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The Complete Stephen King Universe: A Guide to the Worlds of Stephen King

The Complete Stephen King Universe: A Guide to the Worlds of Stephen King

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by Stanley Wiater

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The myriad worlds and universes King has created are, in reality, one world, one universe. Here is the guide to that universe.
The Complete Stephen King Universe is the only definitive reference work that examines all of Stephen King's novels, short stories, motion pictures, miniseries, and teleplays, and deciphers the threads that exist in


The myriad worlds and universes King has created are, in reality, one world, one universe. Here is the guide to that universe.
The Complete Stephen King Universe is the only definitive reference work that examines all of Stephen King's novels, short stories, motion pictures, miniseries, and teleplays, and deciphers the threads that exist in all of his work. This ultimate resource includes in-depth story analyses, character breakdowns, little-known facts, and startling revelations on how the plots, themes, characters, and conflicts intertwine.
After discovering The Complete Stephen King Universe, you will never read Stephen King the same way again.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The Complete Stephen King Universe: A Guide to the Worlds of Stephen King by Stanley Wiater, Christopher Golden and Hank Wagner charts the thematic links within King's oeuvre, from novels and short stories to movies and teleplays. This is an indispensable volume for serious King fans. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

“This book might be one of the single most important books about Stephen King ever written. . . . Beginning with the premise that all of King's work is intertwined in an intricate weave of overlapping narrative threads, with the world of the Dark Tower as the linchpin around which everything else orbits, Wiater, Golden, and Wagner carefully prove their point, in an entertaining, intriguing, and thoroughly indisputable way.” —Stephen Spignesi, author of The Essential Stephen King

“Here is the Stephen King companion to end all Stephen King companions . . . The three authors bring their considerable expertise to a survey of the complete King fictional corpus, grouping novels and tales by setting and theme. An indispensable insider's guide to the influences on King, his plots and characters, TV and film adaptations, and more.” —Publishers Weekly

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The Complete Stephen King Universe

A Guide to the Worlds of Stephen King

By Stanley Wiater, Christopher Golden, Hank Wagner

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2006 Shado Wind, Inc., and The Daring Greatly Corporation
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-3145-8



(1982) **revised edition (2003)

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."

So begins Stephen King's longest work. Not The Gunslinger itself, but The Dark Tower, the series of which this novel is merely the first installment.

It is within the pages of this first installment, however, that the many threads of the Stephen King Universe begin to be drawn together. The quest of Roland — whose journey and epic significance to his world give him numerous opportunities to explore other parallel universes, traveling through space and time — mirrors our own quest to understand the Stephen King Universe as a whole.

As the story goes — becoming its own sort of myth, in a way — King began the saga of Roland the gunslinger in March 1970, and continued to return to it when the tale called to him over the course of the ensuing twelve years. It was inspired by Robert Browning's epic romantic poem, "Childe Roland" (1855), which was in itself inspired by the legends surrounding the August 15, 778, death of the real-life Count Roland, nephew of Charlemagne.

The Gunslinger is comprised of five long chapters, all of which were published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction between 1978 and 1981. The story defies genre classification, melding horror, fantasy, science fiction and mystery together into what King designed to be a sort of romantic epic, but which became far more.

Roland's world may once have been similar to our own, but what civilization there once was has been all but forgotten. The old society, crumbled so long ago that it is little more than myth, was then replaced by a feudal system reminiscent of mythical England before Arthur brought unity to that land. The equivalent of the King Arthur myth in our world is the tale of a man called Arthur Eld in Roland's. Roland is the last surviving descendant of Arthur Eld.

In the time of Roland's youth, the land of Mid-World was organized into a collection of Baronies called the Affiliation, but we learn that all of that has passed on; the world is deteriorating rapidly, and much of what remains is barren wasteland. Time and space have little meaning, making compasses useless. Roland has lived for an indeterminate period of time, and while not immortal, it seems now that with the slippage of time, age means little.

