Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Dark Tower: A Suggested Reading Order for the (Extended) Series

The Wind Through the Keyhole is a mere two weeks away, and with it I'm sure there will come a renewed interest in the overall Dark Tower series.

Prompted partly by that, and partly by a conversation I had on Facebook, I decided to take a stab at creating a Suggested-By-Bryant list of what order the Dark Tower books ought to be read in.  In order to do that, I first had to figure out which books belong on the list and which don't.  It might seem at first glance that that list would be cut-and-dried, but remember, there are several books outside of the series that are rather essential to the overall tale.  I always wondered, for example, how anyone who read Book VII without the benefit of having read Insomnia managed to have any grasp at all on what was going on with Patrick Danville.  But apparently, people did.

In any case, I've taken a stab at crafting a list of what any true Dark Tower fan needs to read in order to get the full benefit of the series, along with some justifications of why I've placed them in the order I've placed them in.

Let's get started. #1 seems obvious.
  

#1 -- The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger (2004 revised edition)




I mean, really, where would you start other than at the beginning?


I was tempted to suggest that you begin with the original version, and then read the revised version at some later date, but as I was typing away attempting to justify that opinion, I realized it simply didn't hold up.  In fact, it wouldn't quite work if you read the series that way, because certain things in the original version contradict certain other things elsewhere in the series.  This, of course, was part of the reason why King revised the novel.

So it's really a no-brainer: start with the first novel in the series, and make sure it's the revised version.

By the way, there are apparently people who don't like The Gunslinger, and there are even people who recommend that you skip it altogether and begin by reading the second book in the series.

Those people are not to be heeded.  You HAVE to read The Gunslinger, and you have to read it first.  If you should find yourself not enjoying it very much, just stick with it.  It's relatively brief, and you'll be done with it before you know it.  Then, move on to the second book, and if you get a hundred pages into it and still aren't enjoying it, then quit reading the series, because you will not enjoy anything that comes after it.

#2 -- The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three




Like I said just a moment before, if you get more than about a hundred pages into The Drawing of the Three and aren't enjoying what you're reading, then I would recommend stopping right there.  Odds are, The Dark Tower -- and possibly Stephen King altogether -- are not for you.

Overall, this is one of the best books in the series, though, so I find it quite easy to recommend to people.
  

#3 -- The Stand (uncut edition)

 

Obviously, this novel is not part of the main series, and it was not evident that it was related to the series in any way until well over a decade later.

However, there is a character in the Tower series who also appears in this novel, and I think it's important that when he shows up in the main series, you already know who he is.  With that in mind, I think taking a break between books II and III makes for a good place to slot in The Stand, as well as the other King novel in which that character appeared before he began pestering Roland and company.

And yes, you should read the revised, uncut edition as opposed to the original edition.
  

#4 -- The Eyes of the Dragon

 

  
Without giving anything away in terms of who the character is who crosses over from The Stand, I can just say that he appears here also, and that you will figure it out the second he walks into The Eyes of the Dragon.  This is assuming that you don't already know, of course.

The Eyes of the Dragon is a nice, breezy little fantasy novel, and it makes for a decent shift in tone -- as well as in page count! -- from the dark epic that is The Stand.  Next up:
  

#5 -- The Talisman



  
Written in collaboration with Peter Straub, The Talisman is an epic fantasy novel that introduces a few concepts that would become fairly important to the overall Tower series, although it would not be apparent that they were important for many years after this book's publication. 
   

#6 -- The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands

 

  
This is the favorite novel in the series for a lot of people, and I can see why: it's got a lot of great action, introduces a couple of major new characters, and is just generally awesome.

I'm sure a lot of people will be exasperated by the idea that I'm suggesting you read the first two novels in the series, then delay reading the third by first reading three novels that have only mild tangential connections.  Well, it's a valid response, but trust me: I know what you need.  And I think the sense of time's passage you will gain by taking a break between The Drawing of the Three and The Waste Lands will be of benefit to your enjoyment of the series.
  

#7 --The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass

 

  
Apparently, some Dark Tower fans aren't wild about this book.  I may as well tell you new readers now, so that you'll know in advance: the vast majority of the book consists of a lengthy flashback to a tale from Roland's days as a youthful Gunslinger.  Personally, I find the insights you gain into his character to be indispensable; others seem to disagree, and while I see where they're coming from, I think they're dead wrong; this one of my absolute favorite books in the series.
  

#8 -- 'Salem's Lot

 

  
We now come to the point in the series where it becomes necessary to take an extended break. There are a number of books which are related to the series, several of which are absolutely essential, and all of which provide valuable insights into the concepts at work within the overall tale.

In my mind, it makes sense to take all of these in -- except for the three we dealt with earlier (those were important because they introduce a character who appears in Book III of the series, and also because of certain concepts in one that are mirrored in Book III) -- at once, and there are several reasons to do this.  The most important is that it preserves the experience of reading Books V, VI, and VII of the series as they really ought to be read: back-to-back-to-back.  However, there are also insights, characters, and concepts which appear in most of these ancillary books that will be of benefit to anyone reading books V-VII.

With that in mind, I'm recommending that people read all of these ancillary books more or less in the order they were published.

The first of those is 'Salem's Lot, which introduces a character who will become an important part of the final three books in the series.
  

#9 -- The Mist

 

  
The Mist is a novella which can most easily be found in the collection Skeleton Crew.  It has no explicit connections to the rest of the series, but anyone who has read it might have a better understanding of at least one scene from Book VII.
  
Plus, it's damn good, and not very long.
  

#10 -- It

 

  
I debated not putting this on the list, because -- like The Mist -- it has no explicit connections to the series.  However, there is an important scene toward the end of the novel that includes a character who ... well, that character doesn't appear in the series, but the idea of that character becomes crucially important during Book VI.
  
Additionally, it is possible that a certain character in Book VII is, in fact, a character from It.

This is a very, very long novel, but it's one well worth reading, and while its connections to the Tower series are somewhat brief, they are also important.
  

#11 -- Insomnia

 

  
Another long novel, but this one isn't as long as It, plus it is of vital importance to Book VII of the series.  At least two characters who are important to the series make their first appearances here, and in one scene, a character even has a dream about Roland!

This one is essential.
  

#12 -- Rose Madder

 

  
I may as well tell you: I'm not a fan of this novel.  However, it does feature some mild connections to The Dark Tower (specifically, to Book III), and some concepts that feature into the series.  Also, Stephen King includes it on his official list of books related to the main series.

Who am I to dispute Stephen King?
  

#13 -- Desperation

 

  
This novel has some major echoes in the Dark Tower novella "The Little Sisters of Eluria," and it also informs some of the concepts introduced in the final three books.
  

#14 -- The Regulators

 

  
This novel was published simultaneously with Desperation, and the two of them serve as Twinners of each other (that's a reference to The Talisman).  With that in mind, if you read Desperation you also need to read The Regulators; I tend to think of them as two volumes of the same book.  And yes, Desperation is Vol. 1, simply because that's the one King published under his own name.  (The Regulators was published under his "Richard Bachman" pseudonym, and I figure that if that one was the more "important," it'd be the one to be published under King's name and not Bachman's.)
  



#15 -- "Everything's Eventual"

 

  
This is a short story, which can be found in the collection of the same name, Everything's Eventual.  The story introduces a character who will appear in Book VII.
  

#16 -- Bag of Bones

 

  
I debated leaving this one off the list, but, like Rose Madder, Stephen King says it belongs.

The connections to the series are tenuous, but they are there, and one character from Insomnia puts in a brief appearance. Plus, it's a good novel.
  

#17 -- "The Little Sisters of Eluria"

 
Michael Whelan's artwork from the anthology Legends

  
Well, this one is a no-brainer, because it's a novella about one of Roland's adventures.  It takes place before The Gunslinger, but after the flashback which comprises the bulk of Wizard and Glass.

It's good stuff, and elements of it are of minor importance in Book VI.

By now, you'll be very appreciative of spending a bit more time with Roland.  The novella can most easily be found in Everything's Eventual, but made its original appearance in a collection of novellas titled Legends.
  

#18 -- Hearts In Atlantis

 

  
One of the main characters in this strangely-structured -- but outstanding -- novel will be extremely important in Book VII.
  

#19 -- Black House

 

  
To say this novel -- which is a sequel to The Talisman -- is important to the overall series would be an understatement.
  

#20 -- From a Buick 8

 

  
This is another one I would have omitted from the list if not for the fact that King included it on his.  Its connections are tangential at best.  However, it is a good novel, and relatively short, so you may as well give it a go.
  

#21 -- The Wind Through the Keyhole

 

  
This is an actual Dark Tower novel, so its inclusion is a must.  Chronologically, it takes place between Books IV and V, and I'm going to suggest that it be read immediately prior to Wolves of the Calla.  (As you may or not be aware, this novel was published over eight years after Book VII of the series was published; some people say it's best to read it after you've finished the rest of the series; I leave that decision to you, but personally, I feel it fits in extremely well between IV and V.)


#22 -- The Dark Tower Book V: Wolves of the Calla

 

  
This begins the three-book finale.
  

#23 -- The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah

 

  
This middles the three-book finale.
  

#24 -- The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower

 

  
This concludes the three-book finale.  And a grand conclusion it is.
  

#25 -- The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger


  
I'm going to recommend that you conclude your journey by locating a copy of the original version of the first novel and giving it a look-see.  Perhaps not immediately, although reading it that way will certainly bring up interesting associations when read in conjunction with Book VII...
  

*****

I omitted several titles from the list which I considered including.  These are:

The Tommyknockers:  This novel arguably has an interesting connection to The Talisman, but the connection is brief, and the novel is otherwise unrelated to the series.

Needful Things and Storm of the Century:  These books -- one of which (Storm) is a screenplay for the movie of the same name -- could theoretically be said to feature characters who (a) are the same character who appears in several other King novels, including several in the Tower series or (b) are related to that character.  However, the connections are not even implied; they are only possible if you choose to look at them in that way.  King has never said that they are, and really, until he does, there is no reason to include these two stories.

The Plant: Zenith Rising:  This serial novel is (a) not in print and (b) incomplete.  That's reason enough to leave it off.  The reason to put it on is that one character seems to be using a language that is used in certain part of the Tower series,but is most prominently used in Desperation.

Dreamcatcher:  The only connection here is that the novel is arguably set in the same reality as It.  That's not much of a connection.  Plus?  Not a very good novel.

11/22/63:  King has said this book is not related to the Tower books, but I'm convinced that it is.  You should listen to Stephen King, but either way, you should read this novel, because it's a good one.

And, finally, I debated listing the Marvel Comics Dark Tower graphic novels at the end, but that opened up a can of worms that I'm not currently prepared to address.  Since they are not written by King, I feel fine in excluding them from this particular conversation.

*****

I hope this was of some use to you!  Happy reading!





99 comments:

  1. Well, not bad. The only thing I'd change is to good naturedly disagree on the ordering of Desperation and Regulators. I'm sorry, I'm just convinced the R should go before the D in this case.

    I believe you're right when you say it's a two part work, making it one of the few multi-part stories King has devoted to an essentially non-Tower character (i.e. Tak, and Pennywise didn't merit such treatment? What gives?)I just think that Regulators is part one and Desperation the finale. If I had to give justification for the ordering it would be this, the action sequences in Regulators act as a natural contrast to the more sedate tone and pace of Desperation.

    After non-stop opening action in the first act the audience will be ready to settle in and hear the rest of the story.

    I also believe Tak is the same character in both stories which brings me to my second point for order justification. If you look at Tak as the same character in both books, his actions in Desperation begin to make more sense, he's looking for Revenge.

    Still, that's just me.

    Going back the Tower novels. I got a confession to make. Having had a chance to pour over the revised gunslinger I have to say the new pacing and rhythm of the new edition strikes me, at least, as clunky compared to the 81.

    Sorry.

    I will say though that I'm impressed that you managed to dig up so many King connections from just one film. I was only aware of Harris.

    I feel I should warn you, the film is by Alex Cox (director of Repo Man, with Harry Dean Stanton, hey I found a connection!) and the film is about the Nicuraguan 80s scandal and some footage from it is shown at the end. Just a heads up.

    One element "Walker" has with the Tower Mythos is the use of deliberate anachronisms and that I leave you to find out.

    ChrisC

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  2. Yeah, I'd imagine it works either way you read "Desperation" and "The Regulators."

    You know, I've never seen "Repo Man." Seems like I probably ought to have by now...

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  3. I recently read the Fourth Edition of Rocky Wood's "Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished," and it reminded me of a few titles I omitted from the list and should not have. The most notable of these is undoubtedly the short story "Ur," which has Low Men as characters.

    Also worthy of mention: "Lisey's Story," in which a major character makes reference to Discordia, and the short story "The Reploids" which is arguably about the walk-in happenings which also appear in "Song of Susannah."

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  4. Hmmm. after I am done rereading Cell and Lisey's Story (Next on my list) I might change the rest of the list to this list. Just because I am thrilled to read The Wind. I might read that first. Then buy the revised versions. Then go read it in this exact order. I have all these books (And more) so that shouldn't be a problem. ;) Thanks!

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    1. Drop back by and let me know what you think of "The Wind Through the Keyhole" once you've read it, Daecca -- and thanks for reading!

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  5. I definately will, Soon as I read it. wich will probably be right after Cell. I am in the middle of it right now. I will probably be finishing it when Wind will get out for the public here in hte NL.

