Review: Song of Susannah

Song of Susannah Song of Susannah by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Note: This review was originally written in the early 2000s and published for a no longer running website: AudiobookCafe. When last Stephen King spun the tale of his famous gunslingers, he ended his story with some closure but also a cliff-hanger. Eddie’s lover, Susannah had been possessed by a demon-spirit named Mia. Mia was shortly due to give birth to a child that she would give over to the dreaded Crimson King, the ultimate incarnation of evil. Controlled by Mia, Susannah had no choice but to leave her comrades behind in Calla Bryn Sturgis in Endworld and step through a portal to New York City, 1999.

Roland of Gilead and his troupe of fellow gunslingers are fast approaching the Dark Tower and the Crimson King. In book six of the Dark Tower series, “Song of Susannah,” our heroes are displaced and separated into three groups. A possessed Susannah discovers herself in New York City in 1999, awaiting the birth of Mia’s child. Eddie and Roland fight their way out of an ambush in Maine in the late 1970s in order to find Calvin Tower and acquire an essential plot of land. Jake, Oy, and Donald Callahan find themselves in New York City in 1999 but at night and unsure of just where (and when) to find Susannah.

King has created the most intriguing schizophrenic in Susannah Dean. Originally born as Odetta Holmes, very early on she developed a second darker identity, Detta Walker. In prior books, these two personalities have forged together to form Susannah, but when she becomes possessed by Mia, it becomes evident that the dark and angered Detta Walker had also returned. Her return into Susannah’s mind creates the most compelling aspect of “Song of Susannah.” King weaves together these three distinct personalities into one mind and constructs a method that allows the listener to understand and even empathize with Susannah’s situation. His choice of format for the interaction between these identities is certain creative and even admirable.

Listeners expecting the long detailed exploits seen in “The Wolves of the Calla” or “Wizards and Glass” may be a bit disappointed. This audiobook is a mere twelve CDs, quite short for any Stephen King novel. And for those expecting lots of action and events, you might lower your expectations. While this audiobook witnesses a few key events, the breadth of the novel takes place over the span of a day and ends in two cliff-hangers, giving the finale of the Dark Tower series much to account for. Listeners might consider this audiobook a tease because it reveals so little but hints at so much.

The strangest and most surreal aspect of “Song of Susannah” is how Stephen King has written himself into the Dark Tower series. In “Wolves of the Calla,” Stephen King referenced himself in several scenes, but here, he actually writes himself in as a character that is connected to Roland and his crew in a very odd but essential manner. While putting himself into the novel seems almost egotistical, until the final chapter is published, it is hard to judge his reasons and if it genuinely works or can be considered a silly gimmick by a self-congratulating author.

Stephen King writes in a very vocal-oriented manner—that is, his writing flows naturally when spoken, one would almost think that was its intended purpose. King’s style always hints of a world on the brink of sanity. And somehow, George Guidall manages to read King’s stories in just that manner. He does his characters justice by adding the right emotions to each spoken word, but Guidall goes further. When not speaking as a character, his voice eerily narrates clearly illustrating to his listens that they are not in Kansas anymore. Add to that, Guidall’s great skill in portraying the triad of Mia/Susannah/Detta, and listeners can easily understand why he is considered one of the best narrators.
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In the final chapter of this audiobook, a kind of journal and scrapbook written through the eyes of the character Stephen King, he writes “The Dark Tower is my ├╝berstory.” Indeed it is. Filled with hundreds of references to literature, pop-culture and history, he also sinuously connects the vast majority of his novels to his Dark Tower.

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