The gunslinger. The man in black. The mysterious dark tower that holds our reality together.
The Dark Tower series is Stephen King's magnum opus, spanning eight novels and tying together numerous characters, monsters, and systems of magic from King's other books. It's an absorbing epic on par with The Lord of the Rings. It was just adapted into a major motion picture starring Idris Elba, and is a soon-to-be television series. And now that you've finished reading it, what on earth are you supposed to read next?! Never fear, for there are worlds other than these (by which I mean, there are other good fantasy novels with western overtones). Here are a few books to read if you love The Dark Tower.
Of course, King himself has authored enough novels to keep you reading for the next 10 years. If you want to know what other devious acts the man in black has gotten up to, you should definitely read the rest of King's work. But The Dark Tower also stands apart from King's usual horror stories: it's more of a fantasy adventure, complete with Wild West shoot-outs, inter-dimensional portals, Arthurian knights, kid sidekicks, gruesome monsters, and world-saving quests. So, unless you have forgotten the face of your father, here are a few books to read with similar themes:
'The Stand' by Stephen King
one other Stephen King book, because if you dig the post-apocalyptic desert vibe of The Gunslinger, you'll love The Stand. After most of humanity is wiped out by a bio-engineered super-flu, the survivors must choose whether to stand with the 108-year-old Mother Abigail or the dark, dangerous Randall Flagg (or, as you might know him, the man in black). Click here to buy.
'The Fifth Season' by N.K. Jemisin
The Stillness is a land plagued by earthquakes and, every so often, the mass extinctions of a Fifth Season. It is in the midst of this catastrophe that one woman finds herself venturing out into the chaos to track down her missing daughter, as the only remaining continent on earth splits open under her feet.
The Fifth Season is somewhere between post-apocalyptic sci-fi and fantasy. It may not exactly be a western, but it's full of grit, danger, and one fierce quest for survival. Click here to buy.
'The Gone-Away World' by Nick Harkaway
After the "Go-Away War" destroyed most of the world, what's left of society clings to the safety of the Jorgmund Pipe. Only the pipe can fend off the "unreal" things that lurk just across the border. The only problem is that the pipe is currently on fire. It's up to our scrappy gang of truckers to quench the flames, but it turns out that there's more to this pipe and this surreal, post-war world than meets the eye.
Click here to buy.
'Dead Man's Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West' edited by John Joseph Adams
If you're looking for more weird, fantastical takes on the Wild West, then check out
Dead Man's Hand: an Anthology of the Weird West. Vampire gunfights, steampunk brothels, and sorcerous card decks abound in this collection, with western weirdness that could give King a run for his money (and yes, there is at least one story about cowboys and aliens). Click here to buy.
'His Dark Materials' by Philip Pullman
Stop me if you've heard this one: a young boy from our world travels to a mysterious other universe where religious strife and magic are threatening to tear every universe apart. Pullman's His Dark Materials might not have quite the same western feel as The Dark Tower (besides Lee Scoresby, of course), but it's another brilliantly dark fantasy series that centers on the idea of many universes coexisting, one on top of the other.
Click here to buy.
'Parable of the Sower' by Octavia E. Butler
America has been ravaged by environmental and economic disaster. Young Lauren Olamina, the daughter of a preacher, lives in one of the last "safe" neighborhoods...until her family's compound is destroyed by fire. Now Lauren must find a way to use her strange ability of hyper-empathy to survive out in the wilds of what was once the United States.
Click here to buy.
'Vermilion' by Molly Tanzer
Elouise “Lou” Merriwether is just your average gunslinging Taoist psychopomp nineteen-year-old, hard at work protecting San Francisco from ghosts. When a bunch of boys go missing from Chinatown, however, she must venture into the Wild West of the Colorado Rockies to rescue them, and just maybe find the Fountain of Youth while she's at it.
Vermillion is one wild ride for anyone who likes gunslingers, ghosts, and great fantasy novels. Click here to buy.
'Silver on the Road' by Laura Anne Gilman
Isobel is sixteen when she decides to work for the Devil in his territory, west of the Mississippi. Raised to be the Devil's left hand, it is up to Izzy to travel the roads of this strange territory and add a slightly more human touch. But of course, the Devil's West is not so easily tamed, and Izzy soon finds herself coming of age in the midst of dark magic, chaos, and death.
Click here to buy.
'The Fall of Arthur' by J.R.R. Tolkien
King has named Tolkien as one of his major influences in writing The Dark Tower.
The Fall of Arthur is far from Tolkien's best known work, but it does recount the story of King Arthur, known to the residents of Mid-World as Arthur Eld. In The Fall of Arthur, the famous king stands at the threshold of Mirkwood, summoned back to Britain for his final battle as he strives to rouse his knights and defeat the treacherous Mordred once and for all. Click here to buy.
'The Sandman' by Neil Gaiman
Sandman leans slightly more into the surreal than The Dark Tower does, but if you like brooding heroes and weird realms, this is the book for you. Gaiman's graphic novel series spans over ten volumes, following the journey of Morpheus, the King of Dreams, as he tries to return order to his dream kingdom. The chapters of Sandman run the gamut from fantasy to straight up horror, and any Dark Tower fan will find something strange to enjoy. Click here to buy.