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  6. Awesome list, Bryant. Having read through the Tower series twice and all these other books you mentioned at least once, it's very interesting to see them all laid out in order like this. I might take another crack at them in this order, although that's quite a time commitment. I especially love that you tied in short stories as well.
    I'd probably skip a few of the novels in my read through though (Rose Madder and From A Buick 8 come to mind). They're more just Dark Tower concepts, not really anything important to the storyline.
    Not that anyone probably cares, but my favorite of all these books on your list? ... ... Wizard and Glass. It always surprises me when I see that one rated low on fan lists. I absolutely love it. The first time I read it, as soon as it flashed back I remember thinking "Nooooo!!! I don't want to hear some crappy flashback story, I want to know what happens to the gang NOW!"... but sure enough, by the end of that book when the flashback is over and we come back to the curreng gang, I had the exact same feeling, only it was not wanting to leave the flashback. Ha!

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    1. Thanks, Josh!

      I'm with you, I love "Wizard and Glass." I've heard complaints about it, too, and I always just kinda squint and try to formulate a response that doesn't consist of "SHUT UP IDIOT YOUR WRONG LOL," but I never can quite come up with anything, so I just say nothing.

      Some of the books on this list definitely are skippable, but I figured it was best to just go ahead and list them and let people make up their own mind. I might need to revise at some point and add "Lisey's Story" and "Ur."

      Delete
  7. Re: The Tommyknockers: Ka, Palaver, and the Arrowhead Project are all mentioned, as well.

    I keep wondering, too (I'm about 100 pages from the end) if where-David-Hillman-is-transported-to is the same place the Buick in FaB8 transports people to and from. I don't really think it is, for a few different reasons, but... well, just for the sake of the Dark Tower Parlor Game.

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    1. I must've totally missed the Arrowhead reference...! Pretty cool.

      I really like that novel. It's got serious problems, but I can forgive all of them.

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  8. Hiya! I can notice the fact that you really get the sense of what you are telling about. Do you have a special education that is linked with the subject of this blog entry? Can't wait to hear from you.

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    1. I've got a degree in English lit; nothing much special about that, though.

      No, on the whole, my only qualification to write a post like this one is that I've been reading Stephen King for the past 22 years.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  9. So I just started reading King (11/22/63 and The Stand) and I've decided to start your daunting/exciting reading list. Thanks for sharing this! I should be done around 2015.

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  10. Hi, I started the DT series (I'm following your reading list) and I have a question, now that you have read (I suppose) The Wind Through The Keyhole, you still think that I should read it in between books 4 and 5? It won't spoil me anything about the last three books?

    PS: Sorry for my poor english, I'm a spanish speaker.

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    1. Your English is better than the English of many Americans I know! ;)

      "The Wind Through the Keyhole" will definitely not spoil anything about the final three books. It works well regardless of whether you read it between the fourth and fifth books or after the seventh, so either way, you win.

      Personally? Yeah, I think reading it between 4 and 5 is the way to go. It provides some closure to certain events from "Wizard and Glass," and also deepens Flagg's involvement in the series somewhat.

      Delete
    2. As a fellow traveler of the Trail Guide laid out above (which was a fantastic way to read the Dark Tower and tie-ins, almost all of which I hadn't read before) I look forward to your thoughts on the experience, Mr. Spanish-speaker Anonymous, sir/ma'am, upon your completion.

      Delete
    3. I will definitely do that, as soon as I finish. Anyway, I'm taking a little break from it (too many SK's books in a short time, and some not-so-good books in between the 'Dark Tower' novels (like 'The Talisman', one of the worst King's books I've read). I have yet to read the three final books) so it will take me some time.

      But, like I said, I will surely share my thoughts about it.

      But, so far, I'm really enjoying the series, Wizard and Glass is probably my favourite book, I loved the story and the characters (and Roland's background development).
      (And by the way, I'm a male ;) )

      And Bryant, thanks a lot for the answer, I forgot to say (write) it.

      Delete
    4. You are more than welcome!

      Sorry to hear that you didn't enjoy "The Talisman." I'm not a big fan of that one myself, so I can definitely sympathize.

      Delete
  11. Finished the first two dark tower books. Just started on the Stand. Thanks for the list. :)

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    1. Very cool! I hope you enjoy the books.

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  12. Hey Bryant,

    I just finished Desperation, but here's the thing. I intentionally chose to read The Regulators first. BIG MISTAKE. I totally should have trusted you. Regulators was a fantastic read. On the other side, I really trudged through Desperation. However, I don't think reading Desperation first would have made me enjoy it more. It might have spoiled some of the mystique of of the primary villain. Thanks again for the list!

    JM

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    1. You're more than welcome!

      I remember feeling that "Desperation" was a bit of a trudge myself. I think that in most ways, "The Regulators" is the better of the two novels. Glad to hear you at least enjoyed that one! ;)

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  13. I just found your site, and just in the nick of time! :)

    I am sloooowly rereading "The Dark Tower", just about to finish up "The Drawing of the Three", and I'd like to suggest a slight tweak to your reading order.

    I would put "Eyes of the Dragon" before "The Stand". My rationale is such: In "The Drawing of the Three" (THE PUSHER Chapter 3.13) Roland briefly mentions Flagg being chased by Dennis and Thomas. As this is near the end of the novel, it makes sense to go straight to "Eyes" to hear the story leading up to those events quickly while they may still be relatively fresh in the reader's mind.

    Although this swaps the order of publication, I don't think it does anything else to mess up the continuity of Flagg's character. I could be wrong, and would welcome your opinion of the swap as I've decided to convert my reread to your suggested (extended) order.

    Let me know if you think my tweak is wrong as I am very close to finishing up DT2 and wanna know what to read next! :)

    Great site!
    Pat

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    1. Thanks, Pat!

      That's a great piece of info about Flagg being mentioned in "The Drawing of the Three." I'd totally forgotten that happened!

      I'd like to revise this list at some point, so I'll definitely keep your suggestion in mind. I definitely don't think your suggestion is wrong. It actually makes a lot of sense.

      Enjoy the reread!

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  14. Great work you've done there! Though I think there are some additional minor connections to other books which you could also mention in the last part:

    Cell:
    - Charlie the Choo-Choo is mentioned in (a child's ride in the novel is named after him)
    - The graphic novel "The Dark Wanderer" mentioned in the book almost feels like a twinner of the Dark Tower series itself

    Blockade Billy, Under the Dome, N. (from Just after sunset), Dreamcatcher and probably many more :
    The number "19" is mentioned as special number and/or plays an important role in every of these books. This also happens in many of the books you listed above, including the Tower series itself.

    Ur:
    This one might even be taken in the actual list. The tower is mentioned/described at least twice, the low men make another appearance and the rose is mentioned. Aside from that, also the general idea behind the story is closely linked to the concept of the Dark Tower series.

    And btw, if you hadn't limited the list to King's works, there would be many many more. Starting from "NOS4A2" (a book of King's son') up to pretty much every work of H.P. Lovecraft. Why the latter?
    In "The Eyes of the Dragon" we learn that a lot of Flagg's magic comes from the Necronomicon. It's name is stated, the description fits perfectly and it also mentions its author, the "Mad Arab" Abdul Alhazred. Both are creations of Lovecraft and are inseparably linked to the Elder gods (most prominently Cthulu), which play a central role in most Lovecraft books. This feels still strange to me, as I can't imagine the Elder Gods combined with the tower series, but it's impossible to deny that link.

    Oh, and talking about The Eyes of the Dragon, it's not just Flag. A lot of names there are similar or even the same, like:
    - Both have a location called "Delain" (in the tower books, it's the birth place of Rhea of the Cöos)
    - "Roland Deschain" vs. "King Roland of Delain"
    - And while you are certainly refering to Flagg above, Rhea of the Cöos is also mentioned in TEofD.
    If it wasn't for the totally different developmental stage* of the worlds, I would say it takes place in exactly the same world (including the same "branch"). Well, maybe it does, just in different times. While this seems to contradict "Flagg being chased by Dennis and Thomas" during the Tower series at first (indicating it should take place in the same age), the "same time" is not the same time in the Tower series.
    (Look for example at Roland drawing the three from three different times of our world. Each thing happening is happening at the "same time" as the happenings in Roland's world, even though the events in our world have years in between and - from our world's point of view - don't happen in the order they happen in Roland's timeline.)

    *With different developmental stage I mean TEotD shows no signs of any technology, neither remaining nor as ruins of former times, it seems to be a pure and typical medievil world. The only exception being the Necronomicon (which is closely linked to "our" world). Which I take as indication that Flagg already had direct or indirect contact with other worlds at that time. The book mentions him fleeing to other locations in the past to avoid people suspecting his infinite life. I'm not sure about the exact wording, but maybe this even included different worlds.
    btw: That's the only hint for me that there he had any contact to other worlds before that. Aside from that I would guess that this is his earliest appearance as he still seems to show weaknesses and fears which he lacks in the other books. Also, his goals and plans are still much smaller and simpler. Who would care for such a small kingdom after the events (and the possibilities) in The Stand? Another reason to put this book before The Stand. (So I support Pat above.)

    I should stop here. this is getting out of hand. XD

    Dan

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    1. Yeah, that has a tendency of happening, doesn't it?

      "Ur" 100% belongs on the list -- not sure why I didn't put it in the first time, but it'll definitely go in whenever I get around to revising the post.

      As for some of the other titles, I didn't include them either because I didn't remember the connections, or because I felt like they were too inconsequential. After all, once you begin playing the connections game with King's work, you eventually end up with nearly a complete list of his works. That was too broad a focus for what I had in mind.

      Same goes for including the works of other authors. When you get technical with it, the Tower is said to include the entire multiverse; so, in that sense, technically EVERY story is a "Dark Tower" story.

      Which actually gives me an amusing idea for a blog post wherein I rank the ten best "Dark Tower"-related novels, and have it be, like, "Lonesome Dove" and "Huckleberry Finn" and "The Catcher in the Rye" and whatnot.

      I'll probably never do it, but the thought makes me chuckle.

      You make some excellent points regarding "The Eyes of the Dragon." I'm still not willing to support the idea of putting it before "The Stand," though; I think it would weaken the Flagg of that novel a bit, and I wouldn't be willing to sacrifice that.

      My personal read on it is that Flagg is maybe a bit like Doctor Who: he is more or less immortal, and can be reborn from one world to the next, but may not necessarily have the same personality, appearance, or name from one to the next. None of that is in the books; that's just how I am currently leaning toward thinking of Flagg personally, ya ken.

      Anyways, I appreciate the input! It's a fun conversation to have, that's for sure.

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  15. It wouldn't make sense to take them in the list (except Ur), I just think it could be mentioned among the ones that didn't make it in the list. Especially cell. Not just because of Blaine the Mono and its twinner. Look at "The Dark Wanderer" closely. A story about a cowboy initials R.D.? Taking place in an apocalytic world? A villain called "Flak"? That's far more than just the mention of a number being important. Though it's not clearly stated (I think), for me it seems that this indicates another person who dreamed of Roland's quest, in this case using it as an inspiration for a graphic novel. Oh, King is also pretty particular about the main antagonist Raggedy Man wearing a red(!) hoodie, this might or might not be another connection.

    Yeah, I think it's impossible to include all possible third party book connections. Though it's unusual for King to use such particular elements of other books. Not like in "He uses a zombie, just like book xxx of author yyy before". And not like quoting it as a fiction within the book (this is indeed done more often) or using it as inspiration. Like with the Huckleberry Finn book which would then indeed be related by being "related" to The Talisman. But I wouldn't count that.
    But explicitely using the Necronomicon and explicitely using Abdul Alhazred, not as fiction but as things/persons actually existing in the story's reality is something completely different. So I found it worth mentioning.

    With Flagg, you can have different opinions, indeed. But my personal opinion is that at theast the TEotD one and the Dark Tower one are actually the same body. For example because:
    - TEotD states that Flagg has been alive in this body for thousands of years (which is why he has to leave Delain from time to time to avoid people getting suspicious). So no "being reborn" before that, at least for a very long time. It would be possible afterwards, but it would be strange to totally change the pattern suddenly. Oh, and the book even clearly says that he thinks shapeshifting to be impossible for him (at his current magic level).
    - Him having the Necronomicon (which is totally anachronistic in that world) indicates that he has a way to get in contact with other worlds. This supports the possibility of him actually crossing over to different worlds instead of just being reborn to a different world.
    - "Flagg being chased by Dennis and Thomas" in the Tower books seems to be an indication for me that the Wizard in the Dark Tower books is the same wizard in the same body. I don't think Dennis and Thomas could still chase him if a new, different body had "spawned" somewhere in time/the multiverse. And if you now say maybe they killed him during book two and he spawned afterwards: Well, possible in theory. But that would mean the new body would have to grow up very fast (from the second to the third book). Not impossible (refer to the "the same time" topic above), but unlikely.
    - For me, the description of his appearance in TEotD sounds very close to that in the Tower series. (Unlike in The Stand.) The clothes might be different, but I guess you don't have to be reborn to change clothes. ;)

    For the The Stand Flagg it's difficult to say. But even if it's not the same body, it still should be the same person (not just a twinner). After all, his "Captain Trips" also made it's way to Topeka.
    And on a side note: I read only several times that in the uncut version it's indicated that he can shapeshift (I don't remember that clearly myself). Which would also put it behind TEotD as he's not able to do that yet there. And it could explain why he suddenly looks different here.