As a hero, Roland is perhaps King's most single-minded, implacable creation. When we first meet him, he has long since lost everything that ever meant anything to him. The world, as we are reminded time and again, has moved on (though it will be some time in the series before King begins to explain precisely what that means). Roland pursues the sinister man in black, a wizard called Walter, not merely to punish him for his offenses, but to discover more about the Tower itself. The Tower is revealed to be the cornerstone of all existence, holding the meaning to life and the universe (or the multiverse). Roland hopes that at the Tower, he will find ... what, exactly? Answers? Enlightenment? An odd thing, really, for such a single-minded hero to seek enlightenment, for one so stolid and hardened to search for the secrets of the universe.

Yet that is what we have here. King doesn't let Roland dwell too much on the metaphysical nature of his quest, but it's there just the same.

And Roland is effective. It is only logical to extrapolate from the dialogue between Roland and Walter at the end of The Gunslinger that a powerful entity has recognized in Roland the potential to do precisely what he plans. Interestingly enough, however, the force does not appear determined to stop him. And why should it? Nothing can interfere with ka, the word, in Roland's world, for destiny.

There is more to Roland than even he knows.

As the narrative evolves, Roland must struggle with the focus and callousness he was taught as a gunslinger, as well as his great capacity for love, a part of him that he regularly denies. Still, he places his quest above all else, even at the cost of the life of the boy, Jake Chambers.

But Roland is a product of his world, a place that had already "moved on" (begun to deteriorate, suffering greatly from natural — or perhaps forced — entropy) when he was a boy, but now has broken down even further. It seems that all that is good and noble has gone out of the world. Just as another modern version of the romantic epic hero, Luke Skywalker of Star Wars, is the last of the Jedi Knights, so is Roland the last of the gunslingers, until, like Skywalker, he himself searches out, discovers, and begins to train more.

But while George Lucas's creations take the stage a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, King's characters feel much closer to home. There are startling similarities between Roland's world and what we'll call the Prime Reality, in which novels such as The Shining (1977) and 'Salem's Lot (1975) take place. Some time in the past — as evidenced by old songs and artifacts and the words of Walter — Roland's world was almost identical to the Prime Reality of the Stephen King Universe, the one that includes Castle Rock and Derry.


ROLAND: A member of the warrior caste called gunslingers, Roland is the son of Gabrielle and Steven, the rulers of Gilead, the Barony where Roland grew up. Gilead was the shining star in the Affiliation, a group of baronies that made up the core of Mid-World civilization. Thanks to the machinations of the sorcerer Marten (a.k.a. Walter, a.k.a. the man in black), the Affiliation was shattered and civilization crumbled. The world moved on, suffering the predations and deterioration of entropy. The gunslingers died off or were killed. Roland is the last of them.

Roland's quest, at first, is twofold: first, to find the man in black and have vengeance upon him for his evil doings, and second, to journey to the Dark Tower, and there find the answers to the questions of the universe, including the very nature of reality itself. His quest to find the Tower is not merely for curiosity's sake, however. He believes it to be his destiny — his ka — and also believes that the universe is unraveling because of some malevolent force gnawing at the Tower and at the Beams that bind all of reality together, and that this must be stopped.

During this journey, Roland meets Jake Chambers for the first time. Jake is one key to the evolution Roland must undergo on his journey, but when he is faced with the choice of letting the boy die or losing the trail of the man in black, he chooses to pursue his quarry, and Jake dies. For now.

Later, Roland spends ten years entranced by the man in black on a mountaintop, after Walter has told his fortune. Roland's quest, though he has already been at it for a very long time, is merely beginning.

WALTER/MARTEN/FLAGG: Also known as Walter O'Dim and the man in black. Though we are not yet aware of it, Walter is merely one face for a being we refer to (as King has referred to him) as Legion. He is also Marten Broadcloak and Randall Flagg, among others.

Walter is a powerful sorcerer who manipulates and topples rulers, spreads his influence, and perpetuates evil in the service of a Master we are not yet familiar with. Walter manipulates Roland's life and leads him on a chase across the desert and to the mountains, where he reads Roland's fortune and gives him a psychic vision revealing the true nature of the secrets within the Tower, before apparently dying himself, having served his purpose.

As Marten, he was a sorcerer and enchanter who manipulated Roland's father, Steven, and seduced the man's wife, a series of events that led to the ruin of Gilead. As Flagg, he has performed many heinous deeds throughout the multiverse.

