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!





147 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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    60. Let me know your opinions once you reach it.
      Took me forever to return this time. Had lots of stuff scribbled down, but I'm very low on time and kept postponing the typing...
      Well here goes:

      More Pro’s and Con’s for Gaunt being Legion/Flagg:
       
      + Gaunt states (towards Ace, in a joking tone) that his cocaine come from the plains of Leng. It’s the same area where TEotD’s Flagg got his spellbook (Lovecraft’s Necronomicon, as described somewhere above) from. Considering these connections, it comes as no surprise that King adopted Leng itself from Lovecraft, too: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leng
      (I keep getting surprised by the number of Lovecraft references in Stephen King’s works...)
       
      + Just as for Linoge, the climax of Gaunt’s plan is accompanied by a storm’s climax. (In SotC it’s a snow storm, here it’s a thunder storm.) [However, for both cases we don’t know if the storm was somewhat caused by the antagonist, or just foreseen and used. Or if King just used it for the tension without thinking much about the connection.]
       
      + Similar to The Stand, the “circle closes” in the end, even despite the demon’s failure this time.
       
      +/- If we count the movie, Gaunt states that he met “that carpenter from Nazareth”. On the one hand this links him to Legion who also met Jesus, on the other hand Gaunt takes him lightly and mocks him. Very unlike Legion, who fears Jesus both in the bible and in King’s books.
       
      - Legion and Gaunt are suggested to be two different Lovecraftian entities, more about that next time, that's quite a big topic
       
      - Gaunt is described as doing this wandering salesman thing for several hundreds of years. That doesn’t go well with Flagg/Legion, who used various different tactics.

      - The way Gaunt flees in the end doesn't feel like Legion/Flagg at all and is very different from the latter's escapes
       
      Conclusion? A matter of taste, just as you wrote. You can choose to think they are the same, I for myself chose to see them as two different beings in the end. Counting the number of pros and cons might suggest otherwise, but the feeling that I get is still different.
       
      And an addition to the “familiar names” topic: It took me quite long to notice that Ace Merril is the same as Jack Bauer, uhm sorry, the same guy as the one in “Stand by me”. :)
      Due to my bad name memory I needed references to the actual events to note it. Learning that, I wanted to check who played Ace in the movie version of NT (certainly not Kiefer Sutherland, but I was curious anyway), but found no mention of him in credits and plot summaries. Has Ace been removed in the movie?
       
      Btw, talking about the movie: I don’t know if I ever saw the full version, unfortunately I don’t have it myself. But it doesn’t just seem to have a different end. The trailer I watched on youtube was very impressive regarding Gaunt. (Oh I LOVE that quote “You’re disgusting! I like that in a person.”) But very different from the book in a particular way: The trailer already shows more biblical references than the whole book. Yeah, there is the war of the two churches, but Gaunt isn’t clearly linked to god or the devil at all in the book. Not at all. I remember only a saying being used stating “The devil's voice is sweet to hear.”, but I don’t take that as Gaunt actually being THE devil. If it was, Ace would also be the devil as he’s meant by “Speak of the devil!” in a different scene. A lot of third party sources however clearly say Gaunt IS the devil, and I guess those are mainly based on the movie version. The trailer basically promotes the movie that way:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKCJxsO1jt8
      Might be the case for the movie, but I clearly don’t agree with that in the book. That saying is just a saying to me, and there is no other reason in the book to believe that. Actually, in the end it’s clearly stated that he looks like a “demon”, not like a/the “devil”.

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    61. Oh, and about how I liked the book: Actually much better than I expected. I mainly read it for finding Legion links, not expecting that much of a story which is pretty predictable and basically already fully explained on the book’s back. But it does have it’s magic. It’s scary in a very unusual way. I wasn’t really scared of the antagonist, but it was really creepy to see what humans are capable of just due to their greed. Well, at least in the beginning. I actually wished it was less supernatural, for once. For me the book would have been way more scary if the book went on with people actually deciding to do that stuff. Being tricked into it, but without Gaunt’s hypnosis-type magic. Because the scary thing for me in the story was the evilness within everybody, not the evilness within one supernatural entity...
      Doesn’t make Gaunt a badly designed character, he is very interesting indeed. For this character. it works out perfect this way. Still, I think the book as a whole would have worked even better for me if he was just a deceitful human making use of the evilness within all of us, an evilness which is much more real and impossible to avoid...

      Hope it won't take me that long to gather and type the Lovecraft stuff...
      See you next time,

      Dan

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    62. "Very unlike Legion, who fears Jesus both in the bible and in King’s books." -- Well, yes, but would it be out of character for Legion/Linoge to be afraid of Jesus but pretend NOT to be in front of somebody else? I don't think it would at all.

      Ace is definitely not in the movie. I wonder if it was because they could not get Sutherland to reprise his role, or if they simply did not want to create a connection with "Stand By Me."

      I have not watched the movie in a few years, but I like it. It's not great, but I think it's more or less solid. Good acting, some good setpieces, a good musical score. Underrated, in my opinion.

      Based on my memory, I think the movies probably DOES imply that Gaunt is THE devil. If so, I don't mind; the idea is close enough to the book (what I remember of it, anyways) that I can live with the change.

      Your idea about the novel being potentially better without the supernatural elements is an interesting one. But I'm okay with it as is. The idea, from what I remember, is that not only WILL people sell their souls, but they'll do it for fairly cheap prices. King has said that he thinks of the novel as a satire about consumerism, and without the supernatural elements, I don't know that the satire could work.

      I'll bear this all in mind when I reread the novel, though; probably next month, after "Mr. Mercedes" is out and crossed off my to-read list.

      I enjoyed your thoughts about it!

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    63. Well, but The Stand's Flagg is not able to hide his fear, even though it's clearly umcomfortable to show that weakness. But book-wise it doesn't matter anyway, like I indicated we probably can't rely on the movie when analysing King's vision of Gaunt, as there seem to be quite important differences between movie-Gaunt and book-Gaunt (and therefore Gaunt as King intended him). And as I said, it's not impossible to see him as Legion. It's a matter of taste. For me, personally, some of the cons destroy the possibility, but that's very subjective. Being objective, it's possible but not a given.

      Thanks for the confirmation regarding Ace. I'd really be interested in watching the movie, just not sure if interested enough to hunt down the DVD. (I'm not into online-renting.) I'm spending already enough money on the audio books as it is. :)
      (Previously I had only the books - if at all.) But I do love the trailer. And I'm not complaining about the idea of Gaunt being the devil in the movie, not at all. Seems to work great for the movie. My point is just that when analysing King's vision and the connections between his works, we can't rely on the movie. And on online sources based on that movie. It can't be considered as part of King's canon, but it can still be great on its own.

      Well, people don't know they are selling their souls when they do it. And they think(!) they are getting really unique and precious things for it, not knowing it's actually just deceit.
      And people could still be selling their souls without supernatural elements. In a non-literal way. Which would even be closer to the reality the satire is criticizing. So I think it would still work. :)

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    64. I agree with all of that.

      (Except the online-renting thing. I'm not opposed to downloading. I'm opposed to uploading; that's the part I never do.)

      I'd say the movie is good, but not essential.

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    65. This time it didn't take me that long!
      So if Gaunt is neither Legion nor the devil, what is he (in the book)?
       
      At the wall of his old house (the one where Ace took Gaunt’s “Talisman” car from), we can read “Yog-Sothoth rules". And we don’t just read that, we learn that this name kept coming back to Ace’s mind again and again, signaling that this bears some importance. While not remembering the name, the sound of it clearly indicated to me that Lovecraft is involved here. And correct. The following details are taken from
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yog-Sothoth
      , and in my opinion go very well with Gaunt being a Yog-Sothoth worshipper/minion. (He can’t possibly be Yog-Sothoth himself, as Yog-Sothoth is an omnipotent being from a different dimension, and according to Lovecraft can’t enter our dimension. He’s worshipped here, though.)
       