    Dan

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    1. Well, he definitely seems to be able to shift between being a crow and a person, so it makes sense that he would have shapeshifting abilities.

      Hmm...you're starting to convince me on the subject of "The Eyes of the Dragon." And "Cell," for that matter. I need to reread "Cell." I only read it the once, and I liked it a lot. But apparently I didn't read it very closely, because somehow I don't remember any of that stuff about "The Dark Wanderer." Not surprising; I've got a lousy memory. But like you say, that does sound like something decidedly more than a passing connection.

      One thing I want to do eventually is make a list of books that are important to an understanding of King's work in some way, mostly via their use as a plot point or as inspiration for one of his own books. Stuff like "Dracula" (which heavily informed "Salem's Lot") and "Huckleberry Finn" and the Cthulhu mythos. Sort of a slippery concept, but I think it would be a useful thing.

      What say you on the subject of "11/22/63" being connected to "The Dark Tower," by the way? That's one that I've also considered including on a future version of this list.

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    2. Sorry for the late reply, had important exams.
      I totally forgot that very obvious shapeshift. Of course, the crow. Probably as I was only thinking of human shapes.

      "The Dark Wanderer" can easily be missed as it's not a central part of the story. You only get tiny bits here and there and only clearly see it when putting the clues together. Aside from the ones above I found no further clues, it's just that. It also seems to have elements differing from the Tower series. It's just inspirated by it, not a retelling, it seems. Still, King surely put them there on purpose. Possibly influenced by the Dark Tower Graphic Novels.

      To be honest, I have yet to read 11/22/63. I'm not a fan of the concept, stories like this ("what happens if you go back in time and do xxxx") have been told too many times before and most of the times bored me. Yeah, there are somewhat similar concepts used in the Tower series, but for that is not what makes the story so interesting for me. Maybe I totally missjudge that book, I don't know. I'd probably read it if I ran out of books to read, but I guess that'll never happen. Do you think it's a good book, even for people not interested in that time travel story type?

      Dan

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  16. Slightly related: I'm currently re-reading The Talisman and noticed that it also seems to have a direct connection to The Eyes of the Dragon. Among the stuff Flagg has in his room (in the latter) is the two-headed parrot that Jack saw on the market in The Talisman. And in both cases the one head asks questions and the other one answers. This and the Necronomicon make me wonder if even more of Flagg's possessions could be matched to other works. Might be worth to watch out for more when reading the book. However, I just read it again a few weeks ago, so not anytime soon for me. I just remember the kleffa carrot, the dragon sand (both of which I guess to be unique to this novel) and the obsidian paperweight (no idea if this could be a link).

    Dan

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    1. That's awesome, Dan! Thanks for posting it! I'd never noticed that the parrot appears in both books.

      Very cool.

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    2. You're welcome. It's funny to imagine Flagg gathering artefacts from other worlds like other people gathering stamps. XD

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    3. Isn't there something similar to that in "Insomnia"? I seem to remember the villain having a stockpile of things from multiple universes. That wasn't Flagg, of course; but it's interesting to think that one of the things King has used as a staple of villainy is a sort of supernatural hoarder-instinct.

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    4. I haven't read Insomnia for a least a decade, so I don't remember. However, as I'm currently rereading the Tower-related books in your suggested order I'll sooner or later re-read that again, too. :)
      (I'm still at The Talisman. With only little leisure time it takes quite a while to make it through that. And considering that there are still 5 books after that including further giant books like "It", it'll rather be "later" I guess.)
      Dan

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    5. I hear ya. December has been a wretched month for me in terms of finding time to do much of anything, and January isn't looking much better. Ah, well.

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  17. I'll keep an eye out for such details once I reach it.
    And Merry Christmas, btw.
    Dan

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    1. Still at the Talisman, but I keep noticing things there. Aside from "story twinners" of the Dark Tower which are so obvious that you surely noticed them too*, I also noticed another possible link to TEotD. Sunlight Gardener's son (or rather: Osmonds son) has an ability to become "dim". The description is:
      "It is their word for one who is hard to see, no matter how hard ye look for that one. Invisibility is impossible—so the Wolfs say—but one can make himself dim if only he
      knows the trick of it."
      Now let's look to an ability of Flagg in TEotD:
      "Invisibility was likewise impossible, at least as far as Flagg himself had been able to
      determine. Yet it was possible to make oneself . . . dim.
      [...] When one was dim and a servant approached along a passageway, one simply drew aside and stood still and let the servant pass. In most cases, the servant's eyes would drop to his own feet or suddenly find something interesting to look at on the ceiling."
      Even the wording and the clear distinction from invisibility (calling that impossible) is very similar. Seems Flagg brought more souvenirs from the territories, and his collection is not limited to physical objects... :-)

      *Like Jack and Richard travelling through toxic/radioactive wastelands. By train. I almost expected the train to start to speak...)

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    2. btw: Is one of the reasons for you not liking The Talisman that much the constant whining? I do like Wolf, but his whining and whining and whining about bad smells and stuff really got on my nerves. And once he's with Jack no more, he's replaced by Richard. Who is whining and whining and whining how things are so illogical and can't be true and he has fever and AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!
      Also, I can't believe Jack actually picked up Richard. After everything around him has shown him that people around him get hurt - or worse. And after a dream that actually f**king tells him Richard will die just like Wolf if he's dragged into this. And he still does it? Without any reason to do so? Yeah, the first thing I do after dreaming of a plane crash is deciding to book a trip on an airplane...

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    3. Yeah, that's a good call on the "Twinnery" nature of the Blasted Lands. That one is so obvious that I feel like there HAS to be a direct connection. Maybe not, though; it could just be that one radioactive wasteland is much like another! But that doesn't feel right; they FEEL connected, in some way I can't immediately justify.

      Interesting point about the guy becoming dim. I have an alarm bell ringing in the back of my head that suggests there might also be something vaguely similar in Straub's (excellent) novel "Shadowland." I might be imagining that, though.

      Ah, yes; the whining. It sounds like we are more or less on the same page; I don't like Richard at all. Wolf . . . I like him reasonably well. I don't think he gets the fate he deserves, though. Seems like a bit of a misstep on King/Straub's part.

      My biggest problem with "The Talisman" is that I just don't think it holds together very well as a single unit. The tone never coheres. It is simultaneously too fanciful AND too serious. It's very tempting to say that that is because King and Straub have -- or, at least, HAD (at the time; I've not kept up with Straub, so I don't know if it's still true) -- such dissimilar styles. Not only in terms of their prose, but also in terms of their thematic interests/concerns. But is that the actual cause? I don't know.

      As I say, it's tempting to say so.

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    4. The biggest difference for me is the direction. I don't know why this feels important to me, but in general I noticed that the direction of Jack's traveling (to the West) is the opposite of the main travel direction in the Tower series. Aside from the first book (which has the least similarities to The Talisman aside from the direction) it's more or less to the East most of the time, sometimes mixed with North or South. Also but not only when crossing the wastelands. I'm really not sure if the background of both wastelands might be related. Also, if we assume somewhat similar structure of continents, the one in the Talisman is much closer to the West coast (or any coast, for that matter) than the Tower one. So for this one, I'm not sure if King really put much thought in the relation or if he just randomly (re-)used it.

      To be honest, I never read any other works of Straub. I never even encountered one, actually. Is he famous in the US? It doesn't seem he is, here. I'm not even sure if his works are translated. (As my mistakes probably told you by now my native language is not English.)

      It's hard to say if I actually dislike Richard. Maybe, in everyday live, he might be a really nice guy. Who knows. I have no chance to find out as he's just whining all of the time. But my point above was actually more about disliking Jack for choosing to involve Richard even though he just had a vision of Richard dying when being drawn into this. For no reason. Richard, as Morgan's son, would not have been attacked if he had not been involved.

      As for Wolf's fate, it's kinda left open. There are indications that he's not dying, but returning to the territories. Maybe somewhat comparable to Jason dying and Jack surviving (in the past). However, that would also make it... to "easy". But yes, it didn't feel right anyway. Guess King/Straub wanted to make room for Richard. I don't even want to imagine Richard's whining if he had to travel with a werewolf. XD

      I agree. I don't know Straub's style, and therefore can't even clearly make out who wrote which part. (Is it known? Is it chapterwise? Or one writing the overall structure and the other one writing the details?) But the book sometimes feels like a jigsaw puzzle for which you have to push the parts together by force. And you still end up with some red parts linked to green parts. I'll mention he worst example so far further down.

      But I also more and more get the feeling of the book being rushed which you mentioned in the list. For example how the topic "Morgan's army of Wolves" is resolved. Barging in by force, shooting dozens of unarmed and surprised living beings. Yes, in a real world situation this might be the best way. But it feels just not like a good way to resolve this in such a book. By a child. And by somebody who is supposed to be the "hero" we look up to. Also, as part of this event: the role of Reuel (Sunlight Gardener's son) is built up making us expect A LOT. Actually, the description of his human yet not human and very frightful appearance in combination with Jack's nickname for him even made me think of another King character.
      "Randolph Scott". Speak this name aloud fast.
      Got something?
      If not: Don't seperate the "ph" from the Scott. More like "Randol Phscott". Which also - almost - brings it to King's typical "R.F.". Pretty far-fatched (especially as this is the name of a real world actor), but my mind really did that with the name when I first read it. XD

      [I actually hit a limit with this post. Have to split it in two parts, so to be continued in the next post.]

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    5. But I didn't get that feeling for long. For example due to the character not living up to the expectations. Or rather - never fully being developed. And then he's shot within seconds in the final encounter, just like that??? He didn't even have a chance to show becoming "dim" as we have been told earlier. It feels like there had been much bigger plans for him, but they got lost in the rush. And because they introced to many villains parallely without a setting allowing them to each "shine" (in a very dark and evil light, of course) in their own way. It's a bit like modern games/movies thinking "more zombies is more horror" while often turning out to be quite the contrary (and becoming action pieces and/or so over the top that they make you laugh). King's best books rarely shine by the number of threads, but rather by the intensity and the elaboration of one (or only few) threads. [At least when counted by book. Counting all Tower villains together makes of course quite a few.]

      Way to get distracted from the topic I was talking about.
      Actually I forgot all of this raid even though I read the book before. Really long ago, so all memories were vague (or "dim"?). But this was truely not existing anymore. At all. Suppressed for a good reason, I guess. I just hope the rest will be at least a bit better than that.
      Well, to sum up many of these points and to emphasize how the jigsaw parts just don't add up:
      This is a novel which starts by introducing us to a whole new world of magic, secrets and wonder. Including many dark ones, for sure. But still new and fascinating. And currently, it brought me to a twelve year old boy - supposedly the hero - shooting down dozens of magical beings with Uzis.
      Just not the way this should turn out. Who would have expected this back in the good old days of Jack meeting Speedy Parker? (Btw, there's something I noticed about Speedy, but another time. This is already going too far.)
      Also, as this book has some teenage book elements: What's the message/moral of the story then? If things look different from you ("evil"), shoot them? Even if you never met them before and don't know anything about them? Really nice. I can hardly believe this book comes -at least partly- from the man who wrote The Green Mile...

      Dan

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    6. There are a whole lot of great points here. Let me try to respond to most of them:

      (1) There is almost certainly a significance to the fact of Jack's travel being to the west, and Roland's to the east. For Americans, the idea of traveling west carries a great deal of symbolic significance, tied up with our ideas of who we are as a people (Manifest Destiny, it's called). If you think of Roland as a figure like the American cowboy -- which is surely how King intended him -- then the fact that he journeys mostly east carries a lot of symbolic import.

      (2) Straub WAS famous in the U.S. at one point, and probably also in the U.K. Arguably, he still is, at least within certain circles. But his status as a best-seller seems to have more or less faded away at some point. He did have a few big-time bestsellers early on, though, including "Ghost Story," which is his most famous work. His style is more self-aware about its psychology and its themes. Or, put another way, Straub is more self-consciously literary. So people say, at least; I'm not really knowledgeable enough to say for sure.

      (3) I had no idea you weren't a native English speaker! You write better in English than most Americans I know. If you don't mind me asking, what is your native language?

      (4) I don't quite remember the circumstances behind Jack getting Richard involved, so I don't remember whether I should feel his doing so was a purely selfish act. In some ways, the novel operates on a level of kiddie-lit logic, so that such decisions make emotional sense moreso than literal sense (i.e., Jack is all alone in the world at this time, so he reaches out to someone he knows is friendly toward him).

      (5) The only thing I know about which author wrote which chapters is that King said somewhere that he and Straub both did a lot of imitation of each others' styles. So that even if a section seems to read like Straub, it might actually be King impersonating Straub. Which is kind of a cool idea, but I also think it maybe helps explain some of the novel's problems: it feels -- to me -- like an exercise more than it does a coherent novel.

      (6) I'd forgotten about Randolph Scott. I like that idea that your brain insisted on reading it as Randol Phscott -- I've had things like that happen, and once such an idea lodges in the brain, it's damn hard to shake it. Example from my own life: old television programs used to be sponsored by specific companies, and there would be announcements along the lines of "This program is brought to you by Budweiser, the king of beers!" As a child, I heard the phrase "brought to you" and mentally conceived of it as one word, a (past-participle?) verb: "broughtued." Even today, nearing 40, when I hear the phrase "brought to you," my mind offers up "broughtued" as an alternative. I love stuff like that!

