In 2010, my mom sent me a paperback copy of Stephen King’s The Gunslinger while I was living in Tokyo between study abroad semesters. It had been recommended to me by a friend (now an ex friend, but that’s another story for another time). I continued buying the paperbacks. They looked like this:
They aren’t beautiful, exactly, but I feel like Stephen King’s name is what sells these. Nobody hasn’t heard of him. I assume this is what the designers thought, too, considering his name takes up nearly a third of the cover. So, apparently, does “some other ‘Stephen King,'” peddling his wares by pretending to be Stephen King, author of ‘Salem’s Lot, Carrie, Pet Sematary, etc.
What bugged me wasn’t even the cover design. For one thing, Japanese bookstores will wrap your books in a paper covering for… some reason? My copies of The Waste Lands and The Wind Through the Keyhole both have these paper dust jackets (from Junkudo and Maruzen, respectively).
What really annoyed me was that, up to Wizard & Glass, the covers all had a certain aesthetic, and then suddenly, starting with Wolves of the Calla, they look completely different. (They even have a different trim size, to my endless irritation.)
If you didn’t know this was the same series, would you known this was the same series?
Don’t get me wrong. I think I like the more colorful covers better. But there was no way to go back and buy The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three, etc. in this new (and improved?) design. Nope. I was stuck forever with two halves of a set which, for a book collector like me, is a major annoyance.
Oh, and then The Wind Through the Keyhole came out, looking like neither set. It’s the same trim size as the older books, but a completely different design aesthetic. It doesn’t bother me as much, given The Wind Through the Keyhole‘s rather odd status as Dark Tower #4.5.
Well, with the upcoming movie adaptation in the works somebody somewhere decided it was high time for a proper set with the same trim size, aesthetic, etc. The new books feel more like “literature,” too: I found these at the local foreign bookstore, so I got to hold it in my hand, run my thumb over the pages. The paper is thicker, the cover feels… nicer. My current paperback set has the feel of an airport book. (Which is accurate: I read Dark Tower in Japan, the U.S.A., and South Korea, and in between/on the way to and from all of those places, over the course of about a year and a half.)
… but they’re way too scary for little ol’ me. Look at this cover for The Waste Lands. Brr, no thank you!
I know I’m not exactly the target audience for The Dark Tower. My favorite TV show is Steven Universe; I think Philosopher’s Stone is the best Harry Potter book; and I like Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys better than his American Gods. I don’t “do” horror. I’ve never read anything else by Stephen King and I probably never will.
I read Dark Tower during a very … strange time in my life (not because of the country/continent-hopping) and someday I’ll go back and reread it, then let you know if I still even like it at all.
I’ll probably keep my books, though. They hold so many memories – even if they don’t match.