For one, I really liked the character of Roland and the sort of "powers" he and others possessed in this world. It is very similar to something I wanted. Very low-key, subtle powers. Only...I say similarly because if you read it, unless you are up against a person similarly skilled like yourself, there's no contest at all.
But one of the big problems for me was the most of the time these epic fights between what should be worthy contenders never materializes. Roland dispatches people with a quick, very swift draw from the hip. There was a point where it seemed you were going to see Roland go toe-to-toe with a similarly trained fail-gunslinger. Doesn't happen. Dud.
There was a point where you might see just how well a vampire with similar super-human speed and powers fairs against the gunslinger. Dud. No contest.
The most disappointing was what I felt was the central premise- or at least antagonism- of the story; Roland vs very powerful wizards. But this never happens. One he never faces even though the story builds up their eventual confrontation. I can forgive this one as things happen. But the big-bad of the story- the most powerful wizard in the book or, ostensibly, the world and all it's history- never even uses any magic against Roland. The fight between them was utter garbage. I really couldn't believe it. It felt like the most rancid cheat ever.
Even Tick-Tock, who was one of my favorite characters that I thought was going to be an amazing opponent, was dispatched fairly easily given the circumstances. I think his part of the story was one of my favorite (and the story isn't without some good parts), but the climaxes just fall short. I mean...the very last time you see Tick-Tock is also garbage. Utter garbage.
This story felt really...listless...when trying to wrap things up. I think it succeeds in putting people into interesting scenarios, but fails to deliver most of the time. I think two of the times it did so best was Mejis, and another with the Callas and the Ladies of Oriza (awesome job there...). I think the situation with Blaine was also very good, but it ended in a fairly goofy way. Also, another character that seemed promised to return and who was, by far, one of the most interesting was Rhea of the Coos. This dirty broad was seriously fun to read and she's pretty freakin trig alright. I was hoping against hope she was going to come back, but never did. A waste, King.
Overall...I really loved the character of Roland (and Detta, actually). I thought this world-building had enormous potential (though I tend to think most things I read have enormous potential). There is no magic system in this story. There's an assortment of abilities with no real backstory of explanation and that's fine. It harkens back to the old days of story telling when people just did awesome things and the focus wasn't on the magic, but the story. Still...there was no interesting interaction between how these things face off against one another. Roland's deadly ka-tet pretty much sweeps up with impunity. To his credit, King references this in his writing. He says the fights are often brutal and swift. True...but I never really got the sense of danger on the part of the heroes except in Mejis with young Roland. In a way, it might be a way of displaying just how deadly a gunslinger is when baby-gunslingers can dispatch considerably deadly foes with relative ease. And it goes to show how Roland...who is not at his full potential for most of the story...just how unspeakably, ghoulishly deadly Roland is. But, again, to his credit, King has shown us that this man has lived for over a thousand years. He's been in countless fights. The fool that goes up against Roland goes up against a demi-god. As you read further into the story, King actually begins to describe Roland as Death, itself. This part was actually interesting. It seemed to me that Roland is not necessarily the hero, but almost something akin to a quirk of fate. An oddity, a ghoul living within a Sisyphean hell of his own making. Not only has he been living and fighting for over a thousand years, but he's done this again, and again, and again. In essence, he could have been killing for over a thousand thousand years. References are made to "Rolands talented hands". Sussanah also states that she never seen the bottom of Roland. That although he appears to be tired or weak at times, he was never at his bottom, as if he always had deeper reserves to him. This seemed to imply to me that this near-immortal thing was quite literally unkillable. Sure, he could die. If you could just manage to kill him. But Roland is the monster. A million year old killer, and good at it.
Lastly, this story doesn't leave you feeling good and it explains why. Roland is not a hero to be lauded. He's a sad case of a man to bent on a goal that he sacrifices everything worthwhile for it. He's a karmic drop-out. A perpetual retention student of fate. His father said he wasn't smart and it's evident. He's been through this life time and time again and he never learns. He's the sad case of the living dead. And King often describes him as tall, dark, and ugly. A ghoul washed of any trace of humanity. During his adventure his comrades bring out his humanity bit by bit, but none of it can contend with Roland's single-minded obsession with...I'm not even sure what. It's clear that the Dark Tower really isn't what it is, but it is a metaphor for something. Something dark and inescapable- or at least very hard to escape. A corrupting, destructive habit, addiction, obsession, or whatever. And Roland also clearly states he doesn't give a half-fuck about anything but getting to the Tower. This is certainly no hero. This man's entire life is bleak, desolate, selfish, and destructive to the unfortunate souls who make the mistake of calling him friend. In the story ka is brough up often. Coincidentally, it sounds like a short version of karma. And karma usually tries to teach an important lesson of the self. The reason why Roland never has a real problem with an enemy is because his greatest enemy is himself, by far.
I felt like this was a pretty meh story. Not very bad, just meh. It has a lot of potential, but the story itself was...not King's best. And, honestly, even the world-building was very messy and pieced together. I got that impression early. You don't see very much of it at all. King simply writes...and writes on the run. And it is evident.
$80. I'm going to f*ck you up, Stephen King.