      (7) Ah yes, Uzi-wielding Jack. Well, it WAS the Regan administration...

      (8) I didn't take any sort of moral from the story along the lines of what you suggest about things that look different from you. But again, I don't remember it quite well enough to be certain it isn't there. My sense of things is that the morality is roughly similar to that of a lot of fantasy, wherein evil tends to be fairly easy to identify AS evil, and therefore easier to combat. I'm not sure that the novel stays true to that idea, though, and maybe that is part of my problem with it: it is simultaneously trying to be simplistic in its moralities but complex in its psychology. I don't think that is a great combination.

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    7. Good points. And good idea using numbers to make it easier to refer to stuff.

      (1) I'm aware of the going West meaning. (And oh god, that just brought me back to
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfGTm_viXPs
      XD ). Especially but not only in combination with the "Wild" one. Which I would totally understand in the Tower series, considering the cowboy theme. But what's the meaning of going East then?? Shouldn't the adventure, the unknown and the new be in the West?

      (2) So it's more psychological horror, or how can I understand that? Maybe I should check that out, I like psychological horror. (If you're also into horror games: That's why Silent Hill was always better than Resident Evil for me.)

      (3) Really? It's German. And that almost make me miss the "dim" thing. The word is translated with different German words in the two books. But the description felt so similar that I just had to check out if it's actually the same word in the originals. Which made me even more happy when it actually was.

      (4) That probably was his logic, yes. But it's a very egoistic logic if you're seeing everything which is getting involved going down in flames. And even have a vision of that specific person dying in your arms because of involving him.

      (5) Interesting, thanks for the information!

      (6) No surprise you forgot. Except from the building up of expectations and dropping his name here and there and was not much in the book to remember.
      Well "Randol" does sound similar to "Randal", and everything else was just "the rest" and therefore mashed together in my mind, I guess. That the rest was still just one syllable which even started with an "F"-like sound made it fit even better.

      (7) I really wonder why the one author coming up with that idea wasn't beaten with his own script by the other author.(Whoever it was, he would have deserved it.)
      Even the fascination for guns of many Americans aside, this book had so much potential and so many possibilities (because of the magic and the unknown), and they wasted it with such an uncreative and unmagical fight. It's like taking such a great trilogy as Indiana Jones and suddenly throwing aliens into the story. Oh wait...

      (8) It's not really stated. But it bothers me that our "hero" has at no point any considerations shooting down a whole camp of wolves and other creatures he never met before.

      (9) [Yes, 9.] Back to Speedy. I just rewatched The Shining (Kubrick's version), and noticed a lot of similarities between the old cook there and Speedy. And I'm not just talking about the skin color here. (I'm not even sure if the cook was also black in the book.) It all started when the cook sat lonely in his room, and the walls had lots of posters of naked women, just as Speedy's shack. Well, that wouldn't be much, as Speedy says those belonged to the previous owner (yeah right Speedy, of course they did) and I don't know if King had them in the book, too. It just started my thought process, noticing their general role and much more is almost exactly the same for both:
      - an old Afro-American
      - wise and gentle
      - doing simple jobs at an currently abandoned place
      - with a special ability which only very few people have (the shining / flipping)
      - gives advice / mentoring to the main character, a young boy
      - which also has this ability
      - while the boy's mother does not fully believe in/supports that ability
      - however, he has to leave the boy on his own
      - for the boy, the skin color makes no difference
      - however villains refer to him as "Nigger" (so being a racist is evil, that's a morale I can accept!)
      I'm pretty sure (about 90%, not totally) this is not a intended connection. But still interesting to see such similarities. In relation to (5), this makes we wonder if King likes this type of character that much, or if Straub built on the cook when trying to imiate King's style...

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    8. (1) Depends on whether you want to read the idea of "the world moving on" as a metaphor for American fears about the eventual collapse of the nation. Which it arguably is.

      (2) I'd say you should track down a copy of "Ghost Story" and read it. There's probably a translated version; it was a big seller. That one will give you a pretty good idea of what Straub's style is like.

      (7) I have to out myself as a fan of "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." Not a great movie, by any means; but better than it gets credit for being, in my opinion.

      (9) Speedy and Dick definitely share a lot of characteristics. I hadn't thought of it, but it's totally true!

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    9. (1) I still don't fully understand. Are you refering to America's fear of communism and/or terrorism, which can both be linked to the East? A somewhat weak link, as pretty much everything - no matter if good or bad - is located "East" of America on your typical world map and the typical American point of view.
      Another thought I had on my way to work: If you take it as direct opposite of going West = to the new, going East could also mean going back to the source, to where it all started. I guess I don't have to elaborate on the relevance of that in connection to the Tower...
      Still, the opposite directions (Talisman vs Tower) puzzles me. Because on the other hand, they both have a VERY similar target location. Not "just" both being refered to as a dark building. But both being called the center of infinite worlds which links them all together. (Yes, Jack just realized that even though he's seen only two of them.) So if both have the same meaning/function, why are they positioned in opposite directions?

      And while this first sounds like another connection to the Dark Tower series, it's actually rather clearly seperating The Talisman from it. There can't be two different "centers of all universes", can there? So it makes it pretty hard to put both into the same canon...

      (2) I looked for it. Seems to be out of print. Maybe I'll consider the English version if it's not too long (?). I don't have troubles to understand, it's just pretty tiresome instead of relaxing to read very long books in a foreign language.
      (There is an excemption of a very long book, and a hard read at that. But I just can't imagine reading "House of Leaves" in other other language. This could possible destroy so many hidden messages just because the translator doesn't see them or just can't avoid it to the different properties of languages...)
      Also I learned there's a movie of it. In amazon comments, several people even complained about the book being inferior to the movie. Can you recommend the movie, too?

      (7) It depends on your expectations, I think. It's not a bad movie per se, it just can't hold its ground compared to the original trilogy. Also, I personally don't think aliens fit into that universe. But that's a matter of taste, I guess.

      (9) It also seems to go on. Speedy knows an awful lot about the structure of the Black Hotel, especially its dining room. So one could assume he might even have worked there once. Probably in a position related to the dining room. What could that be, hm...

      (10) Remember how I said "I can't imagine the Elder Gods combined with the tower series"? Well that just changed a bit. A tiny bit, but yes. Point Venuti (the location of the Black Hotel) sounds an awful lot like Innsmouth. While no Elder god has a direct appearance in "The shadow over Innsmouth", it's still very clearly a part of Lovecraft's Elder God universe (for example as they are worshipped by the inhabitants).
      And in The Talisman, I didn't even need to learn about the creatures in the water to notice the similarities. I noticed it long before that. Just the description of the town, the houses, and the inhabitants (not Morgan's men, but the remaining original inhabitants), everything felt pretty similar. It kind of surprised me, as King's style is usually pretty distinct from Lovecraft. But well, maybe this was written by Straub. Or by King imitating Straub. Do you think Straub's style (in comparison to King) is somewhat closer to H.P.?

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    10. (1) No, I mean something more generalized and less easy to define. There is a train of thought that says that once we reached the edge of our continent -- its furthest Western reaches -- we sort of ran out of steam in some vague cultural-psychological way. We got a bit of it back when we went to the moon, and then promptly lost it again. It's a difficult concept to talk about without writing pages and pages on the subject, and unfortunately, I don't think I can explain what I mean much better than this (for now).

      (2) I don't think it's a bad movie, but I prefer the book by a significant margin.

      (7) I think aliens could fit, theoretically. But I would agree that they didn't do a particularly great job of it in the final product.

      (9) Hmm. That IS interesting...

      (10) I would say no. I'm not really sure who I'd compare Straub to, stylistically. (One of my goals for some indeterminate point in the future is to read all of Lovecraft's stories. I've only read a handful, and I liked them a lot.)

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    11. Ah, man. I just typed a lot of stuff, and accidently switched to another page before sending. I'll return another time to write most of that again, this time just shortly:

      (1) I still don't understand, but thanks for trying.

      (9) It's just one way to see it though. The book states Speedy had a lot of different jobs at a lot of different locations. But it also mentions he once was a Jazz musician. So he might just have had a couple of gigs in that dining room.

      (10) I haven't read all of them, either. Reading a few is kinda general knowledge for a horror fan (and also very interesting*), but you can get tired of them pretty easily if you read them one after the other. Most of them work pretty similarly. And the use of all the adverbs and adjectives to describe how horrifying xxxxx is wear off after a while. So I prefer to read other works in between. With the latest break being quite long due to the extended Tower series...
      I really enjoyed "The shadow over Innsmouth", though.

      *Not necessarily scary, when it comes to me. But books hardly scare me anymore, nowadays. And yes, this also includes King's books. They entertain me, but I don't really feel scared. I became used to it, and my mind can easily dispose of most stuff as fiction only. Sad, but true. Once again the big excemption being the House of Leaves, which perfectly manages to destroy that barrier between me on the one side and the book as fiction on the other side....

      There was more, as I finished the Talisman. But like I said I don't feel like typing all of that again right know. Another time. Just one thing maybe: Wolf's fate is specified, after all. He's reborn in his mother's womb. So not like Jason at all.

      Dan

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    12. Sorry to hear about the lost comments. I hate it when that happens.

      I hear what you're saying about books not really scaring you much anymore. I feel the same, for the most part. The closest I've gotten in recent memory was probably with Joe Hill's "Heart-Shaped Box," which has some very creepy stuff in it. Before that, it was "Duma Key," which has a remarkable sense of dread.

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    13. Sounds interesting, but I don't know if I should add more books to the never-ending pile.
      Talking about adding books: Two times no reaction to dropping the House of Leaves lets me guess there are just two options:
      a) You've never read it.
      b) You disliked it.
      I wonder which one it is. If it's a), you should really give it a try. We wouldn't be talking here without that book today. I devoured King's books in my teens, but once the scaring didn't work anymore I stopped reading horror. 100%. I still read books, but no horror. (Watched horror movies and played horror games, though.) It was HoL who rekindled my interest, and it's a really, really amazing book in my eyes.Since then I also read other horror books again. And reading King now is a very different feeling, as my focus has changed a lot. Maybe I even notice all these little details and connections because HoL makes you look for every possible hint.
      I fully understand people who dislike HoL, though. It's one of these books you either love or hate. There are lots of reasons for both. If you really never read it I could ask you a few general questions about your opinion on horror which might be good indications if "This is not for you."
      (Yeah, that's a quote.)

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    14. Never read it. It's been recommended to me several times, though, so it's on my radar. Like you, I've got a perpetual list of books I'm trying to make time to read, so for the time being, I'm not really looking to add anything to that list. But it might happen eventually; I've heard nothing but raves.

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    15. You should really give it a try, especially considering most books don't scare you anymore, either. HoL manages you draw you in much much more than any other book. That is, if for you
      - atmosphere is more important than action
      - things you can't clearly make out scare you more than things standing right in front of you
      - you don't insist on all question being answered, but some being allowed to keep roaming in your head, wanting you to re-read the book and or share experiences and thoughts in order to explore the mysteries even after you're through with the book.
      Seriously, there is no book I could possibly compare to it to describe it. Because it doesn't feel like a book, but like an adventure. Maybe a bit like an ARG. That doesn't nail it correctly, either. But might give you an idea.

      For The Talisman, I have decided to not rewrite everything, after all. A list of detailed complaints doesn't make the book any better. The end was better than the uzi scene (what a miracle), but the book still had an inverse arc of tension / quality for me.I liked the beginning very much (up to the actual journey). It then went down steadily from there, with the bottom being the wolf camp "fight". And from there, it went up a bit again. Not as high as the start, though.
      btw, did the Talisman's description give you this image, too:
      http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/29/Disco_ball4.jpg
      XD

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    16. That sounds like it would probably be to my liking. I'll add it to my ever-expanding list!

      Hah, no, I didn't picture a disco ball -- I don't remember picturing much of anything, to be honest.

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    17. Still alive. Slightly different from the list above, I'm currently at The Stand. I delayed/skipped that one so far, because I wasn't sure before I I should really spend my time on the book again. Considering that it's a LOT of time. And especially considering that I personally think The Walking Dead proved to be much better in creating tension in an apocalytic world where the remaining humans struggle to survive. (In both works, the focus is rarely on the reason of the downfall, but mostly on the way humans interact in such an extreme situation.) But well, that's a matter of taste, I guess.
      But our talk here, especially about Flagg, convinced me there's no way I could skip it. This time, I went with the audio book. That enables me to get through it much faster, as I can hear it on to go, too. It's the uncut audio book of the extended book, of course. A whopping 55 hours long!!
      And it's a good time to enjoy it. I had a (not-so-serious) cold for more than a month with some coughing and sneezing. And at this time of the year you always hear some other people coughing or sneezing, too. (Funny to find something "good" in that.) That adds a lot to the mood of the first book. And reminds you how easily such a disease could be spread for real. I don't remember getting this feeling the first time around. I don't know at which season I read it back than, though.