THE CRIMSON KING: Though we see very little of the Crimson King at the outset of Roland's tale, it is implied that he is the gunslinger's true enemy, and all others merely his servants.

JAKE CHAMBERS: Jake is not from Roland's reality, but rather, some other dimension. After he is murdered by being pushed in front of a car in his own reality, he is somehow transported to Roland's world, where he briefly joins Roland on his quest. When Roland is forced to choose between catching the man in black or letting Jake fall to his death, however, Roland lets the boy die.

Jake will return, though, for he has a continuing role to play in the journey of the gunslinger.

STEVEN DESCHAIN: Father to Roland, husband to Gabrielle, lord of Gilead, he is betrayed by his wife and his confidant, Marten. It costs him his life.

CORT: Cort is the instructor who teaches the boys of Gilead everything they need to know to become gunslingers. He teaches them how to use their weapons, as well as hand-to-hand combat and strategy. In order to "graduate," a gunslinger must defeat Cort in brutal single combat. If the young man cannot defeat his teacher, he is banished from Gilead. Roland becomes the youngest gunslinger ever to defeat his teacher.

CUTHBERT: During their youth, Cuthbert was Roland's best friend. In time, he became a gunslinger. Cuthbert was part of Roland's original ka-tet and would one day become a casualty of his quest for the Tower.

DAVID: In order to defeat Cort and take his place among the ranks of gunslingers, Roland must choose a single weapon. He selects his falcon, David.

GABRIELLE: Roland's mother, Gabrielle, is wife to the ruler of Gilead.

She betrays her husband by sleeping with Marten, the enchanter. She is later accidentally killed by her own son.

HAX: A cook in the service of Roland's father, he turns out to be a traitor, and is hanged by the Gilead authorities. Roland attends the execution.

SUSAN: The one girl Roland ever loved, Susan was a part of his life many years ago. She was burned to death in Mejis, a tragedy of which we shall learn more in subsequent volumes.

THE TOWER: The Tower is the axis upon which all time and space, all of reality, spins, and from which the Beams that bind reality together, just like spokes from a wheel, emanate. It is Order placed upon the necessary and infinite Chaos of the multiverse. Within the physical existence of the Tower lies all the knowledge, magickal and otherwise, in existence. Roland is determined to find it.


The Gunslinger was originally published in a limited hardcover edition of ten thousand copies. Perhaps because King deemed it so very different from his other work, years passed before it became available to the general public in any other edition.

• The revised edition of The Gunslinger was published in 2003. In addition to adding length and texture to the original, King altered and clarified certain story elements, providing fresh hints regarding the overall mythology of the series.




In the first volume of the Dark Tower series, 1982's The Gunslinger, Stephen King introduced his loyal readership to Roland of Gilead. At the time of its release, initially only a limited edition, the first book was an oddity, a fantasy novel with a western motif by the acknowledged master of horror. Even five years later, when this second volume was released, also only in a limited edition, readers were unaware that King had embarked upon the greatest literary journey of his career.

In the comparatively brief first volume, The Gunslinger, we are introduced to Roland as he travels across the desert in pursuit of "the man in black," who turns out to be a wizard named Walter. Walter had a part in the destruction of the entire civilization Roland had known throughout his life, including the society and nobility of the barony of Gilead, of which Roland's father was lord. The gunslinger set out after that destruction on a quest to find the Dark Tower, which others insist is only a myth but that Roland believes is not only real, but holds the secrets of the universe. At the Tower he believes he will find an explanation for the manner in which his world has fallen apart or "moved on," as he so often thinks of it.

Believing that Walter can offer information about the Tower, and in an effort to have revenge upon the wizard, he tracks the man in black and finally confronts him. Walter did provide certain information about the Tower, though all of it vague, and told Roland's fortune, again vaguely, before dying. At the end of that premiere installment, Roland was still on his quest.