      > Yog-Sothoth knows all and sees all. To "please" this deity could bring knowledge of many things.
       
      Knows all and sees all sounds very familiar. Like Gaunt knowing all the secrets and wishes of the people of Castle Rock, right?
       
      > However, like most beings in the mythos, to see it or learn too much about it is to court disaster. Some authors state that the favor of the god requires a human sacrifice or eternal servitude.
       
      Disaster: Check.
      Human sacrifices: Check.
      Eternal Servitude: Check.
      (This even seems to carry over to Gaunt’s clients, who have to continue to serve Gaunt even after the originally agreed upon prank, and resign with the conclusion that “Mr Gaunt knows it best.”)
       
      Btw, the Stephen King Wiki also mentions “a cult centered around Yog-Sothoth” in its entry for Jerusalem’s Lot (according to
      http://stephenking.wikia.com/wiki/Jerusalem%27s_Lot,_Maine
      ), so I’ll try to keep an eye out for links once I read the Salem books/short stories. (It doesn’t specify from which of the stories this was taken...)
       
      This also further separates Gaunt from Flagg/Legion. Because the latter is often linked to a different deity in the Cthulu Mythos: Nyarlathotep. Same Mythos, but a clearly different deity. We talked about him being called that above, however from Glenn and thereby a somewhat unreliable source (as we both agreed). However, Tom Cullen also mentions Flagg being Nyarlathotep. Also, digging deeper into its nature (
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyarlathotep
      ), there are once again very suiting descriptions (for Flagg, not Gaunt):
       
      > In his first appearance in "Nyarlathotep", he is described as a "tall, swarthy man"
       
      In the Stand, Flagg is described as a "tall man of no age", and of course he’s “The Dark Man”.
       
      > In this story he wanders the earth, seemingly gathering legions of followers
       
      Check.
       
      > Nyarlathotep, however, is active and frequently walks the Earth in the guise of a human being,
       
      Check.
       
      > usually a tall, slim, joyous man.
       
      Check. (We had most of these descriptions above, but what I wanted to point out here is the “joyous man”, certainly a striking characteristic of Flagg.) 
      [On a side note: At least it's striking to me. Unlike your typical villain, Flagg is not motivated by greed, lust or envy. At least not mainly. That's different for Gaunt, who certainly is greedy for souls. In a way, Flagg's more like a little child playing with its toys, and having an awful lot of fun with that. And that fun in the process seems to be more important than a goal behind it. He can however get angry very fast when things don't go his way – also not untypical for a little kid. And if you now think that TEotD shows his greed – no. He never shows any interest in the Kingdom's gold or belongings. He just wants to see to manipulate it, and wants it to go down in flames. And again like a kid, building a castle out of bricks just to destroy it in the end, laughing. But back to the topic.]

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    66. [continued]

      > Nyarlathotep delights in cruelty, is deceptive and manipulative, and even cultivates followers and uses propaganda to achieve his goals.

      Check. (If the propaganda part shouldn’t be obvious: Flagg is stated as carrying dozens of entirely different propaganda flyers & buttons with him both in the Stand in in the fourth Dark Tower volume. Their topics differ widely and probably don’t really matter, it’s just to persuade the people with whatever suits best.)

      > It is suggested by some that he will destroy the human race and possibly the earth as well.

      In other words: “The Stand”.

      Last but not least: It seems it’s not just me seeing that connection, as Randall Flagg is even listed in the “table of forms” in Nyarlathotep’s wikipedia entry (not a King or Lovecraft wiki, but the actual wikipedia).
      And don’t get me wrong: I’m not taking this as a “replacement” for Flagg being Legion. I think King might indeed have intended both. He seems to like to mix different mythologies, and Legion and Nyarlathotep go very well together, due to the reasons above and as Nyarlathotep also has "a thousand" forms.

      On a side note: Something slowly but surely goes on my nerves after so many King books without a break. King keeps writing stuff like
      “Little did he know that this was the last time he/she saw him/her alive.” or
      “Little did he know that by (not) doing that, he/she caused (or failed to prevent) xxxxxxxxxxxxxx.”
      Might be an interesting thing to write at times, but King surely overuses that. Feels a bit like sitting in a cinema next to a guy who already knows the movie and keeps telling you what will happen - before it actually happens. :/
      I guess I need a King break after Needfull Things, this just being one of many reasons. This will enlarge the big break between the Dark tower volumes 4 and 5 (due to the many books in between as per your list above) even more, but I guess I will read something funny in between for a change.
      (Like a Discworld book, which might even be referenced in the Tower series. As a bar named “Broken Drum” is mentioned in the Tower books. It’s a rather uncommon name for a bar I guess, and at the same time an important reoccuring setting in many Discworld books.)
      Also, I think I will further extend the extended list once again once I continue. I'll add the two closely linked short stories (or are there more by now?) to Salem's Lot when reading it, I guess. Probably listening to the whole Night Shift collection at that. As a nice 'bonus', Children of the Corn is also in it...
      [Also, in short stories the probability of King-type spoilers as described above is probably way smaller. ;) ]

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    67. This was all fascinating stuff! I'll be rereading "Needful Things" next month, most likely, and you're making me really look forward to it.

      The device King uses where he tells you something about a character's fate is something that I've heard other people mention, too. One of my friends HATES it when King does it. It's never bothered me, because it always feels like King is doing it deliberately, so as to cast a pall over the scenes that come after it. But I can see how it would also be grating.

      "It is suggested by some that he will destroy the human race and possibly the earth as well.

      In other words: “The Stand”. " -- Well, I can't agree with that entirely. Unless I've forgotten something (always a possibility), Flagg does nothing to cause the superflu outbreak; he is merely exploiting the world in the flu's wake. The argument could be made that he intends to wipe the rest of humanity out with nuclear weapons, but there is no real evidence that he plans to wipe out his own followers.

      Otherwise, I'd say you're definitely onto something with the Lovecraft connections. Well done!

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    68. Long time no see, I was really busy lately. And thanks.
      That device didn't bother me at first, it's just that he uses it that often, especially in the Tower books. On the other hand, you could say it does make particularly sense in that context. In a way, every "if he did that instead, xxxxx would(n't) have happened" is like a window in yet another world where this might just have happened. Then again, in that case King should not use it for things Roland does, as he's stated to be as unique in the worlds as the Tower is (probably that goes for the whole ka-tet, but I'm not sure if this was actually ever stated).

      You're right, Flagg is not clearly linked to the outbreak. (Though it's a possibility.) Actually, he doesn't even want nuclear weapons, that's something the trashcan man does on his own as a surprise gift. But he does make a heavily armed army out of his people, even though there's no military threat to them. And it's made very obvious that he sooner or later plans to start a war (not just to defend), and thereby kill many of the few remaining humans.

      But let's go on:
      Actually, I fell behind with the typing (not just now, but in general) that far that I'm already past the non-King book and listening to Night Shift. In a strange order, as they originally (bit by bit) made three audio books out of Night Shift (each picking out stories as they found them interesting at that time). Which are by now gathered in a compilation. But not in the book's original order, but seemingly in the way the three separate audio books picked them. So I never know what comes next. And though I heard about three-fourths of the stories already, all the reasons I chose it where absent so far. I hope they are actually in there, after all. Some minor notes about some (not all) of the stories I listened to so far:

      - Graveyard Shift feels really Lovecraft-like. Actually, Lovercraft had a pretty similar short story, though it was an old mansion's cellar and the deepest floor was hidden below an occult altar (instead of just a trap door). Lovecraft's version is called "The Rats in the Walls".
      UPDATE (much later, actually just today) : Jerusalem's Lot borrows quite a lot from the very same story, too. Like, well, the rats in the walls for example. And while Graveyard Shift had the original manor replaced by a factory, the manor comes back here. :)

      - Night Surf: I totally forgot that one. As it plays in the "The Stand" universe, it's somewhat related to The Dark Tower, too. It does have an awful plot hole, though. A few minutes after mentioning there are "just" two radio stations still broadcasting (one of them taken by some teens, who use it to joke around), the protagonists wonder if they are the last people on earth. Yeah, sure...

