A Read of The Dark Tower

A Read of the Dark Tower: Constant Reader Tackles The Dark Tower, Blue Heaven, Chapter 8 Sections 10-19

“There they stood, ranged along the hillsides, met
To view the last of me, a living frame
For one more picture! In a sheet of flame
I saw them and I knew them all.”

—Robert Browning, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”

Welcome to A Read of the Dark Tower series. Join me each week as I, Constant Reader, tackle the magnum opus of Stephen King’s career for the first time. If you want to discuss in general terms or talk about these or preceding sections, join me by commenting here.

Last week, the ka-tet began listening to the tapes upon which Ted Brautigan told his history and, perhaps, some insights into the ka-tet’s world(s).

The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 8: Notes from the Gingerbread House, Section 10

There are about 180 full-time workers at Algul Siento, Ted tells them as the tapes continue. They work in eight-hour shifts. The Taheen man the watchtowers, while the humans patrol the fences with guns. Most of the “floaters” are can-toi, the low men. The low men don’t like the Breakers because they see them as “finished” humans where the low men are in the process of becoming human. They also wear “thinking caps” while on duty so the Breakers can’t “prog” them, but most of the Breakers have forgotten how to “prog” anything except the Beam.

Ah, but I’m weary, Ted says. So one more story, and then I’m done.

The Taheen speak perfect English, he tells them, and have some limited “progging” abilities, but they can’t be progged.

Trampas, Ted says, was one of the can-toi rovers, but one who lacked the jealousy. He’s friendly toward the Breakers. Ted struck up a conversation with him one time, and told him Trampas was a character from a novel called The Virginian. They became friends. When Trampas would lift his thinking cap to scratch his eczema, Ted could read his thoughts and here’s what he learned:

There is a Tower, and at one time six beams crisscrossed it, taking power from it and lending support. Four of the beams are gone, leaving the Beam of the Bear, Way of the Turtle (Shardik’s Beam), and the Beam of the Elephant, Way of the Wolf (Gan’s Beam).

Once he learned that, Ted realized what the Breakers were doing and what he, as a facilitator, was helping them do faster. That’s when he asked Sheemie to send him away, not knowing where he’d land. Sheemie asked him to look for his friend Will Dearborn.

Roland realizes that what Sheemie can do, when he’s teleporting, is creating a magic door.

What Constant Reader Learns: Now, Ted has taken a break in his personal story to tell the ka-tet some information that they’ll need in order to stage their attack. Of course, Mordred is a wild card that could impact either side. I don’t think he’s a predictable factor right now.

So, if my theory that this is all some sort of purgatory mission that runs on a loop until they “get it right,” is it just Roland’s purgatory mission where the others are bit players or are they all on separate missions? Probably I’m wandering way off on a wrong path. I’m probably being too influenced by the “Lost” TV show factor.

Um, excuse me…we’ve read a couple dozen pages of backstory and now Ted isn’t going to be able to finish because he’s tired?


The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 8: Notes from the Gingerbread House, Section 11

Ted picks up his story after he arrives at the Algul after being caught in Connecticut, and Prentiss had come on board. Pimli and Finli interrogate Ted, and make it clear his Connecticut friends will die if he tries to run again. They wanted to know why he’d run and who helped him. He told them he’d run became he’d gotten a “glimmering” from the can-toi guards as to what they were doing and he didn’t like it. As for how he escape, he claims he just went to sleep one night and woke up in another world. Eventually, they believed him.

A few weeks after he got back, Trampas found him and asked why he hadn’t given him up. He’s grateful, and tells Ted to cooperate with them as much as he can—that he might not be as expendable as he thinks. He told Ted that of all the “other-side worlds,” there’s a unique one called the “Real World,” where time only runs forward. And in that world lives a facilitator who might be a mortal guardian of Gan’s Beam.”

What Constant Reader Learns: And…..?


The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 8: Notes from the Gingerbread House, Section 12

And it’s Stephen King.

What Constant Reader Learns: Uh-huh. Don’t make me take back all the nice words about how subtle and clever sai-King was in inserting himself into the story.


The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 8: Notes from the Gingerbread House, Section 13

According to Trampas, the Crimson King has been trying to kill the Stephen King for years, but ka has been protecting him. But now ka has decided the Stephen King should die because he’s stopped singing the song that cast the circle. “He has forgotten the rose.”

What Constant Reader Learns: So the reason Stephen King was mown down while on a stroll along the side of a road was because ka was ticked off that he’d stopped writing the Dark Tower books? Well, all I have to say about that is, George R.R. Martin better keep those Ice and Fire books coming faster!


The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 8: Notes from the Gingerbread House, Section 14

Mordred is still hanging around outside (probably literally) and listening, but when he hears the story of Stephen King, he withdraws to ponder it.

