The main issue with the sixth book in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series titled The Song of Susannah is it is merely a bridge book between book five and the final one. It does not resolve the cliffhanger left at the end of The Wolves of the Calla but merely extends it into the final book, The Dark Tower.
In the previous post on The Wolves of the Calla, it was said book five should have ended with Eddie asking where his wife was. Naturally, this book would begin with everything that happened after in that chapter, and in the epilogue. It would be a reminder to the reader what previously happened, and end Wolves of the Calla where it deserves to, at the defeat of the Wolves.
What’s even worse is the namesake of this book gets no resolution by the end of it. The opening chapters with Susannah / Mia come from the point-of-view of yet another character of no consequence, a common occurrence in these later Dark Tower books, who witnesses Susannah / Mia appear in New York from the Unfound Door. As a reader King is making it hard to care about the story by constantly injecting these point-of-view sections. Yes, he’s trying to give a different perspective on the tale but it doesn’t work so late into the series.
Mia’s part of the story is short changed as well. All of this work is done to make her more than just a personality in Susannah’s head. She becomes a multi-faceted, three-dimensional character only to have it cut short in this book, and then killed off in the next one. All for the sake of Mordred, a character that was never worth introducing so late in the series and ultimately is all hype and no substance. This entire book boils down to how much of a big bad Mordred is going to be, only to end up being an ineffective plot point.
That, however, is delving too much into the next book. Let us stick to this one. Back to Mia, she tells Susannah about magic and machines doesn’t add up. The old people were afraid of magic failing so they built machines to hold up the beams, but all of that is doomed to fail anyway according to Mia. If the machines are doomed to fail, and the world will end then why does the Crimson King need the Breakers to rush it along?
So she tells Susannah and us, the readers, the Breakers are just speeding up the process. That makes sense reading these books the first time through but we learn from Roland in the next book after they have saved the Beam of the Turtle that it’ll eventually repairs all the other Beams returning End-World, Mid-World, even possibly Gilead to its former state. Mia tells Susannah this with such authority that it doesn’t come off as her being overconfident, but the writer screwing up a major plot point. Instead, why not have Mia explain the Crimson King is going to remake the world in his image after the last Beam is broken and the Dark Tower falls, and her son will be a prince in it? That seems like all the explanation she needs.
Also, what was the point of telling Susannah earlier about elementals leading her to the theory she was the oracle from the first book? After we learn Mia’s real backstory the whole elementals part seems kind of pointless. Why was she lying about it to lead Susannah on? It doesn’t make sense.
In that backstory, we learn about the Red Death in Fedic killing a lot of people except the baby boy Michael which she coveted. This is one of those King trying to be Tolkien moments, sprinkling in tidbits of history that is not part of the main story. Those were given in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and they worked because those too read like stories in a part of a long history. The Dark Tower reads like a book very present and so when those bits of history are mentioned but have no consequences for the main story they come off as unnecessary. A character, Mia, who has been introduced in the final three books has a background story involving a plague wiping out the people which she haunted for years. Yet it isn’t important at all. Unnecessary detail.
Susannah calls Mia just the babysitter for Mordred, as a way to tell her she is being deceived by the Crimson King and his men. She’s really more of the hype-man to Mordred, quoting some dumb prophecy that makes little sense. “He who ends the line of Eld shall conceive a child of incest with his sister or his daughter, and the child will be marked, by his red heel shall you know him. It is he who shall stop the breath of the last warrior,” it says and the explanation we’re given is Roland is the last member of the line of Eld, and Susannah as part of his Ka-Tet is both his daughter and sister. That isn’t what we’ve been told Ka-Tet means, though. It means a group of people summoned by Ka, or that they are one from many. Yes, they’re like a family like any group going on a journey becomes a tight knit makeshift family. To have a prophecy based on that though seems doubtful, and Susannah has a right to doubt it. It is a prophecy that is forced, reading, and extending over its believability. Mordred isn’t even born yet and he is already becoming a let down in the story.
Roland and Eddie’s part of the book is easily the best one, but it is unclear why he and Eddie switch places with Jake and Don Callahan. We learn Mia told the Crimson King’s men where they would be going but it is unclear if Black Thirteen caused Roland and Eddie to switch with Father Callahan and Jake or the Beam?irteen? It’s difficult, being that it is a bridge book, to talk about this book without talking about the next one but the line that death slips between Roland and Eddie before Eddie gets the chance to ask the gunslinger why he taps he throat before crossing open water is a wasted one. To make it literally that Eddie dies is just way to obvious. Someone else’s death could have caused a rift between them but the opportunity is wasted.
The meta-fiction in this book of Roland and Eddie meeting Stephen King is well done in this book. Keyword being this book. In the next one it just becomes too much. The idea of the Crimson King trying to prevent King from writing the rest of The Dark Tower series is well done, and the scene where Stephen King runs away when he sees Roland is hilarious. For King to be afraid of Roland after he writes the scene of Roland dropping Jake makes sense, and it explains the wariness of the rest of his Ka-Tet. However, King should have never used this scene as an excuse for the Deus Ex Machina of the letter to Jake or the one that occurs in the next book.
Including September 11th as the cause of Black Thirteen’s destruction seems like another moment of events of the real world become too much a part of this story. There’s just too many references to the real world for my liking in these later books. What makes and made The Dark Tower series intriguing is real people becoming part of a fantasy world, not the other way around. Also, how can Eddie and Cuthbert save King in the past from the spiders coming out of the dead chickens? That seems unclear.
In Jake and Callahan’s part of the book Jake believes Walter a.k.a Randall Flagg (or in my version, Marten Broadcloak aka Randall Flagg) may be in the Dixie Pig waiting for them. Here is my question, why isn’t he? What is his role in the story, and what is the Crimson King’s? King can’t seem to decide. Who is the Sauron of this story, the villain working in the background to prevent our heroes from completely their journey? Apparently it both which makes for a poor choice. Flagg is easily the most interesting villain in the whole series. He should have been present in all the books, not just the first, the third, and the end of the fourth. So what if he is in Father Callahan’s backstory? That is pittance compared to what we get of Mordred in the last book, who does nothing but follow the Ka-Tet and is barely a threat. Rather than give us Mordred All-Hype-No-Substance Deschain, make him the anti-gunslinger apprentice to Randall Flagg. The Crimson King should have been the Sauron, Randall Flagg the Witch-King of Angmarr or Saruman equivalent, and Mordred given a new role of the anti-gunslinger.
The Crimson King should have been kept in the background. Randall Flagg should have been on the frontlines against Roland and his Ka-Tet, and the Mordred should have been the instrument of the Ka-Tet’s destruction leaving Roland once again alone on the path to The Dark Tower. That’ll be though what would be changed in the final book. For this one, the book should have ended after Mordred is born, and after the Ka-Tet is reunited. This would give the reader hope just to snatch it away in the final book. The best part though, the best part would be to never have to hear Mia say the chap ever again.