      - I Am the Doorway: The anachronistic elements in this story make it almost funny. Like people flying to the Venus (thereby putting the technology above ours) and shooting hundreds or ROLES of film there. XD (Just to mention one, there are more.)
      But yeah, of course King could not predict our current technology back when he wrote that. Same problem that most old Science Fiction movies have.

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    69. [continued from above]

      - Trucks, The Mangler (and when were at it, count Christine in here, too): This type of story just doesn't work for me. Maybe they do for other people, but machines coming to live and terrorizing people feel more silly than scary to me...
      If it's supposed to be supernatural, make it completely supernatural and do not use perfectly known human technology with all its limitations. People fear the unknown, not their cars. But that's just my personal opinion, as the stories do have a lot of fans.

      - The Woman in the Room: Totally forgot that one, too. Silent Hill 2 is clearly referencing this story, for example regarding the use of room number 312. It seems to be partly inspired by some ideas of that story, but I never knew this up to now.

      - The Boogeyman: Didn't remember the twist at all. Feels somewhat cheap, though. Like a typical "Tales from the Crypt" story. I wonder if the father turning out to be "the Boogeyman" (unknowingly) would have been a better twist. It would fit to his violent personality. And he hated his baby for crying that much, so a part of him wanting to kill it would not be that far off. (He was also very annoyed by the other family members that died.) A father hating the (totally normal) anxiety of a little kid so much that a part of him "becomes" the thing the kid fears to get rid of the "problem"...

      - The Man Who Loved Flowers: Here it's the opposite. Loved the twist. And how fast the mood of the story changed due to that. You could say: "Boy, that escalated quickly". :)
      But ok, my alternative twist above may have been too similar to this one then.
      Not much to say about the other ones. Hoping the Salem ones and CotC are finally coming up...

      UPDATE: I looked the tracklist up, and...
      You gotta be kidding! They are NOT! Only "One for the road" is included, but the other two aren't. Instead, Trucks is on it TWICE, because it was both on Nightshift I & III in the original releases. Those bastards even advertised the audio book stating that it's a compilation finally including "ALL" Night Shift stories. Turnes out they were refering to all audio books published under the name "Night Shift", not to all stories of the BOOK of that name. CotC and Jerusalem's Lot were published as separate audio books under their own names, therefore they were not considered a part of it and excluded. And you know what? They even used THAT cover for the volume III audio book:
      http://wiki.stephen-king.de/images/5/59/Nachtschicht_3.jpg
      How is that not implying that CotC is included???
      I feel seriously cheated. And those f**kers wonder why people are using illegal downloads instead of throwing money into their greedy throats? I found a fan reading of CotC, so at least for that one I'll not give that audio book firm another cent. I'll think about JL once I cooled down...
      (And once I know how good fan readings are, it'll be my first.)

      Updated Update: As indicated, most of the notes above were written a while ago, I'm already a bit further. But enough for today.

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    70. The audio version of "Night Shift" I've got doesn't include "Children of the Corn," either, which is an odd omission.

      Regarding "The Bogeyman," the way I've always read that story is that you are expected to read it thinking/assuming that the plot twist will indeed turn out to be that the father is the killer. So that even people who expect a plot twist get a plot twist! If that makes any sense.

      I see your point regarding "Trucks" and "The Mangler." I like both stories, but moreso for the quality of the writing than the scare factor.

      "I Am the Doorway" -- yeah, anachronisms in sci-fi are fun.

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    71. I hope at least it doesn´t heavily imply it includes it by cover and stating it has "all" the Night Shift stories, does it?
      A twisted twist? Hm, maybe it's supposed to be. Still not entirely happy with it. If the actual twist feels much cheaper than the expected one it's kind of a dissappointment.

      Ok, I’m through with really all of the Night Shift stories now, and currently listening to Salem’s Lot. So going on:

      Children of the Corn:
      While I can’t totally dismiss the possibility that He Who Walks Behind The Rows is Legion, I did remember correctly that his appearance is not human and therefore not resembling the usual Flagg. It’s described as green monster with red eyes as big as soccer balls. None of the typical elements whatsoever. (Aside from the human, non-green shape: Flagg’s eyes – when not trying to look human - are black. Sometimes with a red glow where the pupils would normally be, but never completely red. And certainly not so big. :) )

      So I got curious if Flagg is really called “He Who Walks Behind The Rows”. I looked for websites saying that, and all that I could find (and actually mentioned a source/reason) based their statement on this page:
      http://www.buzzfeed.com/louispeitzman/these-stephen-king-connections-will-blow-your-mind
      Thing is: That page does not give any indications why this should be the case, and unlike the pages refering to this website (including Wikipedia), the “source” doesn’t even say Flagg is actually CALLED “He Who Walks Behind The Rows”. It just says Flagg might be, with no proof or hints at all. If it’s even refering to “He Who Walks Behind The Rows”, that is. Maybe the page rather refers to Isaac possibly being a young Flagg (HWWBTR is not actually mentioned, and the picture shows Isaac). Which makes at least as much sense as the green monster, probably more. A human appearance, using propaganda to control people, and so on, you get the drift.
      UPDATE: I asked a friend who has The Stand’s English ebook (I “only” have a print version and an audio book) to search the text for “Behind the Rows” in order to double check. He got no results. He told me he also tried just “rows”, and got only unrelated matches (with a surprisingly high number of “cROWS“ and eyebROWS” XD). So I more and more doubt That HWWBTR has anything to do with Flagg. His name containing the letters W-A-L-T-E-R seems more like a random coincidence to me, you probably could build all kind of words out of such a long name. Hey, E-W-O-K works, for example. (If W-A-L-T-E-R could be built with the word’s beginnings, ok. But letters somewhere randomly within words? Nah... )
      So if at all, I’d suspect Isaac rather than HWWBTR to be related to Flagg.
      UPDATE 2: Thinking about it, in general we should be cautious with the statements from that page. Looking at other “facts” listed there shows that there’s another reason for low reliability (aside from not clearly separating opinion from fact and aside from not giving sources and quotes). Many of the “facts” seem to be based on the respective movies (as also indicated by the pictures), as they include things not happening like that in the books. For example, as I’ll talk about the Salem stories next: Flagg being name-checked in Salem’s Lot hasn’t happened in the book so far, and I’m pretty sure it won’t. That book had been written long before the concept of Flagg (let alone his name) existed. Maybe that happened in the movie. (Don't think I've ever seen it.)

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    72. One for the road:
      Little to say here. Except for one thing that will become relevant in my next posts: The “inhabitants” of Salem’s Lot are called vampires by the people, and they are described like your average (pre-Twilight) vampire for sure, including the blood-sucking and all.
      (And on a side note, unlike in Salem's Lot, infected humans turn to vampires within hours, not within 1 to 3 days. In the latter they usually awake as vampires either in the morgue or even on the graveyard. Luckily for them incineration wasn't that common at that place and time. :) )

      Next up: Jerusalem's Lot. I decided to not give the audio book firm any more money for that (after all, I already paid for "all" of the Night Shift stories), and took out the old paperback from the shelf instead. The pages have been yellowing over the years, but for JL that actually adds to the mood. Yeah, the pages don't look THAT old (compared to the letters/diary entries), but it still felt nice. I'll write about the content next time.

      Dan

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    73. I appreciate all your research! I knew that the idea of Flagg being present -- even via implication -- in "Children of the Corn" seemed iffy to me.

      I think that sometimes, the connections in King's work get overemphasized. I think some fans -- myself included (and I'm a rank novice compared to some!) -- are probably putting much more thought and energy into those connections than King himself is.

      As for "Salem's Lot," I don't think there is any Flagg connection there whatsoever. If so, I certainly don't remember it.