      By now I reached the beginning of the second book, with the latest addition to the story being Tom Cullen. Who talks a bit like Wolf at times, btw. Not the brightest bulb, either.
      Concerning Flagg: It's really hard to say if this Flagg is the same Flagg as the one in TEotD and/or TDT. He probably even doesn't know that himself. His memory goes back a while (only with events in "our" world), but it's stated that he doesn't remember his early life at all. This early life may have been in other worlds, but if it was he has forgotten all about it. Or he's just a "twinner" of the other Flagg, after all.
      On the other hand it makes you wonder what made him loose his memory. Maybe even Dennis and Thomas managing to "kill" him? And afterwards he "respawned" without memories, but still being adult and having his powers? Maybe something similar happens at the end of The Stand. I'll closely listen to the wording of that epilogue scene once I reach it.

      Dan

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    18. Maybe Flagg's lives work in a fashion similar to the way The Doctor's lives work on "Doctor Who": he occasionally regenerates himself into a new form, complete with new looks and new personality and maybe only some of the same memories.

      Your point about "The Walking Dead" is interesting and valid, although I still prefer King's work. I think it would be easy to take "The Stand" and turn it into a successful television series by exploring some of the same type issues within that universe, and simply delaying the Flagg issue for a few seasons. I think that would work better than the idea Hollywood seems to be hung up on, which is to do it as a series of movies.

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    19. I'm not sure if The Stand would work that way. The Stand works by seperating the people in Black and White*. Even before Flagg or Mother Abigail meet any of them.The Walking Dead feeds from (pretty much) all people being in the Grey area.

      *I'm not talking about skin color here. of course. Funnily, the "Black" group has a white-skinned leader while the "White" group has a black-skinned leader. :-)

      About the further progress:
      - Wow, I totally forgot that Mother Abigail refers to her ability as the Shining. Got me by surprise...
      - While Flagg runs around in jeans clothes, people keep dreaming seeing him wearing a cowl with the hood hiding most of his head. One possible way to interpret this is that that is his true and original form. And the description fits 100% to what he wears in TEotD.

      Dan (and that spells M-O-O-N)

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    20. btw, that it's "moon" of all words reminds me even more of Wolf. Aside from both refering to themselves in third person and many more.

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    21. I'm not sure I agree that "The Stand" groups its characters into hard and fast Good and Evil camps. There are people who teeter on the edge of both in the story, and if you blow it up into television-series length, I think you could very easily explore that.

      I'm also not sure I agree that "The Walking Dead" entirely features people who fit into "the grey," as you call it. That's especially true in the case of the comics, but it's true of the television version as well.

      Yeah, that bit about Mother Abigail having "the shine" is pretty cool. I can't remember if that is in the original version of the novel or if it was added for the revised version; I want to say it's the latter, but don't hold me to it.

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    22. Well, for me it was always pretty obvious in which group the people end up. Even those that were probably supposed to be "grey", like Larry and Harold. (If you don't felt the same way for one of them: tell me and I'll explain why it was clear to me.) If there's an example of a person I didn't knew the "color" after her/his full introduction it's probably Nadine. Just for very few chapters, though.
      The Walking Dead does have persons who are almost entirely evil and some who are at least mostly good, yes. But a lot more somewhere in between. Even most of the "good" ones still get serious conflicts with other "good" ones. Conflicts where it's hard to say who's wrong and who's right, and where you sometimes hate the one and sometimes the other. But well, I also should add that the Telltale games affected me the most about the series (not tv or comic), and as you did not mention these this might be a reason why we are perceiving this differently.

      No idea if the shining was added subsequently or not...
      Current reading status: Both fractions are now starting to (re-)built their cities.

      There is something which probably is not specific to the Tower-related books, but I noticed it in pretty much all of them so far. Concerning cars, King seems to be pretty fixated. Out of four cars he mentions, at least one is a Buick and at least one is a Plymouth. I'm not keeping book, but that's the impression that I get. (At least in his earlier books. Plymouth cars are probably starting to get rare in the books he wrote recently, at least those taking place in the present.)
      And I'm not even including the two books he entirely devoted to these two brands (though that clearly emphasizes this). But just any type of random car he mentions. Cars standing at the street, cars being used to get somewhere, any car being mentioned.
      I do imagine that these brands might be more popular in the US (than in Europe) and maybe even in particular in its Northeast (where both King and his stories were mostly located if I remember correctly). But do/did they really make up half of the cars? I can hardly imagine that conmsidering how many brands there are. Or do you have an idea why he's so focused on these? I would understand it for Dodge cars in his later years, but for these two I don't know...

      Dan

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    23. I can't shed much light on that, unfortunately. If I were forced into answering, I'd answer that that his fixation on those cars seems a little out of step with the rest of the country (I've never known either Buick or Plymouth to be especially prevalent). But I'm not much of a car guy. I sometimes have to stop and think about what make/model I myself drive!

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    24. Oh, maybe I should go into detail if you're not a car guy:
      The book about a Plymouth is "Christine", the Buick one is obvious even without any interest in cars. ;-)
      And concerning the Dodge, that was the one hitting him.
      Actually, I'm not into cars myself (yeah, I like them as useful tools but that's it). If King just mentioned the model name without stating the brand I wouldn't even know that it's a Plymouth/Buick. But he explicitely mentions these brands. For other authors I'd maybe suspect product placement, but I really can't imagine that for him.
      I just googled that topic, but the only good result is a German KingWiki entry. You might not understand the details of each appearance, but still the point becomes clear:
      http://wiki.stephen-king.de/index.php/Autos
      A list of cars in King's works. Seems I was off, Plymouth comes "only" in third. But an awful lot of Buicks there, putting it on the second place. Most of all are Cadillacs, and now that I read that I remember quite a lot, yes. Taking these three types makes far more than half of all cars mentioned. Still not a realistic representation I guess. And many brands are never ever mentioned. Only mentioning 36 different ones in total (including fantasy "brands" like the bat mobile), where real life shows more brands than I'm willing to count (seemingly hundreds of them):
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_automobile_manufacturers
      Actually, even my car's brand is not included. Even though it's the biggest European car producer (well, now actually having factories all over the world). Wiki says the second biggest worldwide. And still Volkswagen seems to have no single appearance while we're flooded with Buicks. That's... strange... :-o

      Dan

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    25. Aaand back to The Stand. And to a biiiig connection with that. Leo just explained a lot of visions, and with that calling Flagg "LEGION". Which is not the first time, I also noticed that name for him in The Gunslinger, mentioned by Walter. I remembered that name from other works, I wasn't sure if it was Storm of the Century or Needfull Things at first, though. Google told me today I was right at least for Storm of the Century. With André LINOGE, being an anagram for LEGION (but also officially revealed at one point). Is that the connection to Storm of the Century you mention above? Funnily you also mention Needful Things at this point of the list. So was Legion in both, after all?
      Legion's appearance as magician is older than we're used to (for Flagg), but still somewhat similar:
      http://iv1.lisimg.com/image/2570216/600full-storm-of-the-century-screenshot.jpg
      And he's a wizard. And lived for thousands of years. And likes to manipulate people. Also, that cane with the silver wolf... Wolves are pretty present in The Stand as Flagg's favorite non-human helpers in the book. Even more prominent than crows, at least so far. Unintentionally, that googeling also dug up more cameos of Legion than expected. Not just the biblical ones. No, in King's books. In "It", the voices in the drains call themselves Legion. So that could be another reason that strengthens It as part of the list. And in "Black House", the Fisherman is called Legion...

      That whole Flagg = Legion topic also raises a totally different idea of how the Flaggs are connected. The probably most famous bible quote concerning Legion is "My name is Legion: for we are many." Legion is depticed in the bible as a combination of many devils/demons, all being interlinked / being one at the same time. So I'm starting to think that The Stand's Flagg might really be a different body than in the Tower series, and the same goes for all these people calling themselves Legion. And still, they are the same. Not reborn bodies, but all co-existing. All are Legion. That's why we spot these similarities while also being unable to combine all appaerances as being one person/body. They are not. They are many. And they are one. They are Legion.

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    26. The Flagg = Legion/Linoge conection was definitely the one I alluded to. It makes even more sense when you consider how focused the two (Linoge in "Storm" and Flagg in "The Stand") are on obtaining a child.

      As for "Needful Things," the only reason I mentioned it is that Leland Gaunt just kind of FEELS similar to Linoge, and to Flagg. He's a magical, devilish villain. There may be more specific characteristics, too, but I don't remember them.

      On the car subject, didn't the Torrances drive a Volkswagen in "The Shining"?

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    27. You're right! I didn't even noticed the child focus as their way to obtain it is quite different. And maybe that's why I wasn't sure which of the two works Legion was in, due to the similar feel of the villain.
      I don't remember the Torrance's car (not a car guy) the only related entry in the list is that Jack's FIRST car was a 5 year old Buick. Nothing about the current car, though. Maybe the brand was not mentioned and you're reemembering the movie?
      btw: Dick drives a Cadillac, so both most prominent cars appear there. And at his last travel, he rents another Buick.

      But back to Legion: I'm wondering if the Legion detail was in the first version of the book. I guess it wasn't. For the Flagg in The Stand, King mentions other inspirations, and I guess he was just meant for this one book at the beginning. But he and his fans liked him so much that King went on using him. And making him Legion would be the perfect tool to do that. To create a reason how he can be in many worlds and appear in many forms. Could you maybe check in the original version, please? I just have the extended one (both as book and as audio book). The scene to look at is the one where Leo (the boy that Nadine used to call "Joe") has his big vision. About Harold's secret plans, about Flagg, about Mother Abigail and more.
      This would also explain why the words "Randal Flagg" (unlike Linoge, for example) seem to have no connection to "Legion" and we never learn why Legion chose this name, of all possible names.

      I must say I'm glad to "read" the book again, it's very fruitful concerning Flagg. Aside from Flagg, the book has some major weaknesses imo (maybe more another time) and I certainly wouldn't put it in my Top Ten King books (well, obviously you neither :) ), but Flagg makes it worth reading it. The mental fight with Dana for example, wow. Also, I learned quite a lot which I forgot from my first reading. Partially shattering my theories, partially supporting them a lot. The shattered ones might be the most interesting ones, because they also create new ones. Let's look at two of them:
      1) I stopped thinking Flagg can shapeshift. The word "shapeshift" appears a lot, usually when people recognize him in animals and wonder if he can shapeshift. But it's always with a question mark, and the narrator never supports it (never denies it, either). And almost as often as that, the possibility is mentioned that he maybe can project himself into animals, thereby controling them. The book leaves both possibilities so far, but I clearly choose the latter. Why?
      - In TEotD, Flagg states he's not able to shapeshift and doubts he or anybody might ever be able to do it
      [continued in next post, I hit the limit]

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    28. - Flagg uses not just single animals, but sometimes several animals at once. Like a whole pack of wolves or a bunch of weasels. I can imagine that working with controling, but hardly with shapeshifting.
      - Flagg sometimes appears as an animal far away from the place his human body is supposed to be at that time. Unless he can teleport, taking control of animals which already were at the places he wants to go would be the best explanation for that.
      - In some situations, it would be much easier for Flagg to be human, but we still see him as animal. For example: If he wasn't a crow when finding the judge, he could have easily taken care of him. He didn't, but sent his people. Why? Because his human body was still far away and he couldn't do much with the crow.
      - If shapeshifting would be possible, you would suspect that he can easily shapeshift to humans, maybe even impersonating existing ones. Be it only to mock them. Aside from one very particular exception, we never see him in human form though. It's always animals, and only wild ones. (Never dogs or other pets, never any domestic animal at all.) I can imagine it's easier to invade their minds due to their wildness (humanity has not yet found its ways into their brains, and as acting on instincts is much more present). But I can hardly imagine it's easier to shapeshift to such animals (especially compared to humans).
      On a side note: He does somewhat "control" humans too, but only indirectly, ruling them by fear. For the animals, I'm talking about actual direct control.

      2) Even aside from the word Legion, the book keeps calling him a demon. And not only metaphorically. During his wedding night, he actually looks 100% like a demon and not even slightly human anymore. The book does however also mention human roots, and in "our" world at that. Thereby denying once and for all that this might be the body of TEofD's Flagg with amnesia. Actually, there even are some minor memories from his past returning, seemingly a perfectly human one. With him being "Richard". After a certain event however (which is not stated clearly yet, but I think I remember one or two things from my first reading) he started loosing his human treats bit by bit. (And I guess the same goes for his memory, therefore the amnesia.) It's compared to an onion loosing layer after layer.
      My guess on that is that at that time in the past, Richard (which I will now use when refering to Flagg's human part) let the demon possess him. The combination of both is what we know as The Stand's Flagg. And layer by layer, that demon removes his human parts and leaves just an empty shell for the demon to use. We do actually see some very human moments, but they are rare. One of the scenes best supporting that is the wedding night. During the,... uhm ... impregnation, the demon fully takes over, no Richard left. Nadine clearly notices this change. A while later, a very human Flagg awakes, being unusually anxious and weak, nothing at all like the Flagg we know. And having no recollection what happened during the night. Why? Because it's Richard at that time. (Probably the demon has to regain his power after fully blocking Richard before). And he doesn't remember what happened because he (Richard) was absent (completely suppressed) at that time...
      [and still not finished]

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    29. 3*) Well, I was talking about two theories, right? That's the way I got them. But they actually turn out to be one big theory, as the parts perfectly match to each other. I said the demon "possessed" Richard, but what's that? Well, controlling him. And the moment he invaded him was probably a moment where Richard lost his faith in humanity, got in rage and acted on instincts only. Becoming a wild creature, so to say. Still not wild enough it seems, as a part of Richard still remains in Flagg...
      Oh, it's also worth mentioning that this does fit Legion pretty well, which appears in the bible having possessed a human. And in some versions later on possessing a bunch of pigs (at once, just like Flagg does with wolves/weasels).

