Stephen King's The Dark Tower series of novels are probably his most underrated, and that can mostly be attributed to the fact that it took him 22 years to finish the series. It's a sprawling epic story, starring The Gunslinger, Roland, and his companions as they are inexorably drawn towards the titular Dark Tower. Like The Lord of the Rings, it's a travel story, with all of the action happening during the journey itself.
If you haven't read the series, I can't recommend it highly enough. It's got gunslinging, swords and sorcery, time travel, interdimensional doorways, artificially intelligent monorails, and so much more. It also ties most of King's major novels together in bizarre ways, without getting boring. Either pick up the first book in the series and check it out, or listen to the audiobook during your commute. You won't be sorry.
Just do it before J.J. Abrams and his Lost crew begin making the movies. Wait, what's that? Abrams? Lost? The Dark Tower? Read on to see how all of these pieces will soon fit together to produce what some claim is destined to become the next Lord of the Rings.
Right now you're probably thinking: "If this is so great, where's the movie version already?" No worries, you're not alone ... and you might be in luck. J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof (co-creator of Lost) have reportedly purchased the rights to the entire Dark Tower series from King himself for $19.00 -- unique because the numner 19 recurs throughout the novels. King must be an enormous Abrams fan, because he already turned down Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Mist), who was interested in adapting the series himself.
King has quite a history with Abrams, Lindelof, and Carlton Cuse (Lost), and the Lostpedia fansite for ABC's Lost has an entire Stephen King section. In fact, there's a theory linking The Dark Tower to events on the television show, and reading the books it's quite easy to see how they inspired the Lost creators in more ways than one. It's enough to completely thrill the conspiracy theorist in anyone. King entered into talks with Abrams and crew over two years ago, and it looks like the group could roll right into production on The Dark Tower once Lost wraps up (the final season airs in 2010).
Lindelof recently told Lostpedia, "We're just so focused on finishing Lost that it's really hard to think about anything else. The last thing we want to think about is how to adapt a seven book series of, you know, basically the writer who we admire the most and look up to most and has inspired our work the most, and do anything with that." Hopefully that's just exhaustion talking. With Lost they've been crafting the story themselves, but The Dark Tower is already laid out. (Check out some artwork from The Dark Tower below, courtesy of the series' official website)
He goes on to say that he sees the scope of the films as on par with Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings series, although I personally think they probably wouldn't adapt all seven novels into films. Still, the fact that they're not rushing a version to the screen gives me hope that this will be treated with respect, and it has the potential to change the face of fantasy films, which almost completely vanished from theaters once LotR wrapped up. There's been a few fits and starts, with Disney's Narnia series and other films, but nothing approaching the scale of Rings.
The Dark Tower books bounce from downtown New York in multiple time periods and a complete fantasy world, amongst other locations, in a sort of modern day Wizard of Oz fashion. With Abrams now behind the extremely successful Star Trek reboot, I'd like to see what he could do with a fantasy film. Especially if they don't make any severe alterations to the story. Marvel Comics released a prequel comic book adaptation starting back in 2007, and it fumbled the excellent source material.
Hopefully, that will change once everyone can get Lost out of their heads. In the meantime, check out the books. They make a great summer read.
What do you Dark Tower fans think? Are J.J. Abrams and his Lost cronies the right men to take on the monster that is Stephen King's Dark Tower series?