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    74. Certainly: No name-checking in the book. I've finished it and have been looking out for it throughout the whole book. Nothing.
      I do think King uses lots of connections on purpose, but I also think there are just elements he likes to (re)use which create a familiar feel even though that wasn't his intention. CotC might be such a case. Abigail's birth place and being surrounded by corn might be a hint, but it might as well just mean nothing. We'll probably never know.

      Jerusalem’s Lot:
      And suddenly, here the Lot is inhabited by zombies with some ghostly features (plus the worm)! Nobody calls them zombie or ghost (not vampire, either), but all things mentioned are indicating that. They are people who died in accidents, by suicide and so on (not by being bitten) but returned to the living. Their flesh is rotting away, and being eaten by maggots. Unlike vampires who keep their appearance for eternity, neither rotting nor aging. (Update: Though the vampires stink like something rotten according to SL, which kinda contradicts that.) That difference is quite strange, I must say. As Salem’s Lot goes with vampires too, I wonder how this fits in. Well, I hope I’ll see when I read SL. (Form here on, “the Lot” refers to the town, while “JL” and ”SL” refer to the stories.)
      UPDATE: I wasn’t sure if I actually ever read SL. Jerusalem Lot’s similar name certainly did its part in that uncertainty. I knew I never owned a copy of SL, but that doesn’t mean anything. Me and a friend both bought only half of King’s books when we were kids, and used to borrow them from each other. He bought that one, but it seems I never got to borrow it. Because now, listening to the audio book, I don’t remember anything from it.
      Well, it seems in SL the zombies (and the worm) are just gone for unknown reasons, and the vampire(s) come(s) to town newly. More another time, for now back to JL.

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    75. Regarding Yog-Sothoth: It’s in JL. It’s the deity worshipped in "The Mysteries of the Worm" (aside from the worm itself, that is), and seemingly the origin of the worm. I recognized quite a lot from the wikipedia description from the link above.
      And when I’m at that: I finally take my comment back regarding King and Lovecraft having very different styles. This whole story, and every single part and element of it feels like Lovecraft. 100%. Take any element of it, really anything, and it’s typical for Lovecraft. Not copying one particular book (though some, like the aforementioned “The Rats in the Walls” or “The Shadow over Innsmouth” especially come to mind), but rather feeling like a homage to Lovecraft in general. Just to mention a few examples (a full list would basically quote pretty much the whole story): The whole mood, topics like degeneration and dark cults using obscene artifacts, insanity, the protagonist learning that the root of the evilness is linked to his very own incest-plagued family, really anything in the story. One exception might be the worm, but as I’ve read just a tiny fraction of H.P.’s books that might exist somewhere, too. And it’s not “just” the story elements. Even the style of writing itself. Just like Lovecraft himself, King strongly relies on adjectives like “obscene”, “horrible”, “terrible” and so on here. (Lovecraft does it that much that the effect starts to wear down if you read too many of his stories in a row.) The story is told by a first-person narrator (or actually several of them, if you count the diary entries of Calvin and the epilogue), which is very atypical for King but standard for Lovecraft. And just like in most of Lovecraft’s story, the main protagonist leaves the text behind awaiting his own death in the end...
      But don’t take that as criticism, I really, really enjoyed that one. Far more than One for the road, for sure. (I've never been a sucker for vampire stories – pun intended. :) )
      And I think this might have been a main inspiration for the very first “Alone in the Dark” game, the grandfather of the survival horror genre from back in 1992. The first AitD game had the old manor, the worm in its underground, it had the zombies, occult books and rituals, and probably much more which I don’t remember after so many years.

      Dan

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    76. I listened to a podcast about "Night Shift" recently, and the guys who did it mentioned "Jerusalem's Lot" as being far and away the worst story in the book. I stopped listening, because anyone who thinks that is on such a different wavelength from me that I might as well just ignore them. That's a great story!

      And yes, definitely a Lovecraft pastiche. A very successful one, too. Glad to hear you enjoyed it!

      As for Mother Abagail's corn, I think it's pretty common to have cornfields in Nebraska. Heck, my grandparents here in Alabama used to have a cornfield on their property when they were alive; it isn't uncommon at all. Maybe that's why I've never attached any significance to that being an element of "The Stand."

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    77. It's actually my favorite in Night Shit, yes.

      Just the corn wouldn't mean anything, sure. But you mentioned that Abigail's birth place (or was it the place she lived at the beginning of The Stand?) and CotC's village are connected or something like that, didn't you? If at all it's the combination, corn can be found in lots of stories without any special meaning.

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    78. OMG, that typo. :(
      Shift, Shift, Shift, Shift, Shift...

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    79. Hah! That's a great typo.

      If I remember correctly, the connection between the two is that Hemingford Home (where Mother Abagail lives) is mentioned as being near Gatlin, where "Children of the Corn" is set. But I don't think there is any interconnectivity between them apart from that. I have to admit, though, that it is kind of tempting to imagine that Flagg is indeed He Who Walks Behind The Rows. I just don't see any hard evidence for that being the case. A fun idea, though!

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    80. Like I said, if at all I'd now rather tend to think it's Isaac. But it would end only as fot note in my related books list. But now finally to the book I already mentioned at least a dozen times when talking about other stories: Salem’s lot.

      It just puzzles me more and more. Jerusalem’s Lot is called the prequel of this one everywhere, but I don’t see how these two match. The town has the same name for sure (in both, “Salem’s Lot” and “Jerusalem’s Lot” are used interchangeably), but even aside from the zombie vs. vampire thing I just can’t create a reasonable timeline here.
      In JL, the Lot is a town which has been abandoned (at least by living human beings, that is) for quite a while. And it’s known for being a cursed place by people living in other villages and towns, nobody dares to even approach it. That was about 1850. (And note that the curse is not over in the end – neither the zombies nor the worm has been put to a rest, and even the Boone family curse goes on. The Lot remains a cursed place.)
      Then in SL we learn that 1896 the town is already big enough to have a representative in the House of Representatives. In SL’s present, everybody is living a happy (human) life there with families being there for generations. And it’s even stated that the only dark spot in the town’s history are the Marsten incidents. The ONLY (unless you count the forest fire as dark spot). While on the other side people still know how the Lot’s name originated. How comes each and every trace, every cult object, each and every knowledge (of nearby villages), each and every newspaper article and each and every rumor of the cursed town got completely erased? That’s... strange.
      Yeah, of course we can always use the Tower series as excuse and see the Lot of SL as just a twinner of the one in JL. (A flimsy and somewhat unlikely excuse though, if you consider the years in which King wrote SL / JL / The Gunslinger). But in that case we probably shouldn’t call JL a prequel of SL. In my eyes they are pretty unrelated, except for the town carrying the same name...
      [In my opinion it's very different from the Castle Rock stories, for example. Where people in the stories are well aware of the strange happenings described in earlier books and gossiping about it. So if at all, I would call those sequels of each other.]
      Or do you see conections there that I don't? :/

      Dan
      [More about SL next time]

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    81. To be honest, it's been too long since I read "Jerusalem's Lot" to remember for sure. My memory of it is that what struck me as being the connection was merely the idea that the town was clearly a place that was troubled. By which I mean, it was/is chronically troubled, in the way that a specific place on one's body might be prone to get a boil on it over and over again. (Yuck.) I'm thinking of Jud telling Louis in "Pet Sematary" that the ground was sour.

      So, with that in mind, my assumption has always been that the Marsten House in "Salem's Lot" and the site of the old church in "Jerusalem's Lot" were sick from the same disease. I don't think there's any particular evidence to indicate that the Marsten House might have been built on those same grounds, but there must be SOME connection between them. Otherwise, why would King have set his Lovecraft pastiche in 'Salem's Lot?

      Ultimately, I think the connection is merely based on the name alone. And my guess is that what King intends is to merely suggest that there IS a connection between the two tales, but not to go so far as to actually spell it out. Maybe he intends it to be an intriguing mystery? If so, I guess it works for me.