The Drawing of the Three was first released in 1987 in a limited edition from Donald M. Grant, Publisher — which has published the hardcover editions of each of the books in the series — and in 1989 in a trade paperback version from Plume Books. While The Gunslinger introduced us to Roland, his quest, and the basic concepts of his world, this second volume does not really advance him along his journey very much. Rather, it spends its time doing precisely what the title implies, drawing together his team, in the same way that bands of adventurers have gathered around heroes throughout myth and popular fiction. They are Robin Hood's Merry Men. They are the apostles. They are the X-Men.

They are ka-tet.

For that is what The Drawing of the Three is really about, though we, as readers, don't quite understand it early on. In Roland's world, ka-tet means a great many things, one of which is family. It can be a group of people — usually without actual blood relationships — bound together by duty, obligation, love, and common objectives. But in many ways, it is even more vital and real than family, because there are other definitions of ka-tet. More than those aforementioned values, it is a group of people bound together by destiny. Fate has inextricably linked them together, for better or worse. This may define an alliance, or it may explain the hatred of sworn enemies — they are destined to oppose one another until one falls.

In this case, however, we are speaking of the former.

Over the course of this volume, Roland travels from his reality (or dimension) into others through mystical portals that appear inexplicably on the beach, placed there by some unknowable universal force (referred to later in the series as "the White") that is attempting to help him. By way of these portals, he enters the minds of individuals in other worlds, and can assert control over them physically. He is even able to bring things back from those worlds. Things ... and people.

He visits three variant realities in this fashion — or, quite possibly, simply three different time periods of the same reality. During these trips, Roland abruptly abducts two people who will in time become part of the new order of gunslingers, part of his new ka-tet.

Eddie Dean comes from a New York City in 1987. Odetta Holmes, a legless woman with multiple personality syndrome, comes from a New York in 1963. The third person drawn, as per the title, is apparently Susannah, Odetta's other personality.

Roland visits a third reality, however. There he jumps into the mind of a murderer named Jack Mort — which of course means "death" — mentally inhabiting his body just as he did Eddie's and Odetta's before drawing them through. Mort thinks of himself as "the pusher." But it isn't drugs he pushes, it's people.

In fact — and here is the kind of thing that in the world of The Dark Tower cannot be coincidence — Mort is responsible for the injury that caused Odetta's multiple personalities to develop, as well as a second incident that led to the loss of her legs. Further, Mort is responsible for the death of Jake Chambers.


Excerpted from The Complete Stephen King Universe by Stanley Wiater, Christopher Golden, Hank Wagner. Copyright © 2006 Shado Wind, Inc., and The Daring Greatly Corporation. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Stanley Wiater has been interviewing and writing about Stephen King for more than two decades. The award-winning author or editor of ten books, he is the writer and host of the television series Dark Dreamers.

Christopher Golden is the award-winning author of many bestselling books including Waking Nightmares, Of Saints and Shadows, Of Masques and Martyrs, and The Myth Hunters. He has also written books for teens and young adults, including Soulless and Poison Ink, and he is the editor of The New Dead: A Zombie Anthology, published by St. Martin's Press. His novels have been published in fourteen languages. Golden was born and raised in Massachusetts, where he continues to live with his family.

Hank Wagner is a respected critic and journalist. Among the many publications in which his work regularly appears are Cemetery Dance and Mystery Scene.

Stanley Wiater has been interviewing and writing about Stephen King for more than two decades. The award-winning author or editor of ten books, he is currently the writer and host of the television series Dark Dreamers, which showcases those who explore the dark side of the arts.

CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN is the award-winning, bestselling author of such novels as The Myth Hunters, The Boys Are Back in Town, Strangewood, and Of Saints and Shadows. He co-wrote the lavishly illustrated novel Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire with Mike Mignola, and the comic book series featuring the same character.
Hank Wagner is a respected critic and journalist. Among the many publications in which his work regularly appears are Cemetery Dance and Mystery Scene.

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Complete Stephen King Universe 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
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Oh-oh-oh-oh-ohh, oh-oh-oh-oh-ohh!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He walked in, his blue sapphire eyes sparkling. His hair is brown and messy and he is very sporty and very athletic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
With a plethora of facts that i didnt know or realise about stephen kings novels up to 2006. Like how many characters from other novels fit into the dark tower series.