Glass
The Wind Through the Keyhole
Salem's Lot
The Wolves of the Calla
The Song of Susannah
Black House
The Dark Tower

I still need to figure out where to place Bag of Bones, Desperation, Everything's Eventual, From a Buick 8, Hearts in Atlantis, Insomnia, The Regulators, and Ur, so any help would be greatly appreciated.
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Old September 10 2013, 06:12 PM   #2
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Re: Dark Tower/Tie-Ins Reading Order Help

Read 'em in the order they were written in. That's what the rest of the world did. The only exception might be Wind in the Keyhole, because it's a genuine prequel. For the rest, the order of publication is just fine.
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Old September 10 2013, 07:01 PM   #3
Brendan Moody
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Re: Dark Tower/Tie-Ins Reading Order Help

There really isn't much of an "overall tapestry of the story" outside the main Dark Tower books, just a lot of winking allusions and thematic parallels. But for full effect:

Read Hearts in Atlantis and "Ur," in that order, somewhere between The Wind Through the Keyhole and Wolves of the Calla. Read "Everything's Eventual" and From a Buick 8 somewhere after Wolves of the Calla.

Insomnia is a weird one: on its own terms it looks pivotal, but King ended up changing his ideas and retconning Insomnia into more of a sideline. Read it somewhere after The Waste Lands and before The Dark Tower. Bag of Bones doesn't have much to do with the Dark Tower, but it incidentally gives away an aspect of the ending of Insomnia, so it belongs after Insomnia, and before Song of Susannah.

I'd probably recommend sticking all six of the above tie-ins together, between Wolves of the Calla and Song of Susannah, and adding Black House there, rather than after Song of Susannah. That gives a nice mix of stuff that's comparatively important and stuff that's tangential, and increases the sense of momentousness surrounding the main story.

Desperation and The Regulators have less to do with the overall story than anything else on your list. They're also pretty bad on their own merits. But if you want to include them, I'd put them somewhere early, before The Wind Through the Keyhole, and together (in either order) because of their own parallel structure.
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Old September 10 2013, 08:45 PM   #4
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Re: Dark Tower/Tie-Ins Reading Order Help

@Brendan Moody: Thanks for the suggestions.

BTW, I realized that I left The Mist off of my list, but want to read it as well, so where do you think I ought to put it?

Regarding Insomnia, I've seen different opinions as to whether or not it's actually been rendered as inconsequential as King's comments would suggest that it has.

As for Desperation and The Regulators, they're listed on Wikipedia as having major connections to the core DT series, which is why I would like to read them.
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Old September 10 2013, 09:12 PM   #5
Brendan Moody
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Re: Dark Tower/Tie-Ins Reading Order Help

"The Mist" is another one where it really doesn't matter; some similar plot devices have led some people to connect it to the Dark Tower, but there's nothing explicitly linking the two. You could stick it near Bag of Bones and the last twomain series books, since they all use some of the same (real-world) settings.

It's not that Insomnia is inconsequential. It's very relevant to the Dark Tower series in theme and world-building. In fact, it's probably the single most important tie-in, though Hearts in Atlantis is another strong contender for that title. But if you take it as absolute gospel, you're going to have expectations for the final book that won't be met.

The Wikipedia article isn't the best guide; a lot of it is people treating their own speculations as fact and putting stuff in the wrong section. The Regulators and Desperation honestly have nothing to do with the Dark Tower except a few pieces of fantasy language and world-building that King reused in rather different ways. But if you want to include it, by all means do so; the strong connections between the two are a kind of miniature version of the Dark Tower multiverse anyway.

...Now I want to reread all this stuff.
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Old September 10 2013, 09:27 PM   #6
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Re: Dark Tower/Tie-Ins Reading Order Help

I think I'll put The Mist immediately before Song of Susannah (since I understand that the setting of The Mist, Bridgton, Maine, shows up in SoS).

As I waited for people to reply, I started doing some additional research, and am now trying to decide whether or not to add the following novels to my reading list:
Cell
11/22/63
Joe Hill's NOS4A2
The Long Walk

Thoughts on adding them?

What about suggestions for where they would best fit if I DID add them?
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Old September 10 2013, 09:31 PM   #7
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Re: Dark Tower/Tie-Ins Reading Order Help

Out of curiosity I read a bit about the Dark Tower premise after seeing this thread. It sounds like

That's remarkably similar to a concept I had a month or so ago, about a scifi show that exists in its own past.
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Old September 10 2013, 10:13 PM   #8
Brendan Moody
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Re: Dark Tower/Tie-Ins Reading Order Help

Cell
11/22/63
Joe Hill's NOS4A2
The Long Walk
The thing is that there are least four major types of connections within Stephen King's fiction. There are the Dark Tower crossovers, the non-Dark Tower crossovers, the geographical coincidences, and the similar images. Not all of it is even intentional, but between them, virtually everything King has ever written can be dragged into the Dark Tower saga by playing Six Degrees of Separation. I just thought of a completely random King title-- Dolores Claiborne-- and managed to tie it into the Dark Tower. (For the morbidly curious, the chain is Dolores Claiborne -- Gerald's Game -- Needful Things -- "The Library Policeman" -- Misery - It-- Dark Tower.)