      *As in "1 + 2 = 3". :)

      Of course this raises the question if all Flaggs and Legions we encounter are possessed humans. And I tend to say yes. The remaining layers of the "onion" might differ from one book to the other, though. This would also give us yet another explanation why they are similar but not identical. Even if the Legion part always looks the same, the remaining human traits of the host might make the difference. But the more the human layers are removed, the more similar the Flaggs become.
      It also does make the whole discussion about Flagg growing a new body silly. He doesn't grow a body. He just possesses one. So no wait would be required. (Well, just for the right moment to take over the body, maybe.)
      The biblical legion also ONLY appears possessing other bodies, I guess his own body (if such a thing even exists) is not suited for human worlds.

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    30. Sorry, I made a mistake above. While researching Legion (the biblical one, but I stumbled upon Flagg anyway) I read that Legion's name was mentioned in Tom Cullen's vision (when he was hypnotized), not in Leo's. The scene was also quoted there as:
      "He's always outside. He came out of time. He doesn't know himself. He has the name of a thousand demons. Jesus knocked him into a herd of pigs once. His name is Legion. He's afraid of us. We're inside."
      I'm not quite sure what outside/inside means here. Flagg does often reside inside a casino, so it's not literally. Maybe it somehow refers to being within god's plan/fraction. Just because it fits to the Jesus context. The biblical Legion fears Jesus, and Flagg fears Abigail who's also representing god's will.

      btw: Just like Flagg, I don't understand why his downfall starts the moment Abigail dies. (I would understand it if it started at his wedding night for several reasons, but it already starts before that.) I'm still hoping for a hint of that to come up. (Current status: Stuart Redman is injured and left behind, so still some things to come.) So far I can just make wild speculations. Like comparing it to Jesus again, who is said to have defeated the human sin by his death (or something like that). But somehow that doesn't feel right for The Stand...

      Oh, and as additional hint supporting the possessing theory: Andre Linoge seems to be able to do so, otherwise a human child (and unlike in The Stand not carrying his genes) would be of no use to him.

      Dan

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    31. (1) On the subject of the Volkswagen: I know it's a bug in the movie, but I'm not positive about the book. I think it is, though.

      (2) I'd be glad to consult the original version of The Stand, but I don't know precisely where to look. What chapter is it in the revised version? If you're not sure, I'll try and remember to root around and find it myself when I've got a bit more time in a day or two.

      (3) The idea of all the incarnations of Flagg we meet actually being possessed by the "real" Flagg is a compelling one. I'm not immediately sure I agree with it, but it's very cool to ponder, that's for sure. Well done!

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    32. Alright, I checked the original version of "The Stand," and Tom's reference to Flagg being Legion is indeed there.

      I also checked "The Shining," at the Torrances most definitely drive a VW bug to the Overlook.

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    33. Short on time today, so just a few additional thoughts on the theories above.
      (I'd actually have quite a lot of things to say as the "circle" has been completed. Also concerning the cars. Well, another time.)
      Thanks for checking. I wouldn't know the chapter, I'm bad at remembering numbers unless they have specific meanings. And looking up is not that easy for an audio book either.
      I wouldn't say people are possessed by Flagg, but rather by Legion. "Flagg" is what they become due to that, a mixture of human and demon. Well, at least that is what I currently think. This does of course open new doors for the other books. Maybe the answer to the ongoing dispute between fans, "Is Walter = Marten?" can be answered by Walter just being possessed by Legion, too. While both still are two different bodies and used to be separate humans. Also it makes me wondering if the earlier visits Flagg made in the Kingdom in TEotD were actually in the same body. One of the previous identities he mentions was a traditional executioner with a giant axe. You would expect such a guy to be muscular and pretty different from the way Flagg looks as magician. If I ever read that book again I should keep an eye out (pun not intened :) ) for additional clues regarding that.
      Also, regarding The Stand's end:
      - Flagg (I don't remember the new name just now) states that the natives (seemingly an African tribe) being primitive will make it easy to use them. Works well with the theory.
      - It seems Flagg got rid of Richard's body seconds before the explosion (we see him as demon for a moment) in order to be able to flee. The body would probably slow him down. Also, we meet the next Flagg thousands of miles away. To me it seems this is indeed a new host (but the same Legion). Also worth noting is that the new body got washed up like a castaway. That would fit, too. People being lost on the ocean are typical examples of human loosing their principles and ethics. Being forced to do everything to survive. With several people this can lead to things people would NEVER do otherwise, like cannibalism and such. Such a situation basically makes an animal of the human. Get my drift?

      Also, in an interview I now read that King was hit by a Plymouth. Wikipedia says a Dodge, and that's what I stated above, too. Don't know what to believe now. Anyway, he used Plymouths a lot long before that, including Christine.
      Would be a bit creepy if it actually was a Plymouth, like Christine haunting him. (Not exactly, as both texts say it was a van and Christine clearly isn't, but stiil creepy somehow.) He should write a book about stories becoming reality! Oh, wait... he did.

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    34. King says in "On Writing" that it was a Dodge van, so in this case, Wikipedia appears to be correct.

      Drift = gotten ;)

      I like that idea on the Walter/Marten subject.

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    35. So about the cars: The brand list above is indeed not complete, it seems. When Tom and Redman are looking for a car to go back to Boulder, one of the cars they can’t use is a VW. Worth mentioning is however that the car they use in the end is a Plymouth, after all. And that this Plymouth is not included either. So the list is far from being complete, but even if that is just a “sample” the size of this sample is so big that I would call it representative. At least for the top brands being unusually present, not necessarily representative for each of the less present brands.
       
      Have you ever wondered or read anything about the resemblance of “Flagg” and “Flagstaff mountain” (a mountain located West of Boulder, and mentioned quite a lot in the book)? I wonder if that’s just a coincidence, or somehow related after all. No explicit connection is mentioned in the book, and the mountain is located near Mother Abigail’s people, not Flagg’s people.
       
      Concerning the book's weaknesses I mentioned before:
       
      Without intending to offend, the book is in large parts very, very American. More American than realistic. Yes, I do know that these people are Americans. But still I can’t imagine nobody out of all these people questions what they do at times.
      For example, the book keeps and keeps telling us about measures to preserve US values, US systems, US patriotism, US-style government and more. The book spends quite some time on that. That would be okay if they would also consider other points equally. Well, they don’t. There are things which should have a much, much higher priority which are not considered at all.  Most importantly (in my eyes): food. The folks at Boulder keep eating canned food with crackers and stuff they find somewhere. Yeah, this does work for now. (Might cause some health issues, but medical issues and mortality aren’t issues in the book.  ... Oh wait, they are!) Maybe even for a decade or so. But does nobody ever think of the future? They totally  forego to save remaining farm animals, for example. No committee for that or anything. They just let the few remaining ones die. Thereby while wanting to keep high political standards on the one side, damning humanity to become hunters like in the stone age once it runs out of cans – which will happen sooner or later. (And the hunting would just cover meat, while other animal products like milk and all products based on that are completely lost.)
      And before the vegan readers here have a chance to react to that: Vegetables, fruits and any types of crop are concerned, too. Only very very few of them are able to survive if nobody is cultivating them.
      This nation wouldn’t need a Flagg to be destroyed. If you only start acting once you run out of cans (respectively when they go bad after a few years), it’s already too late. The animals and plants you would need are gone. You can’t keep up a high level political system (or limit criminality, btw) if people are starving to death. As Einstein said, “an empty stomach is not a good political adviser.”
      (Of course that wouldn’t be the most interesting topic in the world for a book. But if you do describe the creation and tasks of committees, you just can’t forget/skip the most important ones.)
       
      Certainly one of the biggest structural weaknesses imo is once again that the book can’t keep up with the expectations it creates. Well, not as bad as in The Talisman, that’s for sure. But still.
      Before getting into details, I guess that’s based on King’s approach on writing. As he likes to state in interviews: one word after other (wording might be off, I read a translation and am re-translating it here). Usually with only a vague idea where he’s heading. Sometimes this turns out surprisingly well, but sometimes... well, it doesn’t. If you don’t know where you’re heading, you do risk to run into a wall.  

      [next up: more ranting]

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    36. But back to The Stand in particular: The first two books and the setting in general  create the impression that this is a book about the clash of two nations, a clash of a “good” army and an evil army. An armageddon, if you will. Well, guess again. The final constellation this book leads up to is nothing like that, but actually rather a constellation you could somewhat compare to “It”, a small group deciding to face evil. (With the "evil" nation just being background decorations, aside from one particular exception.) But while “It” focuses on the constellation from the very beginning, The Stand starts off by trying to be something else. And fails.
      Don’t get me wrong here, I don’t think a book should always tell you what you expect. I did like for example that King had the balls to let Nick die, though probably nobody was expecting that. (Don’t get me wrong here: I do like Nick. But I do like unpredictable twists, too.) But undercutting the main expectation might be a bad thing.
      I guess a fight of armies would not have turned out good either, though. That’s just not his style / speciality*. He’s better at focusing on a limited number of people and at exploring their minds in detail. So maybe I should be glad that it didn’t turn out to be Leo (“Joe”) and Tom Cullen fighting armies of unsuspecting Vegas residents with uzis... ;)
       
      * (I think this is also something which shows in the Tower series. While King states Tolkien as original inspiration, he barely even mentions big battles in the Tower series. Let alone makes them as epic as Tolkien does. Yeah, I do know that he wanted to create something own, not a copy of something. That clearly shows, too., and doesn't make the Tower books bad, not at all. I still think it’s worth mentioning here, though.)
       
      Another giant weakness is that the protagonists actions actually doesn’t matter at all concerning the events around Flagg and his people (I’ll call the sum of both “dark people” from here on). The book wants to give you the impression, but that’s just an illusion. The only lasting impact on the dark people, if at all, was Mother Abigail’s death. At least the book tries to tell us that this started Flagg’s downfall. We’re never told how this is related, but even if it is, that’s it. Everything else the committee does doesn’t matter. At all. Actually most decisions were just a hindrance or waste of human lives. Like sending spies. Two of which die without actually achieving much. And the third arrives in Boulder when everything’s already over anyway. Yeah, he does save Redman, but Redman’s mission was equally useless. The actual destruction of the dark people happens completely from within their ranks. No outsiders required. What would have been different if the remaining committee members didn’t arrive at Las Vegas? Yeah, the dark people wouldn’t have gathered to watch the execution, but that doesn’t matter.  The trashcan man would still have brought the bomb to Flagg, and the hand of god could still have ended it the same way. Las Vegas was swept from the map, it doesn’t matter if people were inside their houses or at the execution location. (And many of them were doubting Flagg anyway at this point, so it’s actually debatable if they even deserve that fate.) (And let’s not even start about Flagg escaping either way.) So basically everything the committee did against Flagg was just a waste of lives and nothing is achieved. The best possible action (and therefore the one they should have been told by their visions would have been to go to the East coast, as far as possible from the dark people. Not just to avoid direct conflicts, also because Boulder is actually far too close to Vegas concerning the fallout. (And indirect fallout by rivers, wind, rain, snow and so on. And there’s lots of snow that winter.) So what was the point of all that? If the whole point was just Abilgail dying, she might as well have done that somewhere else.
      [one more post]

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    37. Once again: This doesn’t mean it’s a bad book, even though I focus on the bad sides here- Flagg does make it an interesting read. (The book’s not called “Flagg”, though.) And some other elements, too. It is a good book. But one that does have big weaknesses. And therefore one that is not one of my favorite King books.

      Oh, and even though I tend to interpret a lot, it seems there are people taking things too literally. When Glenn accuses the Vegas people of supporting the dark side, he calls Flagg not only Legion, but also Ahaz, Anubis, Astaroth, Beelzebub, Nyarlathotep, R'lyeh and Seti. (That includes two more Lovecraft references, btw.) And I’ve seen people stating those as being Flagg. Well, I seriously doubt that. Some of these are very different, very distinct demons/deities/humans which hardly can be the same. Take for example the biblical ones, with Ahaz being just a mere human king (debatable evil, but surely human), Legion being an ordinary demon and Beelzebub being one of the heighest claimants to hell’s throne, usually considered to be approximately on the level of Lucifer and Satan. (And Abigail clearly states he isn’t Satan or as powerful as him.) Similar for the other ones. Also, we have no indication that this has been revealed to Glenn in a vision or whatnot. (Glenn also isn’t the type to get visions, he isn’t religious and rather doubting the whole supernatural things in general.) If you look closely at his statements, it clearly doesn’t sound like it’s to be taken literally. His intention is to emphasize that Flagg stands for all the evilness and vileness in our world, in our dreams, in our fears. The persons/demons/gods in the list are just stress this by showing what people fear(ed) and consider to represent evil. Also, Glenn clearly emphasizes Legion, and there would be no reason to emphasize on such a medium demon among the high-level deities and demons.

      Dan

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    38. I'm with you; I seriously doubt that Flagg is Ahaz, Anubis, etc. I mean, how would Bateman have access to that knowledge? He wouldn't have the first clue of such things. He's simply naming names that have been used as representative of Satan-esque figures. He's being metaphorical.

