On the whole, I liked it, maybe even a lot (won't really be able to say for sure until some time has passed; I judge my liking of books on how well I remember them after I've put them away). It's not King's usual fare and despite what he says in the final afterword, I think there was a bit too much self-indulgence here, but I can't really begrudge him that. It is, after all, meant to be his piece de resistance, but at the end I think It was a much better story than this one. The HP shoutout was possibly the most annoying, because it was just so protracted. I know he's a fan of the books, but come on. Though it kind of gave me a thought that King probably wouldn't mind writing some horrorific HP fanfic. Maybe he already sekritly writes HP fanfic. XD
The most fascinating thing was reading the earlier volumes (I'd re-read them last week before I started in on the ones I hadn't read yet) and literally seeing the quality of the work increase. I mean, you look at Gunslinger and its austere, clipped tone with adverbs so inappropriate it's almost shocking to read in print ('the cow stared lumpishly'? Jesus wept.) and as you read on, the improvement physically jumps out at you (well, if you're the sort to pay attention to the actual writing whilst you're reading, that is). I mean, it's a bit mind-boggling that this series was 34 years in the making -- at 11 books, even the Wheel of Time hasn't yet been around for 20! That's well over half King's life we're talking here so that's why I'm very willing to forgive the self-insertion. I haven't read any online commentary on that, but I'm guessing other fans are split down the middle about it.
I hold King in extremely high regard when it comes to writing in general -- he has astonishing pacing and brilliant characters, but after reading the series, I'm forced to conclude that he's pants at fantasy. Most notably? Inconsistency in "new language". If you use a certain type of regional word or accent or italics, you better be sure you're using the same word/accent/italicising throughout -- not a big deal for occasional terms, but honestly, after seeing ka italicised in the first four, I was thrown when it was suddenly not italicised in book 5, and I kept being thrown until about midway through book 6 because it's such a powerful term used so much in the earlier books. I don't care if it's italicised or not, it's the consistency that matters. A fantasy world fails if it hasn't got an internal logic of some kind, and this one has some logic but it's too... whimsical. I don't know if it's because of his 1999 accident, but the world he'd built in I-IV starts coming apart in Wolves of the Calla and then to a much greater extent in Song of Susannah - and I don't mean the cataclysmic events that happen in the books to shake said world; I'm talking about believability. Basically -- with Tolkien and Jordan and JKR, to name a few, you look up from reading and there's a moment of being dazed with "whoa, reality". That's what good fantasy does. I dunno about others, but DT failed to provide that "lost" feeling for me -- that is, it did provide it, until I hit the fifth book.
I can buy that the members of the ka-tet had "absorbed" the accent of the people of the Calla while they were there, but new habits die easy, and yet the Calla-speak was consistent throughout the last two books, as well, and it kept throwing me out. "Say thankya" replaced "thankee-sai" and it's far, far too noticeable (not to mention unbelievable for someone like Roland, who'd spent a lifetime -- nay, uncounted lifetimes -- saying 'thankee-sai' for the better part of each of those lifetimes). If you're bothering to create a language or use a particular regional patois, being inconsistent with it is the fastest way to make the world you've built more flimsy, especially if you constantly call your reader's attention to the manner of your characters' speech. I think King just kept experimenting with the language and then found a cadence that worked and stuck to it -- unfortunately, it was at odds with the cadence already established. Then again, the man's a horror novelist, not JRRT. XD
It's not really on par with sci-fi, either, though it does a better job of being sci-fi than it does of being fantasy -- not just because of robots and the aftermath of whatever holocaust befell the world before Mid-World; it's just a feeling. It's actually taught me a lot about mixing genres, in the sense of "here's what you don't do, honeychild". And ya, Susannah is one of my favourite characters. It's funny that my favourite female characters (i.e. characters I actually remember and identify with) are all from books written by men. Overall, though, definitely a page-turner, lots of great action, imaginative plot twists and, of course, fantastic characters (though the villains are a bit too cartoonish than I'm used to from King, with the notable exceptions of Sayre and Mordred). But the genre-melding is clumsy. And that's all I have to say for now. XD