The penultimate volume in the Dark Tower series, The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah, a #1 New York Times bestseller, is a pivotal installment in the epic saga.
Set in a world of extraordinary circumstances, filled with stunning visual imagery and unforgettable characters, the Dark Tower series is unlike anything you have ever read. Here is the penultimate installment.
Reading Group Guide
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The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah Reading Group Guide from The Dark Tower: The Complete Concordance
1. Stephen King placed two unusual facing pages at the beginning of Song of Susannah. At the center of the left-hand page (which is otherwise blank) is the word REPRODUCTION. At the center of the right-hand page is one large number—19. However, in the bottom left-hand corner of the righthand page is the tiny number 99. What effect is King striving for? What effect do these pages have upon you as a reader?
2. How does King shift our mood from one of elation, when the Wolves are defeated near the end of Wolves of the Calla, to one of anxiety at the beginning of Song of Susannah? What series of tragedies—and inexplicable events—takes place?
3. What is a Beamquake? What effect does it have on the borderlands? What is its significance, as far as our characters’ quest is concerned?
4. Who, or what, is Mia? How does her appearance (and disappearance) drive the action of Song of Susannah? In what ways does her history intertwine with Roland’s?
5. When the Manni help Roland, Eddie, Jake, and Callahan open the Unfound Door, they all expect that it will open onto New York City in 1999, and then onto Stoneham, Maine, in 1977. Eddie and Roland are supposed to follow Susannah into the Big Apple, and Jake and Callahan are supposed to pursue Calvin Tower in Maine. What goes wrong? What series of unexpected events takes place? In your opinion, who or what is behind this change of plan?
6. What is Susannah’s can-tah? How do you think it came to Susannah? With what force is it aligned? Have you ever encountered a similar type of object in any of King’s other fiction? (Hint: Take a look at the novel Desperation.) If so, how does it differ from Susannah’s can-tah? What does this say about the forces of the White and the Outer Dark in the Stephen King universe?
7. What is Susannah’s Dogan? What part does it play in Song of Susannah? How does it link this novel with Wolves of the Calla? Is Susannah’s Dogan completely imaginary? Is the machinery within it completely under Susannah’s control? Why or why not?
8. What are Demon Elementals? What role do they play in our tet’s adventures? Why do you think that King waited until Song of Susannah to tell us about them? How do they affect your view of the Guardians? How do they affect your vision of Roland’s world?
9. What role does John Cullum play in Song of Susannah? Do you think that his appearance is linked to ka? If so, what part does ka play in the battle between the White and the Outer Dark? Does it always play the same role?
10. Unlike most novels, Song of Susannah is divided not into chapters but into stanzas, a term we usually associate with songs and poems. Does this name change affect how we read the novel? Does it affect our expectations? At the end of each chapter/stanza, King includes a short rhymed section containing a stave and a response. What do these terms mean, both in and of themselves and in the context of the novel?
11. What is the significance of Susannah’s dream at the beginning of the tenth stanza? What visions does she have? What future do they foretell? Can this future be altered, even though the visions show future events in the Keystone World?
12. In stanza eleven, Roland says that Stephen King is the twin of the Rose. Earlier in the Dark Tower series, we were told that the Rose is the twin of the Dark Tower. How do you explain the relationship between King, the Rose, and the Tower?
13. What is the nature of the black shadow that Eddie Dean sees hovering around sai King? What is its possible significance, both in terms of King’s life and our tet’s quest?
14. Why—according to sai King—did he stop writing the Dark Tower series? What about Roland, in particular, disturbed him? Do you agree or disagree with his assessment of our gunslinger? In your opinion, has Roland changed since King first started writing about him? Were there any other forces that contributed to King’s ceasing work on the Dark Tower series?
15. In stanza eleven, King describes his writing process. Does this description surprise you? Why or why not?
16. At the end of Song of Susannah, Stephen King includes a section entitled “Coda: Pages from a Writer’s Journal.” According to the Oxford English Reference Dictionary, a coda is a concluding event or series of events. More specifically, it tends to refer to the concluding passage of a piece of music (or of a movement within a piece of music), usually one that acts as an addition to the basic structure. In ballet, the term coda refers to the concluding section of a dance. Why do you think King chose to call this section a coda? What does this say about the structure of Song of Susannah? What specific event in Wolves of the Calla is King consciously echoing?
Stephen King is the author of more than sixty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes the short story collection You Like It Darker, Holly, Fairy Tale, Billy Summers, If It Bleeds, The Institute, Elevation, The Outsider, Sleeping Beauties (cowritten with his son Owen King), and the Bill Hodges trilogy: End of Watch, Finders Keepers, and Mr. Mercedes (an Edgar Award winner for Best Novel and a television series streaming on Peacock). His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller. His epic works The Dark Tower, It, Pet Sematary, Doctor Sleep, and Firestarter are the basis for major motion pictures, with It now the highest-grossing horror film of all time. He is the recipient of the 2020 Audio Publishers Association Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2018 PEN America Literary Service Award, the 2014 National Medal of Arts, and the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.