You could certainly read any of those four books, but you're not going to find anything to do with the Dark Tower story in The Long Walk or 11/22/63, and there will only be the briefest of allusions in Cell and NOS4A2. I think it would probably be better to either leave the list as it is, or blow it wide open and read everything King (and now Hill, who has started playing the same game) has ever written.
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Old September 11 2013, 02:10 AM   #9
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Re: Dark Tower/Tie-Ins Reading Order Help

11/22/63 does reference It, but as far as i can remember it has no connection to The Dark Tower series.
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Old September 11 2013, 02:45 AM   #10
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Re: Dark Tower/Tie-Ins Reading Order Help

This just reminds me how disappointing I found the ending of Dark Tower, particularly after it had been spoken of as the culmination of all his other novels. I expected Randall Flagg and It/The Beast and the Crimson King to be MUCH more important to the story...
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Old September 11 2013, 03:48 AM   #11
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Re: Dark Tower/Tie-Ins Reading Order Help

As people here have mentioned, you can tie most of King's work into the Dark Tower, and that is kind of the thematic point of the series. But really, you don't need to. I have read all of King's seventies and eighties works and very little of what came afterward but I still knew enough to "get" the references in the series.

The only thing you need to read in order is the Dark Tower series itself. Nothing in the series gives away major plot points of the other novels and it would probably be just as cool to read The Stand or Salem's Lot after finishing DT. Those of us who grew up in the seventies and eighties had to wait years for the series to finish but I think it would be a lot of fun to read all seven (or eight) books in order.
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Old September 11 2013, 05:15 AM   #12
DigificWriter
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Re: Dark Tower/Tie-Ins Reading Order Help

theenglish wrote: View Post
As people here have mentioned, you can tie most of King's work into the Dark Tower, and that is kind of the thematic point of the series. But really, you don't need to. I have read all of King's seventies and eighties works and very little of what came afterward but I still knew enough to "get" the references in the series.

The only thing you need to read in order is the Dark Tower series itself. Nothing in the series gives away major plot points of the other novels and it would probably be just as cool to read The Stand or Salem's Lot after finishing DT. Those of us who grew up in the seventies and eighties had to wait years for the series to finish but I think it would be a lot of fun to read all seven (or eight) books in order.
I slightly disagree, and here's why:

For me, what King was doing in interweaving much of his non-TDT writings with the 8 core TDT novels is/was exactly the same thing that J.R.R. Tolkien did with his Middle-Earth writings: he was creating a complex, over-arching mythos, of which the 8 TDT novels are both the signature 'spine' as well as, to quote the late Raynar Unwin, 'just the tip of the iceberg', which is why I want to read the 24 novels I've identified.

Having said that, though, I sat down and came to the conclusion that 7 of those 24 novels could be very easily excised while still maintaining the overall 'tapestry' of King's TDT mythos, which would leave you with the following list:
The Talisman
It
The Eyes of the Dragon
The Gunslinger (Revised)
The Drawing of the Three
The Waste Lands
The Stand (Uncut)
Wizard and Glass
The Wind Through the Keyhole
Hearts in Atlantis
Salem's Lot
Wolves of the Calla
Everything's Eventual
Black House
Insomnia
Song of Susannah
The Dark Tower

Since I've already read The Talisman, Black, House, and the first four of the core TDT novels once, which approach do you guys think I should take in reading the remainder of the series in order to get the fullest effect, keeping in mind this idea that, while the 8 core novels do stand on their own, they're 'just the tip of the iceberg' when it comes to King's wider TDT mythology as I've already identified it?
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Old September 12 2013, 05:36 PM   #13
Brendan Moody
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Re: Dark Tower/Tie-Ins Reading Order Help

theenglish wrote: View Post
Nothing in the series gives away major plot points of the other novels
Not major plot points necessarily, but some of the books read very differently if you've read the Dark Tower vs. if you haven't. Hearts in Atlantis, for example-- readers of Wolves of the Calla will recognize the antagonists, and those who aren't there yet won't. Or 'Salem's Lot-- you're going to know a lot about the basic plot and the character of Father Callahan if you've finished the Dark Tower first.

The difference between King and Tolkien is that while Tolkien consciously planned each piece of Middle-Earth writing (bar The Hobbit) as part of an internally-consistent mythic cycle, King's design is much more haphazard, and if you're expecting anything like the degree of common theme, worldbuilding, and tone you get in Tolkien, you'll be disappointed. 'Salem's Lot as originally conceived had nothing to do with the Dark Tower, so when you read it you're not going to find any connections to the series as you know it. It'll only be when you get to Wolves of the Calla that you understand how it ties in, to the extent that it does. Same for "Everything's Eventual," except it only connects in the final Dark Tower book. It has a couple very loose metaphysical connections to the Dark Tower, but not much else-- I don't know if King had planned those in advance either.

Anyway, I'd say your current list looks reasonable. It'll be a slow start in terms of "mythos" elements, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I assume you're planning to read (or reread) "The Little Sisters of Eluria" somewhere in there as well. You could honestly drop It without losing much (as far as the tapestry-- it's a fine novel on its own merits, although a little peculiar in many ways), but the rest is pretty strongly linked. (Not so much The Talisman unto itself, but Black House retroactively draws it into the tapestry.)
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Old September 12 2013, 05:47 PM   #14
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Re: Dark Tower/Tie-Ins Reading Order Help

Having read The Talisman, I consider it to be part of the wider 'tapestry' of the TDT mythology because it very much deals with the overall thematic schema of what King was exploring with regards to alternate worlds and the inter-connectivity between them.
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Last edited by DigificWriter; September 12 2013 at 06:19 PM.
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Old September 13 2013, 09:24 AM   #15
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Re: Dark Tower/Tie-Ins Reading Order Help

. Aren't there comics as well?
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