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    82. Hm, I don't know. It works rather counterproductive for me. In JL, the Lot seems like an really eerie place, damned for all eternity and lost for mankind. Then in SL it's Happy Barbie town. (At least before Barlow and Straker arrive.) For me, that just destroys the effect of JL rather than creating a mystery. But to each his own.

      Also, unlike JL I don’t particularly like the book. I’m used to King writing a lot of stuff not directly related to the story, but in the books first third it’s in an extend that’s just too much and - what’s even worse – often plain boring. Later on it's a bit less frequent, but there are still passages I find painfully tiring. Trivial, non-relevant everyday live of people, most of the time with not even the people being relevant to the story, let alone the boring stuff they do. It might be meant to tell us how some people go on with their ordinary life with no idea of what is happening, but that could be done with much less words and much more elegant. Worst part in my eyes, though still somewhat related to the main events, is when King quotes away half a funeral, with every prayer and every whatnot spelled out. Thank you, Stephen, but when I want to experience a church service I can have that hyperrealistic in 3D in my local church.
      [Do you know the "Little Britain" sketchs with the novelist Dame Sally Markham? In one, when she notices she doesn't find enough content to fill her book, she just lets a character quote the bible. The ENTIRE bible. Sadly, that's pretty much the feeling I got at the funeral scene...]
      I almost wish iI had an abbreviated audio book instead of the full version, something I’d never accept otherwise. Gives me the feeling that King at that early time of his career still had problems to fill a book and just used whatever came to his mind. Luckily, that has changed over time. :)
      Just look at It and The Stand. Much much larger, but they manage way better to keep you interested even in the character's non-horror backgrounds and experiences. And they don't keep you waiting for ages for the first peak...

      This book also has the worst working excuse in the history of literature. When Mark Petrie travels alone with Ben (A stranger. New in town. Traveling with an underage kid. Alone.) and is asked why he's not in school, Mark says he is on a field trip with Ben. Because he got a nosebleed.
      ...
      Yeah, right.
      Even if we ignore the highly suspicious constellation, in which every normally thinking person would call the cops within seconds, ... that just doesn't make any f**king sense. At all. Imagine a kid getting a nosebleed at school. Why the hell would any sane person see that as a reason to send him on a field trip (with a non-medical, non-pedadgogic, non-related person)?? But the excuse is accepted and not questioned. Seems to be a fine reason. And that stranger Ben is a person you should totally trust, it's not unusual to take unrelated minors with you in your car. Oh, no wait, not even your car, but Doc Cody's car. Without that Cody. Which the person even notices, but which is totally not a reason to think that Ben is a criminal, of course.

      But enough ranting for now. The strangers (Straker and Barlow) coming to town and opening a store for unusual products (at least unusual for that town, that is) keeps ringing a bell due to Needfull Things. (Also how people react and after initial distrust are taken in by the gentleman-like appearance, oblivious of the true evilness.) I don’t think it’s an intended similarity, though. Gaunt is not an vampire, nor does he accompany one. (Also, Straker is an ordinary mortal human, unlike Gaunt). He's depicted as traveling salesman, traveling alone. So just one of the unintentional similarities, I guess.

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    83. Oh, and did Ben also look like the young King in your imagination? (For obvious reasons.) His alter ego falling in love with a “Susan” (not the last time a girl playing the love interest of the main character carries that name) makes we wonder if that name had a special meaning in King’s own past. (Don't let Tabitha note that! ;) )
      You can actually see some parallels in both Susans' stories. For example the mother/aunt being strongly against the relationship. Both rather want the respective Susan to return to her previous lover. And up to the bitter end, with Roland/Ben (literally!) seeing his beloved one die, only because he involved her in that whole mess. In SL even with Ben literally having her blood on his hands.

      Something else: This book features a lot (a Lot?) of foreshadowing. Especially with fires and burning being mentioned everywhere throughout the book. Of course, the German title even managed to surpass that. For once, they went with a title longer than the original's. Literally translated "Salem must burn". Such a genious would probably call the Sixth Sense "Being a ghost". :/

      Dan

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    84. Ah, "Little Britain." All I know of it is the American version they did for HBO. It was genius, and I've got no doubt the original is, too.

      That's a good point about Susan. I think that he might have already written most of "The Gunslinger" at this point, which includes a mention of Roland's lost love. I don't remember if she is referred to by name. Either way, I wonder if King had her in mind when writing "Salem's Lot"?

      I'm obviously a bigger fan of the novel than you are, but it's not in my top ten or anything.

      I'd forgotten that the excuse for Mark traveling with Ben was that lame. Ah, well; it was the seventies, when so many things were laxer. I don't doubt that such an excuse, lame though it may be, could have worked in the short run. And if there was nobody alive to put law enforcement onto their trail, I'm not sure there's any reason why they'd get more than cursory notice from anyone.

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    85. Little Britain is a bit repetative at times, but somehow that's also a part of its special charm.

      I'm not sure if the first time the name "Susan" is mentioned is in The Gunslinger. It's mentioned in volume two for sure (at the latest when Susannah is introduced), but I don't know about the first volume.

      No, at the time of the excuse the town is still mostly human, including the police. Some people - including at least one child - are missing though. Even more of a resaon to distrust that constellation.

      The Mist:
      Would be next on the list, right? This time I decided to go with just this story and not the whole collection, in order to progress faster. Thing is however, neither Germany nor the US seem to have a decent reading of that. The US had a radio broadcast several decades ago, but available versions of that are said to be cheap quality recordings. So I went with that US audio play:
      http://www.amazon.com/The-Mist-Movie-Tie-In-Sound/dp/0743571282/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404473440&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Mist+Movie+Tie-In%3A+In+3+D+Sound
      Which features a special kind of 3D effect for headphones which must have been quite impressive back at that time, when people weren’t used to 5.1 sound and better. It still is, compared to what you’re used to for headphones. There are some disadvantages of that, though:
      - It the same issue that many 3D movies had in the beginning of 3D movies (and still in some cases nowadays): Too much “in your face”. Too much “Hey look, I’m 3D! Look! Look! Ain’t I just great? Look at that!”-effects. Things happening that way just for the purpose of demonstrating the technology, not for the purpose of the story. At least in the beginning. That may change later on.
      - It has been slightly rewritten to match this kind of presentation. So when I write things about the story, it might not 100% represent what the book version stated.
      - Unlike a reading, for this play you usually hear each person only on one side of the headphones. So basically half as loud in average. The reason I’m preferring the audio versions is because unlike for books, I can listen to them on my way to work. (I rarely have time for reading at home.) However for this particular one, whenever I have a background noise at the side of the speaking person, I miss that part. As it’s not on the other headphone to compensate for that. So I pretty soon noticed that doesn’t make sense. I didn't have my soundproof headhones with me at that time, though. So far I went with standard iphone/ipod ones, as it might be usefull to still hear traces of what’s going on around you in traffic, after all. :)

      So I skipped it and went on with the next title on your list for now. More about that next time. It's a big title, so I'm still listening to it. To which one? Well, I basically already wrote which one it is...
      ("IT's a big title, so I'm still listening to IT." :) )

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    86. Oooh!! "It"!!! My favorite!!!

      As a dude who was listening to that "3D" version of "The Mist" during the cassette-tape era, I can say that it impressed me big-time back then. I haven't listened to it in a while; I'll be curious to see how it holds up next time I do.

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    87. Oh, I didn't expect you to know that 3D version, as you always sounded like not being familiar to audio versions. Do you think it was a good choice (apart from the technology)? Did you notice any changes you disliked?

      It surely is among my favorite (non-short) stories, too. Though it's hard for me to say if I prefer It over the main Tower series. Difficult to compare those two. And while even It is not able to scare me anymore, the special magic of the Tower books works better than ever.

