Stephen King’s Song of Susannah is possibly his lamest effort ever.
Coming on the heels of some of King’s best writing in Wolves of the Calla and (one of my all-time favorite novels) Wizard and Glass, I had really high expectations for this book. Unfortunately, this book does not even begin to compare to the two volumes of the The Dark Tower saga that preceded it. Let me start by decrying King’s lame, corny, sad, awful, unforgiveable decision to include himself as a character in the book. Ever since Sarah and I suffered through most of a Clive Cussler audiobook in which Cussler appeared as a (supposedly) suave, rich, mysterious character I have been very leery of authors who write themselves transparently into their books. King appears in the book as one of the pillars of the universe with God like powers. What claptrap.
It was difficult to soldier on through the portions of the book in which King appears. King’s appearance as a character really shattered the illusion he was trying to craft. Instead of a rich fantasy world, we’re left with Stephen King writing about himself in a too glib fashion and then futilely trying to shoe-horn that self-examination into a fantasy novel. If I wanted to find out what Stephen King thought of himself, I’d find an interview with the man. I don’t read his books because he does such a great job portraying himself in them; I read his books because he creates wonderful illusions. As soon as he destroys the illusion, there isn’t much point in continuing to read the book.
The book’s Coda is more of the same nonsense. If Kings wants to detail how the book got written, fine. Put it in an Author’s Notes section. Interested readers can then find the information while those who wish to skip it can do so. By writing the Author’s Notes into the Coda, King forces everyone to read his Notes just in case something important to the story arc is buried in there.
The other problem with Song of Susannah is that very few Things Happen in it. Plenty of Things nearly Happen. Other Things almost Happen. Heck, there is even some getting ready for Things to Happen. But if you go digging through four hundred pages of text looking for Things Happening, you’ll have to look carefully as Things don’t Happen much in this book.
In the end, Song of Susannah is four hundred pages of self-indulgent yuck and exposition. I can only hope that Things Happen in the seventh volume of The Dark Tower series or readers like myself will be left feeling like King led us down a dead-end path.