Song of Susannah by Stephen King
King’s magnum opus is not a series that you can jump into midway through, so if you’ve not read it, I suggest you start at the beginning. See my post with links to all of the volumes and find your starting point, don’t read on.
It’s fair to say that the penultimate episode in this saga is probably the weakest in the series so far. The largest part of it is devoted Susannah who is pregnant with a devil’s spawn, and possessed by another female demon Mia, as well as her own suppressed split personality Detta, transported back to New York to have the baby, or rather chap. It is growing unnaturally, and Susannah is trying to suppress the labour until help arrives from members of the Ka-Tet.
Meanwhile back in the Calla, Roland and the others are trying to activate the door through to our world with the help of Henchick and the Manni. Once opened they will split up. Jake, Oy and Pere Callahan will go on Susannah’s trail. Roland and Eddie will go to Maine 1977 to persuade Calvin Tower to sell them the vacant lot back in NYC which is pivotal to their quest, but also to seek out the author of a novel called Salem’s Lot.
Yes, it all goes metafictional – with King introducing himself as a character in his own novel. Tellingly, he doesn’t glamorise himself at all – in fact, almost the opposite:
‘Maybe I’m having a breakdown,’ said the man in the water, but he slowly dropped his hands. He was wearing thick glasses with severe black frames. One bow had been mended with a bit of tape. His hair was either black or a very dark brown. The beard was definitely black, the first threads of white in it startling in their brilliance. He was wearing bluejeans below a tee-shirt that said THE RAMONES and ROCKET TO RUSSIA and GABBA-GABBA-HEY. He looked like starting to run to middle-aged fat, but he wasn’t fat yet. He was tall, and as ashy-pale as Roland. Eddie saw with no real surprise that Stephen King looked like Roland. Given the age difference they could never be mistaken for twins, but father and son? Yes. Easily.
The last sentences above confirm to me that King is playing out his own fantasies of being a gritty gunslinging hero in this series. It must have been fun to write. The King of the novel is back in 1977 – at this stage, The Dark Tower books are just scribbled outlines in a box.
When we reach the climax in the final book to come – will King reappear in the future with the saga complete? Will Susannah survive having the chap? Will they find the rose in the vacant lot? Will they reach the Tower? Will Roland’s quest be ended?
There are so many questions still to be answered, many threads to be tied off. This may not have been the best novel in the series, but it ends on a cliff-hanger and I must finish it – just another 736 pages to go!
Source: Own copy (paperback, 436 pages). BUY at Blackwell’s via my affiliate link (free UK P&P)