      I'm still not finished, but a few things about It:

      Bill in It reminds me a lot of Ben in SL (both are authors with similar personality, both have to return to the town they fear in order to fight the evil there and so on). Therefore also another representation of King. In general, this book often feels like "King tried again to write something like SL, but this time he knew how to do it right" to me. But not just SL comes to mind, the group of children also has a strong Stand by me vibe at times, imo. Thereby making the non-horror parts really fascinating and almost nostalgic rather than boring. Funnily the “Ace” of this one is named Henry BOWERS, so my mind went straight back to Jack Bauer. :)

      The "voice of the turtle" somehow reminded me of the turtle among the twelve guardians (in Midworld), though that’s surely not an intended connection. I don’t even know why it did remind me. Though it would have been a nice find if the opposite guardian/beam would be a spider. But no, there’s no spider among the guardians. Actually, the bear (Shardik) guards the opposite beam.
      Well, my thought carried me further away from It after that, as I got the urge to check if there is a connection between the turtle as guardian of the beam and the turtle in Chinese mythology, representing one of the cardinal points (the other ones being a dragon, a tiger and a phoenix-like bird). But looking up the details under the link below told me the turtle actually represents the North, while the turtle beam is SSE (wolf is S, elephant is N).
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Symbols_(China)
      Sounds like a waste of time, right? But accidently, that also brought me to this page:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthly_Branches
      This concept is actually quite similar to Midworld’s beams, and maybe an inspiration for that. Only few of the actual animals appear in both of them, though: Rat, Rabbit/Hare, Horse and Dog.
      I tried comparing the animals by direction. I actually made a table with direct comparisons, but it doesn't work here, so just the result: Sadly, no exact matches by direction. On the other hand, cardinal points have been shattered in Midworld, so the beams may not exactly (have) represent(ed) these cardinal points anyway.

      Dan

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    88. I hadn't directly thought of Bill Denbrough and Ben Mears being similar, but they really are. Good point.

      As for the Turtle, I believe its appearance in "It" predates any mention of the beam guardian in "The Dark Tower." That first happens in "The Waste Lands," I think. But I assume King picked the turtle deliberately, for sure. And given that he lists "It" as one of the novels with a Dark Tower connection, I think he definitely intends the turtle to be the point of relation.

      On the subject of the "3D" Mist: yeah, I think it was a great choice for that format. I like full-cast audio dramas; or "radio dramas," as I tend to think of them, due to how many such series there used to be in the long-gone days of old-timey radio. From what I remember, it was fairly close in terms of the adaptation; I don't remember there being anything left out that caused me too much consternation.

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    89. As IT (I'll capitalize it to make it more clear that it's refering to the book, not to the word "it") also has a Ben, you'd usually tend to compare both Bens instead of Ben and Bill, I guess. But I rather see similarities for Bill.

      I'm not so sure about the turtle being the connection. If there was also a spider connected to the beams, yes. But like this I'm not 100% sure. And if King gave no further hints there are quite a lot of possible connections. One of IT's characters (I think it was Bill, wasn't it?) is namechecked in the Tower series, I think it was a robot(?) carrying that name. And Legion is in IT, that's a topic I'll cover once I finished IT. The connection he least likely referred to, but also a connection: IT is mentioned indirectly in the tower series, as somebody mentions two books which are especially long. (It's about two books with especially broad backs, which are certainly IT and The Stand.)

      I don’t remember if this is further explained later, but at the moment Pennywise’s balloons give me the feeling of being – or at least representing – its victims. This would fit his request to come fly with him/them, which we frequently hear. (He also tells Ben something along the lines of “Look how they [the balloons] fly! Try it, too!” and “We all fly down here, Ben.”) It would also explain why he has such an insane amount of them, as we hear about hundreds of people dying or disappearing in the past cycles. I like the thought, it’s really eerie to think of the balloons that way. In general, I find the thought of being banned into an non-animate object for eternity way more scary than to “just” die.

      Update: We get more and more similar quotes (like voices of dead people stating they now all fly with It down there), but still no full confirmation. We also get an “Nobody dying in Derry really dies”. (Retranslated from German, so probably not 100% literally. But the meaning is important here: People’s souls remain in Derry even after their death.)

      Update 2: During their smoke-induced visions, the boys suddenly "feel like balloons" while being once again requested to fly with the other victims. I take that as final confirmation.

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    90. I believe there is indeed a robot referred to as "Stuttering Bill" in Book VII of the series. Plus, another character who has a mild-to-moderate resemblance to Pennywise. He isn't Pennywise; but he's reminiscent of him, that's for sure.

      As for the turtle, I think it kind of HAS to be seen as the connection, given the presence of a significant amount of turtle imagery in Book VI.

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    91. Yeah, you're right, there is a turtle-esque connection for sure. It's not certain that it's the beam one, though. I don’t remember the details and therefore don’t know if the pic on that page is 100% accurate, but look at the pic at that page:
      http://stephenking.wikia.com/wiki/Beam
      If this is accurate, I’d rather think IT’s turtle is related to the turtle at the base, not the beam turtle (both can be found on the pic). As IT’s turtle is said to have existed before the multiverse existed. According to It, the turtle barfed out the multiverse. (The ‘barfing’ might be an addition of It, but it sounds that it was at least created by the turtle in some way. Update: Actually maybe even literally, after all. The turtle apologizes for the universe, blaming her stomach ache.)
      Also I think there were similar things mentioned in the Tower book you mentioned, but I don't remember clearly. Was the turtle in volume VI stated as being the beam one? Or might it have been the base one? Once I reach it I'll look out for details which of the two turtles of the pic is meant.) But I think the turtle "just" being one of the 12 beam animals would be far to insignificant, I’d rather suspect the big turtle at the base could be related to the mother of the multiverse.
      Also, when looking at that pic: Discworld, anyone? :-)
      (If you don't understand: Terry Pratchett's Discworld is carried by Great A'Tuin, a giant turtle:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_A%27Tuin#Great_A.27Tuin
      )

      And regarding the balloons: Did you interpret them as being the victims, too?

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    92. I sure did. I think that's the only way to look at them, personally. Unless -- and this is a possibility -- they are purely a creation of some sort meant to intimidate people into THINKING Pennywise has the ability to collect and imprison people's souls. All the better to scare them, you know. I guess it could be that, but I believe that when I last reread the novel I looked at the balloons more or less the same way you did.

      On the subject of the turtle, it's been too long since I read "Song of Susannah" for me to have a strong opinion one way or the other. I need to reread that one!

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    93. I've finally finished IT today. A great book for sure. And now I finally felt ready to gather my thoughts about the Legion topics, which are... quite a lot, but also very contradictive. A lot of the following has been typed bit by bit while I read the book, unlike this new "introduction".

      The requests to fly with Pennywise reminded me of Linoge, who also requested that from (and did that with) Little Tall Island’s kids. I would dismiss that as an unintentional thing, if there wasn’t also something else. I think I’ve mentioned it somewhere above: The voices from the drain clearly state “My name is Legion”. And at that point, it becomes hard to dismiss the connection, even though Pennywise doesn’t give me the Flagg feeling. But that might be a bit related to Tim Curry’s performance in the mini series. The series has its weaknesses, but Tim Curry (and his makeup artists) certainly did a good job burning that interpretation of Pennywise in our minds forever (in a good way). Even when the book actually describes some details differently (for example its* hair, being described as two separate, orange-red tufts of hair in the book, while it’s plain red and connected in the back for the Tim Curry version), it’s still the Tim Curry version I see before my inner eye. Is it the same for you, too? That’s also a big problem the new picturization** will have to face. Even if they make dozens of things better, having a less impressive Pennywise will ruin the movie for most people, I guess. But let’s wait and see, after all a few years ago most people thought that a Batman movie with Heath Ledger as Joker couldn’t possibly work after Jack Nicholson playing that role before...
      *When talking about Pennywise, would you use “his” or “its”? After all, the book’s not named “He”. With one of the reasons becoming obvious once we see It's (almost) true form...
      **If it’s actually pulled through. There have been so many remakes (and first picturizations) of King’s stories said to be planned, but in many cases we never hear(d) of them again...

