What books can you suggest that share certain characteristics of The Dark Tower by Stephen King?
June 17, 2012 9:06 PM   Subscribe

What books can you suggest that share certain characteristics of The Dark Tower by Stephen King?

Two of the most enjoyable aspects of The Dark Tower - for me - are:

1. How King integrates the world as we know it with his science fiction/fantasy/supernatural elements...

2. It's a sprawling adventure novel.

I'm looking for books that successfully do both. Examples of #1 above:

1. I enjoyed how Northcentral Positronics - what seemed to be a megacorporation from "our" time - kept popping up as the maker of things the ka-tet encountered along the way, like Andy The Robot.

2. I liked how Ludd had a vague resemblance to "our" New York City and that a ZZ Top song had meaning.

3. The entire "drawing" of Eddie - from the voice in his head on the plane to the climactic shootout - was brilliant.

What I'm not looking for is science fiction or fantasy novels that create entirely new worlds and new races of beings and new languages. I love me some Tolkien (for example), but that's not what I'm seeking.
posted by st starseed to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Possibly an obvious suggestion: Tad Williams's "Otherland" novels. Several groups of characters journey from one virtual world to another in pursuit of individual goals while trying to solve a larger mystery. Each world has a theme (Through the Looking Glass, ancient Egypt, etc.) with a surreal or grotesque twist. Ominously, the perils that face them seem to follow a pattern that hints at something larger and more powerful that mere virtual reality.

The books have typical "doorstopper" shortcomings: they're pretty standard quest-type books, so the plot is largely just one thing after another. There's an effective overarching mystery, but developments kind of arrive by deus ex machina, i.e., it's not the sort of thing where you can go back and put the pieces together yourself. The real-world scenes take place in a "not too distant future" as imagined circa 1990. But it's fairly easy and compulsive reading with a good sense of exploration, wonder, and mystery.
posted by Nomyte at 9:20 PM on June 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you read The Talisman yet?

Gaiman's American Gods?

Also, while it is not a sprawling adventure novel, I suspect you might enjoy John M. Ford's The Last Hot Time.
posted by brennen at 9:52 PM on June 17, 2012

Hah! Well, if you like The Last Hot Time, why not Zelazny's posthumously completed Lord Demon and Donnerjack? Both kind of clunky, a bit like I found the Ford novel, but passable reading.

In fact, you might like quite a bit of Zelazny's older stuff, and older sci-fi and fantasy more generally, when it was far more common to have books set in hidden or alternate realities, or have magical characters walk unnoticed among us mundanes. The recent trend of "urban fantasy" kind of cleaves to this tradition, but modern authors have a somewhat different set of preoccupations. Where earlier writers like Zelazny and Silverberg borrowed cliches from noir and westerns, modern urban fantasy feels more Whedon-esque.
posted by Nomyte at 10:37 PM on June 17, 2012

I think Last Call by Tim Powers has a similar feel to the Dark Tower books.
posted by muta at 11:42 PM on June 17, 2012

I also like it when the author gives ordinary elements of the real world some fantastic meaning - Neil Gaiman does this in Neverwhere.
posted by helion at 12:34 AM on June 18, 2012

William Gibson might be a fun place to start, because of the pervasive corporations present. I also really liked John Barnes' Century Next Door series because of the evolving/almost but not quite real technology and social upheaval. Melissa Scott is also incredibly fun, too.

You might also like Vurt, which is about feathers as portals to other worlds.
posted by spunweb at 1:35 AM on June 18, 2012

Seconding Vurt and also to a much lesser degree, the Zelazny suggestion above. His Chronicles of Amber Series is well-known and definitely fits your description to a T.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 3:30 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm going to go off in another direction, and recommend the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It's a very complex and interrelated world, with echoes of our own. It's comedy rather than horror, but it has that familiar otherness you may be looking for.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:17 AM on June 18, 2012

Have you read Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale"? Or her "Oryx and Crake" and "The Year of the Flood"? Near futures where everything has gone apocalyptically wrong. The corporate angle is particularly disturbing in the latter novels. I believe Atwood has another novel in the series coming out later this year.

Gregory Maguire's "Wicked" novels touch only briefly on our world (via the character of Dorothy, from "The Wizard of Oz"), but they are fantastic examples of worldbuilding. Intricate politics, complex relationships, richly layered details of the everyday.

William Gibson's Sprawl novels ("Neuromancer," "Count Zero" and "Mona Lisa Overdrive"), mentioned above, check your boxes.

You might or might not enjoy Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials," officially YA but truly good reads at any age. Near universes, portals to various worlds, adventure across realities, armored bears, all with (as someone here put it) an anti-theological bent that may or may not resonate with you.

If "Hitchhiker's Guide" does it for you, you'll want to check out Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" books. Funny, satirical, observant and absorbing.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:43 AM on June 18, 2012

1. How King integrates the world as we know it with his science fiction/fantasy/supernatural elements...

I am really interested in the slipstream genre, which might be close to what you are looking for. From Wikipedia:
Slipstream is a kind of fantastic or non-realistic fiction that crosses conventional genre boundaries between science fiction/fantasy and mainstream literary fiction.

Books I have enjoyed include:
China Mieville's The City The City (more of a detective novel, but with wild chases).
David Mitchell's number9dream (he is more famous for Cloud Atlas, but number9dream has a very adventure feel to it - a young boy in search of his long lost father in Tokyo).
Anything by Haruki Murakami, but in particular, Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.
Phillip K Dick's Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
posted by moiraine at 5:38 AM on June 18, 2012

Seconding the Otherland series by Tad Williams. It has everything you want, I think. And so many amazing characters.
posted by tomboko at 6:01 AM on June 18, 2012

It's not a major part of the book, but Seven Soldiers of Victory, a comic series by Grant Morrison and various artists, does a neat thing in the Guardian sections where he incorporates proposed but never built architecture into the New York City in the story. The series was a set of seven interlocking four-issue mini-series. Each mini focused on a different character, none of whom ever meet (though there are some near-misses) but whose collective actions save the world. It's all very cool but sort of complicated and I love it dearly. (Book One, Book Two has a new edition out tomorrow.)

Lost reminds me a lot of the Dark Tower. Its creators are admitted Stephen King fans.
posted by davextreme at 12:34 PM on June 18, 2012

A lot of King's other novels and stories tie into the Dark Tower series or have been incorporated after the fact. You might start with those.
posted by zanni at 5:23 AM on June 19, 2012

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