What Constant Reader Learns: Maybe Mordred will kill this story twist. Okay, okay, I’ll shelve my annoyance. For now.


The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 8: Notes from the Gingerbread House, Section 15

Mordred, now withdrawn and pondering, doesn’t hear this part: that the Powers That Be are in a hurry to get Shardik’s Beam broken before Stephen King’s death could cause Gan’s Beam to break. So it’s all a matter of pride—a race for the Crimson King, if he’s even calling the shots anymore, which is doubtful, to be first to bring about the end of the universe.

What Constant Reader Learns: A wise man is Ted: “Do they see the lethal insanity of a race to the brink of oblivion, and then over the edge? Or is it a simple failure of imagination? One doesn’t like to think such a rudimentary failing could bring about the end…” Indeed, Ted. Indeed. And yet, if and when the world does end, the trigger could be something as lethally stupid as a failure of imagination. (Anyone watched the news lately?)


The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 8: Notes from the Gingerbread House, Section 16

Roland’s twirling his fingers like a pinwheel trying to get Ted to move it along. He’s afraid the man will run out of steam (and tape) before he gets to whatever important thing that’s still missing.

What Constant Reader Learns: The universal sign for “hurry up” doesn’t much work with tape recordings, Ro.


The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 8: Notes from the Gingerbread House, Section 17

As the tape nears its end, Ted says he asked Trampas the name of the mortal guardian of Gan’s Beam but Trampas didn’t know it. “I do know there’s no magic in him anymore, for he’s ceased whatever it was that ka meant him to do. If we leave him be, the Ka of Nineteen, which is that of his world, and the Ka of Ninety-Nine, which is that of our world, will combine to…” and the tape runs out.

What Constant Reader Learns: Well, interesting about the 19 and the 99…what happens when they combine? Well, good question. If I were in that cave, I’d take out a Harry Potter sneetch and lob it at good ol’ Ted’s tape recorder.


The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 8: Notes from the Gingerbread House, Section 18

Jake puts 19 and 99 together and comes up with 1999: “The Keystone Year in the Keystone World. Where Mia went to have her baby. Where Black Thirteen is now.”

The old legends say that Gan created time, Roland tells them. That he rose from the Prim and made the world, then tipped it with his finger, set it spinning, and that was time. They all know they’re on the verge of some great understanding but aren’t quite there. Susannah starts remembering the litany of announcements she heard in her time before the Dixie Pig, but some of it didn’t make sense since it was people from all different eras. But she did hear about the death of Stephen King, who wrote ’Salem’s Lot—the book Pere Callahan appeared in. They figure he wrote Brautigan as well.

“He made the Pere, he made Brautigan, he made us,” Susannah says. “No, he facilitated us.”

Finally, Susannah recalls that Stephen King died when he was hit by a minivan near his home in Lovell, Maine. This shocks Roland, who realizes sai-King bought the house on Turtleback Lane. He’d moved further along the Path of the Beam.

They keep extrapolating the 19, and figure out it’s a date—a keystone date in keystone year in keystone world. The date when King was killed. Turn June, the sixth month, upside down, and one gets a nine, Susannah notes. It’s already summer in 1999, and if King dies and Gan’s Beam breaks, Shardik’s Beam will “snap like a toothpick.”

What Constant Reader Learns: At one point they all look at the tape counter and it reads, 1999.

OMG. They’re going to go back and save Stephen King. I can’t decide, once again, whether it’s horribly clever or horribly bizarre. I am speechless. Why didn’t I see that coming? On the other hand, from a story standpoint, it lets the danger to the Tower remain even if they thwart the Breakers. And even if sai King lives, the world’s balancing on one Beam.

And if sai-King keels over, hopefully not until a highly advanced old age, does the world end? Are all constant readers dependent on his survival? Perhaps not, since he finished the series.


The Dark Tower, Part Two: Blue Heaven; Chapter 8: Notes from the Gingerbread House, Section 19

The ka-tet is floored at this realization, and wonder how they can stop it. Obviously, King isn’t dead yet, since they’re still in existence, but Roland talks about his worsening headaches, which he’s failed to mention until now. His hip hurts as well. “This is where he’ll be hit,” he tells them. “Hip smashed. Ribs busted. Head crushed. Thrown dead into the ditch. Ka…and the end of ka.”

“There is still time,” he says. “We can change ka. There’s always a price to pay—kashume, mayhap.” And, of course, Sheemie will have to send them. First, however, they need to save Shardik’s Beam in case they get stranded in 1999.

What Constant Reader Learns: Rather ominously, this is Section 19 of this chapter. So perhaps one or more of the ka-tet will be sacrificed (Eddie?) as punishment for changing ka. Ka-ka.

And…that’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll continue our read of the final book of the Dark Tower saga.


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