      Well in any case, the Tim Curry effect is certainly one of the reasons why it’s hard for me to see Pennywise as Legion, even if the book might indicate that. It’s still the Tim Curry version I see, and that version clearly doesn’t feel like Flagg/Legion. But even aside from that, it’s hard to imagine Flagg eating people. Maybe we have to go back to Flagg being just one of the many demons/aspects of Legion after all for that to make sense.
      (On a side note: That brings me to another renaming. “Mysery” is “She” in my country. I guess the reason why they thought that brings them more money should be obvious. Even though it’s not related to It whatsoever, let alone being similar in any way.)

      As for the cycle, I don’t remember if we ever learn where that time frame of 25 – 26 years comes from. (Update: Later on, Mike states it's 27 years.) In any case: A pretty unusual number. I wonder what the background is. Why this number? Not the same cycle length as in The Stand, but the length seems to be different in every book we encounter Flagg, anyway. For example in TEotD, he manipulates a Kingdom for dozens of years until it goes down in flames, then he disappears and starts over many years later. (I think it’s not literally called a cycle in the latter, but his manipulations are described in such a reoccuring way.)

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    94. [continued]
      Any idea if the 25/26/27 years could have a special meaning?

      Update: And it’s not even the only time Legion is referenced. When the Richy thinks about the possibility of demons existing in our world, he states that he believes in them. Because he believes in the bible, which states they exist. As an example, he refers to the scene with Jesus exorcizing Legion (the one already mentioned several times above). Richy actually doesn’t quote Legion's statement correctly, due to a confusion he says the demon said something about “the foreign legion” that he didn’t understand. But despite the confusion it’s obvious that’s the scene he’s refering to.
      King’s clearly intending to hint towards Legion, but I still find it strange. Even if It appears in non-Pennywise forms, It still shows traces of Pennywise’s clothes. Flagg on the other hand clearly shows no traces of the Pennywise costume (though it’s funny to imagine that :) ), let alone do the animals he controls or transforms to show traces of Flagg’s clothes.

      A whole list with further contradicting clues next time, enough for today. :-)

      Dan

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    95. Hmm...

      This is all extremely interesting stuff, no doubt about it. Without sitting down and doing a full reread of "The Stand" and "It" back-to-back (which would be well worth doing for many reasons), I would say that the following possibilities all spring to mind:

      (1) Given that Pennywise -- or, more accurately, the extraterrestrial being that projects Pennywise into the world -- is said to be an extremely old being, one which crash-landed on Earth in the super-distant past, it might be safe to hypothesize that she/it is actually a creature from the Prim. If so, then she might actually be related to Flagg in some direct way. I can't remember whether Flagg himself is said to be born of the Prim, and I can't find any direct evidence on the internet one way or the other. But, we can at least mark it down as a possibility. And if so, then perhaps "Legion" is a name for a group of beings who all came from the Prim in one manner or another. It's a stretch, but there is at least some vague plausibility to it.

      (2) King, as an author, simply loves/loved the idea of "Legion" and cannot help but bring the idea up every so often. In other words, there are, in this scenario, no actual in-story connections between Flagg and Penywise (or Linoge, for that matter); they only share King's fascination with that particular Bible story. If King himself said as such in an interview, I would accept it. However, until such time as he does, I would have a hard time believing that he would use the Legion concept that haphazardly; he's been too careful in terms of his connections for that idea to really take root. At least for me.

      (3) Pennywise is lying about being Legion. He has plucked this idea from the brain of one of his victims, and is using it to instill fear in others. I am sort of persuaded by this idea. After all, he/she/it is not REALLY the wolfman or the shark from "Jaws," either; but that doesn't prevent it from taking on those forms, plus so many others. So there's no reason to believe that it couldn't also simply lie about something. I will admit, though, that the mention of wanting the kids to fly with him are definitely reminiscent of Linoge. So, like you suggest, it's difficult to totally write that one off.

      (4) The two stories -- "The Stand" and "It" -- obviously take place on different levels of the Tower. So perhaps Flagg and the Pennywise alien are twinners of each other. Maybe they are both aliens, and maybe they both crash-landed on their respective versions of Earth at some long-distant point in the past. But from there, they hypothetically took very different routes in life. The one we know as Pennywise decided to try and draw energy from eliciting fear out of others, staying more or less hidden all the while. The one we know as Pennywise, on the other hand, decided to roam the Earth and eventually settled on becoming as human as possible, so much so that he occasionally has profound spells of amnesia and forgets who/what "he" really is. It's a fun idea, but there is simply nothing in the texts to support it.

      So, of those, the one that fits my ideas the best is #3. But only one thing is clear: there IS no definitive answer, because King has not given us one.

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    96. On other subjects:

      I definitely do see Tim Curry when I think of Pennywise. I am not a big fan of that movie, but his performance and appearance are indeed iconic, and any new movie will have its work cut out for it in topping Curry. But it can be done. And your citing of Heath Ledger as The Joker is a perfect example of a similar incidence.

      My personal favorite? Andy Serkis. Get him to play Pennywise in makeup, and then also do performance capture for the rest of the various guises of It.

      As for the 27-year-cycle, there is no specific rationale behind it so far as I know. I suspect that King chose the number so as to have it be a once-per-generation cycle. Other than that, I've got no ideas.

      As always, Dan, thanks for your contributions! They are always awesome.

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    97. It's really fun to discuss all that with you, so you're welcome. Though it's a bit sad that we're probably the only two people ever reading that, as nobody will screen the comments way down here.
      Ok, so first a bit about your points before I continue with the announced list:

      (1) It's certainly a possibilty, and an intersting one at that.

      (2) & (3) You'll find very similar thoughts in my pre-typed list, so I'll refer you to below. :-)

      (4) That would be somewhat similar in some aspects to one of the thoughts about André Linoge, but I personally prefer to think that the key characters in the tower series are unique, unlike side characters. Especially those that travel through the universes, which is the case for Flagg. But that's more a personal wish than a certainty, it could be a possibility, too.

      About Andy Serkis:
      - I doubt people would question that cast as much as Heath Ledger, I guess he'd be a pretty popular choice...
      - ... and a great idea! Unless he's to busy, seems like he has a lot going on. And I hope that wouldn't misslead the producers to do too much CGI (as that's his speciality). For example, the Pennywise form should NOT be done by using CGI imo, neither should be other close-to-human forms. Do those with Andy wearing great costumes instead. Only for cases which can't be done well with costumes (the spider and maybe the wolfman) use CGI.

      Hm, somewho 27 doesn't sound like a number chosing randomly. But yeah, maybe it's just an average generation number.

      But now to the announced list of pros and cons (pretyped, therefore not taking into account your points above):

      + The clown's “daughter”, the old lady Ms Kursh (or something like that) who surprises Beverly at her father’s house, says that neither Bob Grey nor Pennywise is its real name. She gives no hint what the real one might be, but “Legion” comes to mind.
      + One of the very few visual similarities between Pennywise and Flagg are the sharp teeth. (Not just sharp fangs, but sharp teeth in general.)
      + The storm during the climax brings to mind the ones in SotC and Needfull Things. Just like in the latter, it’s hard to say if that’s meant to be a connection or if it’s just a tool King likes to use to raise the tension.

      [continuing below]

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    98. - Pennywise can’t roam freely, it seems, while wandering around is an element we see frequently for all other actual and potential incarnations of Legion. Often even becoming part of their nick names. Pennywise however is somewhat bound to Derry, and more particular to its sewers, canals and the Barrens. We barely see It at places not connected to at least one of them, and usually when people get far enough away from those locations, It does not follow them. The only time we “see” It outside of Derry is in Henry’s prison cell. And Henry was already a tool of It before he was imprisoned, when he was still in Derry. So he kind of took It with him inside his mind. Oh, and Bill even states It IS Derry.
      - Pennywise/It is compared to a lot of myths and entities in the book. Some of which I don’t know how they’re spelled (for example something like “Tealus”? “Telas”? Something in between?), but among the other ones were Manitou, loup-grou (~werewolf), vampires (more SL?) and mimics. Both the listed ones and the other ones being very different from the ones Flagg was compared to, with the last one possibly being an exception (see the shapeshifter topic above).
      - Flagg can be seen by everybody, and even more importantly: Looks the same for everybody. Many adults however can’t see Pennywise and it’s doings, and even those who see it observe it at different positions doing different things, influenced by their individual feelings and fears.
      - Everything we learn about It’s background doesn’t go well with Legion. It existed before our multiverse (like the turtle), with the whole constellation being far from any Christian/biblical ones. And then It’s arrival on our earth, and everything else we learn about It’s past… that just feels not at all like Legion.