      On the subject of there not being epic Tolkienesque battles in King's epic fantasies: I get what's he going after, and it mostly works for me. Moreso in "The Dark Tower" than in "The Stand"; the climax of "The Stand" feels like a big old letdown to me. And as much as I love all of the Dark Tower books, I always envisioned there being a massive battle of some sort toward the end of the series. It bums me out that that never happened. And yet, I love the final book! It's a weird satisfied/not-satisfied feeling.

      However, some of the Marvel comics based on The Dark Tower DO have some epic Tolkienesque battles in them, and they fall flat on their face. Granted, King did not write them; Robin Furth and Peter David did. But if you to see a great example of King's stories being forced into Tolkien territory and ceasing to work immediately, look no farther than those comics.

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    39. The Tower books personally never gave me the impression they will lead to a battle of armies. If at all the big battles I'd have expected to learn more about were the ones in Gilead's past. But similar as for you, I think it's entirely different from the feeling The Stand leaves me with.
      So no idea about Flagstaff mountain, or where the name "Flagg" originated from?

      I haven't read the comics yet, and I won't before I'm finished with the extended reading of the books. I don't want the comics to infer with my impression of Roland's world/journey. Especially as I heard that the comics do in some parts clearly contradict the books. I want the books to be the original, not the comics.

      I’m already at the next audio book, but before I start with that, first some things about Storm of the Century, which I just re-watched. And the similarities to Flagg you and me stated above were just the tip of the iceberg. It’s not just the similar feel, not just the successor fixation, not just the wolf theme of the cane, and not just the ancient wizard theme. It works in every appearance. What are the details about Flagg’s appearance we read the most often in The Stand?
      1)     At his early appearances, his face is being hidden. Same for Linoge. Though it’s not by a hood (the most popular but not only the reason in The Stand) but by the camera angles, the old lady’s door and by sitting in the armchair with his back to the arriving people.
      2)     He wears time-worn boots, and a pair of old jeans. Same for Linoge. Both do not only have scenes with the camera focusing on them, but both pieces of clothing are also explicitely mentioned in dialogues. (Other pieces of clothing differ, but seem to be less important. When the circle closes in The Stand, only these two pieces are mentioned for the new body.)
      3)     His eyes (when he’s not trying to appear human) are pitch black, sometimes with a red glow where you would expect the pupils. (Usually when using his powers). Exactly the same for Linoge.
      4) Flagg is often described with unusual sharp teeth. If we assume that Walter is one of his apperances, we also have cases where the teeth are sharp one moment and normal the next moment. (Might happen in other books too, but I'm not entirely sure.) Which is the case for Linoge, too.
      And that’s “just” the looks. Of course there’s also:
      5)     When being threatened by a weapon, both Flagg and Linoge transmute the weapon into something else. (Linoge: a snake. Flagg: A carrot or something like that, I think.)
      6)     Nadine’s hair turns white due to being closely exposed to Flagg. Same for Angela with Linoge.
      7)     In The Stand, Flagg gives a black stone to the ones he regards worthy, to his most important people (a kind of “badge” for his “generals”). Ralphie is chosen as Linoge’s successor by his mother drawing a black stone (among otherwise white stones) which looks quite similar to how the black stones in The Stand were described. Not entirely sure about that: While I would assume Ralphie should be considered the highest rank his stone doesn't have that.

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    40. [continued due to the limit]

      I guess the main reason Linoge was not created with the initials R.F. is just that it’s impossible to create an anagram of “Legion” that starts with “F”. :)
      It’s not the only exception from being R.F. though. See Marten and/or Walter, for example. Which btw. might also be to allow a kind of play on words/letters. It’s a bit far-fetched, but a flipped-down version of the Name “Walter” could maybe be mis-read as “Marten”. Only when written by hand though. Only then can a flipped “l” (small "L") be mistaken for a “r”, for example. Typed liked this it doesn’t work. And even written by hand, “Walter” would actually rather become “Martel”. I tried to show it here:
      http://oi62.tinypic.com/10yifcz.jpg
      Or the other way around, a flipped "Marten" would become "Walteu". So maybe just a coincidence, and Marten is instead refering to the animal marten, an animal which is related to the weasels Flagg likes to use in The Stand. (If it actually is “weasels” in the English version. I’m not so sure anymore after the different “dim” translations explained above. They weren’t martens in the original, were they?)

      But back to SotC, as a non-Legion connection are also worth mentioning:
      Dolores Claiborne is mentioned in the book, even though SotC was written - and even filmed and released - long before the Dolores story was published. Quoting Robert:
      "Island business is island business...
      Always has been, always will be.
      Dolores Claiborne, whatever she did with her husband during the eclipse..."
      [then he goes on with further examples]
      I wonder if King was already working on the Dolores script at that time. Would mean it gave him quite a hard time / took him quite long. Or mentioning Dolores was just random and made King want to tell this story afterwards...
      Do you know from interviews (or the books about writing/his books) how long it usually takes King from starting to write a script until a book is finally published?

      Dan

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    41. I wish I could edit, there's a part gone missing at the end of the first post which destroys the meaning. The part missing being that Flagg's highest ranks additionally having a red spot in their black stones. Ralphie's stone doesn't.

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    42. Yeah, I hate that Blogger doesn't allow the author to edit comments. But so be it!

      I'll try to cover as many of your points as possible (sleep is calling!):

      (1) Flagstaff is a real place. As for Flagg's name, I think I read something from King about it at some point, but I don't remember where. I think it was something along the lines of trying to make an ironic comment about Flagg's supposed patriotism, but I wouldn't swear to that.

      (2) The comics definitely contradict the novels in at least one place. They are not a total waste; some of the artwork is great, and about, oh, maybe half of the stories are good. But the other half are pretty bad, and there are times when the art is atrocious. In my opinion, of course.

      (3) You make numerous excellent points about Linoge/Flagg. Even if they are not literally one and the same, they kind of may as well be, as far as I'm concerned.

      (4) I have to correct you as pertains to "Dolores Claiborne." It was published in 1993, nearly six years before "Storm of the Century" came out. I loved that reference, though. The same island shows up in one King short story, as well ("Home Delivery").

      (5) King has mentioned how long it takes him to write certain novels in various interviews, and some of the novels themselves contain start-to-finish dates. It varies greatly from book to book, as far as I can tell.

      And now, off to bed! As always, thanks for the wonderful, insightful comments!

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    43. (1) Yeah, I know it is. I was just asking if it may have been a source for his name.

      (2) I think I will read them, but not yet. So far the book illustrations are already shocking me enough. I'm still confused by Jake having black hair in the third book's illustrations. I could have sworn that King mentions Jake being blonde A LOT. Starting from the very first book, not just after the third. A dark haired Jake was just not compatibel with my imagination. Seems not important, but still that bothers me more than many other details.

      (3) Concerning the aging/hair whitening effect Legion has on people, I started to wonder about the palaver Roland had with Walter in The Gunslinger. It’s stated that it seems that years have passed during their palaver, but now I’m not sure anymore if that was a fact or just Roland’s impression. If you’re suddenly years older, you might get that thought. But maybe it wasn’t actual passage of time, but just Legion’s effect on Roland (and maybe his human host, if we assume the bones Roland finds are really Walter’s). Almost makes me want to read that part again to know for sure if it was Roland or the narrator telling us about the time. But there’s an almost infinite number of books and things the Tower Series makes me want to read and/or read again...
      And to be sure I’d probably not only would have to read that scene, but also everything from there on, if there are any indications in the world if/how much time has passed compared to the events before the palaver. Or maybe how much the world has moved on during that time, if you wish.

      (4) Don't know what went wrong there. :/

      (5) Thanks for the insight. Anything about the animals in The Stand? Martens or weasels?

      And talking about being Tolkienesque, the Tower surely does have moments where the role model shines through. Not just the eye representing the main villain. The pink Glass has quite a lot in common with the one Ring. Granting people power, fascinating them, but at the same time destroying them, marauding their soul and their body. And in particular, the way Rhea deteriorates is described quite similar to what happens to Smeagol (becoming Gollum in that process). Yeah, you can easily guess what I’m currently reading (or listening to) now. But I’ll still delay that due to...

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    44. ... Needful Things.
      No, I haven’t re-read or re-watched that one yet. But I guess I will, in time. Because the hints start to thicken (can you say that in English?) it’s indeed another appearance of Legion. At the end of SotC, we see Linoge again in San Francisco, 9 years later. And his appearance reminded me a lot of the possible “suspect” in Needful Things. With the mustache, and the “British gentleman” type appearance. Well, and both of them know all those little sins and secrets of the people they encounter.
      (As you mentioned before, the feel of the town, its residents and their secrets are very similar even aside from Linoge. Also similar to Twin Peaks, by the way. SotC heavily fed from Twin Peaks I think, to the extent that one track of the soundtrack sounds like ripped right from TP’s. But that would be another topic.)
      There will probably be many more hints once I actually re-read it, but I’m already pretty sure now. Not just because of the points above, no. Also because when looking up a pic of Needful Thing’s villain, I stumbled upon his name. Leland Gaunt. LEland GAUNt. LEGAUN. 'nuff said.
      ...
      Yeah, not correctly written. But the sound of it is almost too close to be a coincidence. (And Leland Giont would be TOO obvious. It doesn't even look or feel like a name.) We know that Legion likes to play around with words and letters, almost as if to mock people.
      (btw: Leland = another Twin Peaks reference? I’d like to say a lot more about that, but in case you haven’t seen TP that would be an awful spoiler. The timing would also fit, the two seasons of Twin Peaks aired from April 1990 to June 1991 and therefore probably before and during King wrote NT, which was then published October 1991.)

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    45. Legion = LeGaun is an interesting idea.

      I indeed have NOT seen Twin Peaks. I'd like to watch it eventually, but as to when and if that'll happen, it's hard to say. I'm not particularly a fan of Lynch, so there's no real itch compelling me toward it.

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    46. That's a shame. Some of Lynch's movie are really too cryptical in my eyes, but Twin Peaks is comparibly easily accessible. It has it's share of secrets and mysteries, but not to the extent of feeling like modern art - like several of Lynch's movies. If you enjoyed Castle Rock and Little Tall Island, Twin Peaks is the place for your next vacation. And it inspired so many works after that (surely including SotC) and is so often referenced in horror/mystery works, it's pretty much general knowledge. :)

      Also interesting concerning that: In the preamble of Needfull Things, King actually compares Castle Rock to Twin Peaks (among other towns). Could support the Leland reference.

      Never occured to me, but I found online that Legion might also be in Children of the Corn. The reason I read was that “he Who wALks behind ThE Rows” contains Walter’s name, with the letters in perfect order (as capitalized). Might be a coincidence if there aren’t more hints (which was not clearified on the page), though. Ever considered that one? I barely remember the short story (but only some of the movies), so I can’t say if there might be more to it. Would somehow fit the dreams of the people in The Stand, though. They really often saw Flagg in (or near) corn fields in their dreams. And they call him “Walkin’ Dude”, so there is a thing about him walking again.
      From the timing it would also be possible, I guess. CotC was first released 1977 - one year before the first release of The Stand. So it’s very likely that King was already working on The Stand at that time, considering its length and the time the editing took due to that. (Even more when considering that he had to re-edit it to make it shorter as requested by the publishers.) Also one year before the first chapters of The Gunslinger, which also has of course to be considered if we take the “Walter” as hint. Well, of course both would also work the other way around. In the end CotC might have been an inspiration for the other two instead. I’d probably went with that, and really just inspiration rather than actually the same being. The tiny bits I remember about the one behind the rows gave me a much less human impression. (Not even a human-like appearance, but my memory really is thin here, I don’t remember how much we actually learn about the looks.)
      Actually, there is something in the Tower series reminding me of that short story, but it’s an element not directly related to Walter. At least seemingly. The things people say when sacrificing people to the Charyou Tree (mainly in Hambry). “Death for you, life for my crop.”  I don’t remember CotC well enough to say if it fits literally, but the spirit is surely similar. Rhea is however the one responsible for reviving that tradition in its original form (with Susan as sacrifice instead of just straw dolls), not Flagg.

      UPDATE (I'm keeping notes what to write as there's just so much; and well this came a while after the ones up there): Now I also read Flagg's called "He who walks behind the rows" in The Stand. Google both names combioned, and find lots of matches. If it is, I totally missed it. But wouldn't be the first case of a term being translated differently in two King books, so...

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    47. I could get behind the idea of He Who Walks Behind The Rows actually being Legion. I don't remember Flagg being called that in "The Stand," but I wouldn't be surprised. I'm pretty sure I remember Hemingford Home being mentioned in "Children of the Corn," so King clearly had that area of the country on his mind during the late seventies!

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    48. Oh I forgot Hemingford Home, of course.
      Do you have a better memory than me concerning CotC and what the children said? Was there something more or less like "Death for you, life for my crop."?

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    49. I've got a terrible memory when it comes to specifics like that. But I grabbed a copy of the book and skimmed through the story, and I don't see anything like that in the story. The children, in fact, are barely in it until the end.

      I do remember a variation of the "life for your crop" saying appearing in "The Gunslinger," though. The guy with the talking bird says it to Roland once or twice.