      All of the cons, but especially the last one make me highly doubt It can be Legion, but it’s clearly stated by the voices from the drain. Seeing the many points contradicting that I started to wonder if It’s not actually Legion, but Legion was just yet another ‘mask’ It used. (The shapes representing peoples’ fears are called masks by It.) Then again that would be really atypical, as we usually learn about the respective peoples’ fears before/when we see the mask, we learn why this specific shape works on that person. And I noticed no indication of such a specific fear of biblical demons or anything like that for the concerned person. (I forgot his name, it was just a side character. Update: I checked, it was an unnamed woman later loosing her daughter to It. And there is really no indication why that woamn should be particularly afraid of Legion or biblical demons in general, she is not even said to be religious) And there is that other reference to Legion, too. By a main character, not the same person. All those contradicting clues leave me highly confused. Maybe we have to go back to the theory of Flagg being just one demon/aspect of the many demons that are Legion, and It being another one. It’s not really a satisfying explanation imo, but still the one that makes the most sense to me. That or King just likes to reuse Legion without thinking much about consistency… :-/

      Pretyped text off. So you see, we came to some pretty similar possible conclusions, both unable to decide which one is true in the end... :-)

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    99. How did I miss seeing your replies here?!? I'm going to blame my email. Either way, my apologies for the tardy response.

      Glad to hear you approve of the Andy Serkis idea. Honestly, I'd cast him for just about anything. But I'd really love to see him get an iconic role of some sort that didn't exclusively involve performance capture; he deserves to actually be seen once in a while!

      The old lady Bev meets at her old house -- I always took her to be merely another manifestation of It/Pennywise, not a separate entity or anything like that. Granted, it's been a while since I read it.

      Good call on both Pennywise and Flagg having sharp teeth. So does Linoge at times, for that matter, although not to quite the same extent.

      That's another great point about It being restricted to Derry. I'd forgotten about that!

      The comparison of Pennywise/It to a manitou makes me think of Pet Sematary, where a wendigo roams the woods. A manitou and a wendigo are not quite the same thing, of course, but they've got some shared culture.

      In the end, you may not have come to a solid conclusion, but I don't think that's anything to feel bad about. If nothing else, you've made a great case for considering how King uses the idea of "Legion" in his work!

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    100. Well, usually my replies don't come that fast, maybe that's why. :-)

      Just my thought: Andy Serkis could do well even without CGI at times. My fear is just that he's too much linked to CGI in many producers' minds already.

      About the old lady: That's why I put "daughter" in quotes. She says that she is, that she has been born by him. But not the usual way, but ... well ... the other body exit. You know, the one that suits the sewers. Of course I don't think she is actually a seperate being.

      The list of supernatural beings basically went through all kind of cultures and myths, from each mentioning a being which might have things in common with It. Indian culture was just one among many, so I wouldn't put too much weight on it, so I'm not sure if this connection is an intended one.

      On a side note: It is a book I wouldn’t want to give to my underage child (even though I read it underage the first time). And not just as it might be too scary. It features several decisions and actions which are highly questionable from an ethical point of view. For example:
      - The book promotes that cheating your wife with your childhood friend is not an issue. It is destiny, things gotta repeat! Yeah, nice excuse, gotta remember that. Oh, and with no consequences at all in the book.
      - Also, an underage girl sleeping with 6 boys is accepted… (I guess that’s also a problem when it comes to adopting the material for movies.)
      - And I certainly wouldn’t want my child to think throwing with stones is an acceptable way to solve problems. And that nobody would be seriously injured or die in such a fight. Death is actually not that implausible under the described conditions. I mean we’re talking about f**king stones here, with sizes up to egg-sized. Other people in the real world are already concerned with snowballs potentially containing tiny little stones within.
      Yeah yeah, it’s just a work of fiction, I know. And I’m far from being conservative. Still, I wouldn’t risk my child trying that out. :-)

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    101. Let's see . . . I would have been 16, I think, when I first read "It." Maybe still 15, but 16 is more likely. And let me tell you, I was not a world-wise 16-year-old. I would say that I was probably too young for the book. Still, I don't think it hurt me any. You, either, for that matter! So while I don't have kids and probably never will, I don't think I'd restrict their reading. Mine never was, and I think it benefited me.

      The whole orgy scene is just so weird. Some people think it kills the book. I don't; I think it makes sense, from a certain point of view. The group is falling into mental disarray, and so Bev instinctively does something that she feels will create a sort of temporary bond between them and therefore sharpen their focus just enough to permit them to escape. Okay, whatever, I suppose I can deal with that. Boy, though: that is weird. And yes, it will -- and should -- NEVER make it into a movie, I hope.

      On the subject of rock fights: I got in a few of those when I was a kid, albeit never on that scale. It really is an astonishingly stupid thing to do, but I don't think we ever thought about it that way. We, of course, were morons.

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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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  19. Nice list! I´ve wanted to reread The Dark Tower series for ages and a couple of minutes ago I placed quite a larger order on amazon :-) Thing is I´m German and I´m very much looking forward to read the series in English (and Wind Through the Keyhole for the first time at all!). Especially Blaine´s riddles should be interesting. The german translation of "When is a door not a door? When it´s ajar" makes no sense whatsoever and even as a kid I was suspecting that some things got lost in translation there. As far as I recall, that was the most striking example, the other riddles did make sense. But still, should be fun to see the original versions.
    I´m going to skip It,The Stand, From a Buick 8, Bag of Bones and Desperation/The Regulators though, since I already reread those in English a couple of years ago.

    Here is a question: You probably read the Harry Potter books. If not than very, very minor spoiler alert:

    The epilogue takes place 19 years after the rest of the books. What´s up with that? Why 19? Is that a tip of the hat from Rowling back to King? What do you think?

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    1. I would not be surprised if that was a nod toward King by Rowling. Very cool!

      I hope you enjoy reading your way through through the series in its native language. I just began rereading "The Waste Lands," myself.

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  20. How about a review of the Dark Tower graphic novels? Would love to read your thoughts on those...i've never read them but have been considering it for some time...not a comic book fan, so not sure if i should take the plunge!

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    1. I plan to cover those extensively at some point, but I can give you my thoughts in brief right now: they are frustrating and inconsistent. There are some really good issues, and some really bad ones. They extend the story of young Roland's adventures past where King stopped, and some of that is good, but some of it contradicts what King later wrote in "The Wind Through the Keyhole," and for my money a lot of the comics dealing with that material don't feel like King at all. There's a good reason for that: King did not write them, and seemingly had very little interest in even reading them.

      That said, they are not a total waste. A lot of people seem to like them more than I do.

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  21. Hi there. I have never tackled the dark tower series. Heard mixed reviews. The negatives more so than the positives, which has prevented me from starting it. Giving that it's a lengthy saga you can see where I'm coming from. But just to ask would you say it's best to read the order and all of the novels laid here or just read the dark tower books itself. A lot of the books mentioned above I've never actually read either. Thanks for reading my !message. Hopefully hear back from you.

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    1. I would say it depends on your level of investment. Are you a King fan? If so, then I'd recommend reading everything here. If not, then I'd recommend sticking to the series itself, at least initially -- but then, if you find yourself really getting into it, you could tackle some of the related non-series books like the ones I've listed here.

      In short, I'd say start with "The Gunslinger" and "The Drawing of the Three" and use you own level of enjoyment as a guide.

      Have fun!

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