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    50. At that time it's something like "Life for you, life for your crop", or "Water for you, life for your crop", something like that. Volume 4 actually even states that both are related, it's indicated that the Death version is probably the original version which was "adjusted" over time when people stopped thinking sacrifing people is a cool thing. :)

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    51. Finally found some time to write down the stuff I scribbled on whatever I could find when I was listening to the next audio book. Which is the fourth Tower book. I've already finished it, so I'm really late with that.
      btw: My order slightly differs from yours, as I found your list when I was already reading the third volume. (And I originally just wanted to know where to insert volume 8, as I never read that one before.) So I first finished volume 3, and then I started reading the books which you listed between 2 and 3. And you know the rest, from there on I regularly posted updates from the books I was reading at that point in time. From now on, I can stick to your order more closely.
      On a side note, I hate the German localization of the book’s titles. As King had a few very successful books with just one word as title, they seem to try that even for books which originally had longer titles. Probably to make them feel more “typical”. Retranslating the titles literally, they are
      Black
      Three
      dead. (Yes, with the dot. To make it even more absolute, I guess.)
      Glass
      Wolf moon (written as one combined word in German)
      Susannah
      The Tower (Wow, two words, how generous!)
      Wind
      While can somehow understand where the titles are coming from ... WHY? Why do marketing people think they know it better than the author of the book? Anyway, the differences in the titles frequently let me forget the English ones, so I’m often writing “volume x” instead.
      Funnily, the person(?) we talk about here most of the time has been “removed” due to these changes. Take that Flagg, you lost to Glass when they had to choose! XD
      ... That is if “Wizard” actually refers to Flagg/Marten. The alternatives would be Maerlyn (it’s stated that Flagg has been mistaken for Maerlyn, but he actually isn’t that wizard), or the Wizard of Oz.
      Btw, it might be the case that I write “Maerlyn” (I think I remember it’s at least not written “Merlin” most of the time) or other names incorrectly. Because an audio book doesn’t tell you how a word is written. So I can just guess for some of them, sorry.
       
      But talking about Merlin and the Wizard of Oz: Previously, when refering to books becoming reality, I was refering to The Dark Half, totally forgetting that something like that happens in the Tower books, too. Well, or maybe it doesn’t. The more you think about it, the more it turns out to be a question like “What was first – the egg or the chicken?”.
      Some parts of the Tower books give the impression that the Tower doesn’t just connect “real” worlds, but also fictional ones. Like the Ka-tet experiencing the Wizard of Oz. You could say it’s Flagg’s doing, but for some parts that’s rather unlikely. Like the storm Roland experienced in the Glass. It doesn’t seem Flagg was in any way involved in this. And there are more things like that. Like the whole Arthur Eld story. Bit by bit we learn that Arthur Eld established the Gunslingers, and in this context they are often called his knights. (The gunslinger’s role in that world is generally often compared to a knight’s role throughout the books.) We’re also given further details, the search for the Holy Grail is mentioned, and so is Excalibur. And let’s not forget about Merlin being called his wizard. There’s clearly a connection to King Arthur as we know him in our world.
      (btw: That would give us two more books/works which would have to be included in the list if non-King books were considered.)
      [to be continued]

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    52. [continuation]
      So you could get the impression that fiction becomes real there. But that’s just one way to see it. We also see cases with indications it’s the other way around. Many non-Tower books in your list above are related by people dreaming/visioning Roland and/or the Tower, and some of them start to write “fiction” inspired by that. Also in books/products not listed, like Pulse (described above) or the The Mist adaption we talked about in the movie post (showing a drawing of Roland and the tower) [yeah, I know that might not really be canon, but still]. And of course Stephen King himself as he appears in the tower books, also being only a channel for events that are taking place in other worlds. So for some cases we know that there were events in other worlds first, and then the book. For others we can just guess. So what was first:
      - The Wizard of Oz as we know it from fiction, or events in Roland’s world which eventually lead L. Frank Baum to writing his famous book?
      - King Arthur as we know him from fiction (or maybe partially real past events in our world, that’s debatable), or the Arthur Eld in Roland’s world?
      - The children’s book Charlie the Choo-Choo, or Blaine the Mono (or the other physical appearance the Ka-tet encounters in an amusement park)?
      - And there are probably lots of other stories/events that could be listed here...
      I'll keep an eye out for an answer (I forgot a lot about the upcoming tower books in these decades), but I wouldn't be surprised if we don't get one.

      Dan

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    53. Those translation titles are pretty awful. I'm a little surprised King allowed that to happen.

      You know, I've never really felt like the "Wizard" in "Wizard and Glass" actually DID refer to Flagg; it always seemed more like a general tip of the hat toward the Oz connection. But it could go either way, I guess.

      The Arthur Eld stuff is something I wish King had written more about. There is a good bit of it in the comics, and it's cool, but there are two things you need to know about that right away: (1) King himself wrote none of it (he may have advised on certain aspects, but it seems likely that this stuff was mostly written by Robin Furth); and (2) the individual comics all contained backup sections consisting of appendix material, Mid-World myths and legends, and such, and NONE of that is available in the graphic novel collections -- to get it, you'll either have to track down the individual issues or buy the expensive omnibus boxset.

      As for the "chicken-or-egg" question . . . my take on it is that King is arguing for the existence of a multiverse in which there is literally an infinity of possible universes, and is also then implying that what we think of as "storytelling" is really just the process of a storyteller getting (unbeknownst to him) a peek into one of those universes. So, in terms of King's story, the question becomes irrelevant: the "egg" and the "chicken" came into existence simultaneously, but were not necessarily aware of each other.

      But it's been a while since I actually read the books, so my opinion might change the next time I do.

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    54. I don't think King is much involved in localisations. Even if we assume his language skills would be sufficient, there are far too many lands all over the world publishing his books, he can't possibly screen all of those. And even if he wanted to, I don't know if he could. He (or rather his agent) probably sells the right to the publishers and has no rights/possibilities after that.

      Marten was often refered to as "wizard" in the book. Flagg as the Ka-tet encounters him in the book's present only rarely.

      And I really did once wish for King to write a prequel about Arthur Eld, too. But then I though more about it. All the details we get in the Tower books indicate it's a really close twinner to King Arthur's story, with the main difference being a different world as setting. So a book about him would basically be just a re-interpration of the King Arthur story, and I'm not sure if that would make such an interesting read if you already know the original. (And if the comic largely deviates from the original, I'd probably hate it for that.) And I think it wouldn't suit King's style, as I can't imagine him following a predetermined framework and still doing a job as good as he usually does. So maybe it's better left a bit mysterious. Also, such "unfinished" indications of myths and stories make Roland's world feel much more alive, more real. In real life you get bits of such stuff all the time, and you barely ever get to learn all about it. [Shush! Be quiet, Wikipedia!]

      But more about the book:

      Ah, Topeka.
      Obviously a place where the fabrics which usually separate our world from Roland’s are very thin. And therefore a place of many references. Franny Goldsmith mentioned Topeka as an important plague research center in The Stand. And now in the fourth Tower volume Roland’s group actually ends up there. I guess that’s also why Blaine had to charge his batteries before going to Topeka: As Topeka is not a part of his world (originally) there’s no power source for him. The book leaves no doubt that this really is Topeka, Kansas. Seemingly from a slightly different version of our world compared to that Roland drew his group from. But still a version of the good old US for sure. Listing references would go too far, as basically the whole visits consists ENTIRELY of references to The Stand. Mostly refering to Captain Trips, where it came from, what it did to the people, how the government reacted and so forth. But also to the “Walkin’ Dude’. Maybe even to the trashcan man, as there were newspaper articles about big fires and explosions. Unfortunately I forgot where he set fires in The Stand (before he reached Vegas), so I couldn’t check if the locations fit.
      And: I wonder why Topeka, of all towns. Any ideas?
      [more in a minute]

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    55. Also worth noticing: The time Roland’s group (Ka-tet) goes there is 1986, and the downfall still seems to be very fresh. In the current version of the Stand however Captain Trips starts his “trip” 1990, so that doesn’t fit. I guess that date is still based on the original paperback release, in which – according to Wikipedia –  the events took place 1985/86. Not updating the 4th volume according to his other updates does create a discrepancy though.
      Even after Topeka, The Stand is being referenced by a note (mentioning where both Abigail and the “Dark Man” have their bases), and by many details around Flagg in general (for example the Tick-Tock Man using the same way of loyality oath as the dark people in The Stand. And Roland states that he thinks the Flagg they met is also responsible for what they saw in Topeka, meaning he implies that it's the same Flagg as in The Stand.
      Anyway, it turns out the accidentally altered order of the books was actually great concerning that. Reading the 4th volume right after The Stand makes Topeka incredibly interesting, more than it was during my first reading long ago. So much to discover if the memory is still fresh. That would also strengthen my point of putting the Stand after TEotD. TEotD is best read before the 2nd Tower volume, as the latter includes the follow-up to this story. And The Stand is best read before the 4th volume, as those are very strongly interlinked. And as logical consequence...

      btw: I find the thought of Flagg packing lunch boxes for the Ka-tet really amusing. XD

      Dan

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    56. Oh, I forgot to answer one part of your post:
      A thought like that (your chicken-egg solution) crossed my mind too, and it works fine for many cases. But awful for others. For example, Flagg does imitate the Wiazrd of Oz on purpose, also refering to it. That makes it unlikely that the book was inspired by this event. Also in general, it would totally mess up the time "line". Time is not a clear and straight line in the Tower universe(s) anyway, as we discussed earlier. But I still can hardly imagine the things happening to Roland happened before or simultaneously to the Wizard of Oz being written. Just to take one example.
      And btw, your theory could pretty much be printed as description of "Ur" on its back. :)

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    57. My assumption as to why he picked Topeka is that it must have a "Wizard of Oz" connection, since Kansas is where Dorothy lives prior to having her adventure(s) in Oz.

      As for the '85/'86 thing, I would write that one off as being due to this being on a different level of the Tower. In other words, it's obviously A "Captain Trips" event, but not THE "Captain Trips" event. So it isn't quite "The Stand"; just very, very similar to it. I can't swear that that's the case, but it seems likely; I believe there are cars (Takuro?) referenced in that section of "Wizard and Glass" that are not real cars, and are also not mentioned in "The Stand."

      My brain hurts...

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    58. Good idea (about Kansas). But about the 85/86 stuff, I really think it's related to The Stands first edition. The dates fit pretty well to what I read about it. And the strange branded cars were in Lud, not Topeka. :)
      (Lud had both familiar and strange brands of cars.)

      But to the next book: Needfull Things. Inserted for reasons mentioned above.

      Ah, Castle Rock. Feels a bit like returning home. I can’t tell you why, after all only a very small percentage of King’s stories took place there (I think 3 books and 2 or 3 shorter stories). But still, more than any other place in his books this feels like “King Town” to me.
      Needfull Things even further enhances this feeling, as it seems to be packed with references. Very obvious ones, like people clearly talking about the events in Cujo and Stark. But also many many names (of people and places) that sound familiar, but probably got lost somewhere in my memory during all the years of not reading King.
       
      As stated before, for Linoge I have the opinion that we can say for sure that he’s linked to Flagg, making SotC a candidate for the list. However, for Needfull Things I currently still share your opinion that you may choose to see the same Legion in him, but it’s not a sure thing. Some pros and cons:

      + See various points stated before, for example the resemblance to Linoge in San Francisco, and the LEland GAUNt bit.
      + It seems he’s able to become dim, too. The book (at least the translation) doesn’t explicitly state this, but we see a scene with Alan (the sheriff) putting his face on the shop window to look into the store. And even though Gaunt stands directly in front of him at the other side of the window (and watches Alan from within), Alan doesn’t notice him.

      - Except from in TEotD, Flagg/Legion was always wearing old boots and jeans. That doesn’t go for Gaunt.
      - In all appearances so far Legion frequently displayed black eyes, often with a red glow. Gaunt doesn’t. His eyes are often mentioned, as every person sees a different color in them. But none of the versions looks like Legion's eyes.
      UPDATE: Well, in the very end his eyes glow red. No blackness mentioned though.
      - Gaunt also has peculiar teeth, but not sharp (as for Legion) but just crooked.
      UPDATE: And again: In the very end this changes, his teeth become sharp when he starts looking like a demon.

      More pros and cons another time (currently they are just scribbles on little notes), first back to the names: One name that in particular woke my interest was Polly Chalmers. Especially as when she sees Gaunt, she has a déjà vu. She has seen him before, but can’t tell where and when. I took that as hint that whereever we have seen Polly before in King’s works, there probably also was the same evil entity as Gaunt. But as I said, I’m bad at remembering names, so I had to use Google/KingWikis as “memory extension”. It seems that Polly was mentioned in most other Castle Rock works: She is Annie’s employer in Stark, is seen brooming the sideway in The Sun Dog and according to “Bag of Bones” she lives in New Hemptshire 1998. But in in all of them, she was just shortly mentioned and seemingly had no contact with the respective evil entity. (Damned, I was hoping to find out Gaunt is Cujo! ;) ) Seemingly a dead end, after all.

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    59. I'm planning on rereading "Needful Things" soon -- haven't read that one in probably twenty years, so I'm looking forward to it!

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  18. Hi this is a great list! And I am looking forward to reading this series. As I was browsing through the comments, I was wondering if this is still the order in which one should read the series or if more books might be added.

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    1. Hello!

      I would say that the list is still the order I would recommend, but I would add the short story "Ur" to the end somewhere, sort of as a post-dinner mint. It is not available in any of King's books as yet, but you can get it for the Kindle or as an audiobook.

      Feel free to drop back by here and let us know how your progress is going!

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