The Gunslinger by Stephen King is the first book of his popular Dark Tower series. I believe at the moment there is a total of eight books that contribute to the series. To make it clear, I am not a Stephen King fan. I have read some of his books and for most of them, I found myself not liking more of them than the opposite. I’ve always wanted to give The Dark Tower series a go simply because of the brilliant things I have heard. The Gunslinger is the introduction to the series and gives us readers a chance to get our feet wet. At only 280 pages long, it’s perfect for the introductory type books. Not too short but not absurdly long. The problem I have with the book is well, how boring it all is. I definitely expected something more grand, especially due to this being an introduction and as an author, you’ll want to capture your audiences attention for the future books to come in the series. The Gunslinger is definitely anything but grand and in a way very disappointing.
The Gunslinger introduces us to the character of Roland, the gunslinger himself. Right in the very beginning, you’ll find out that he is on a task to chase and find the man in black and ultimately, to find the Dark Tower itself. Exactly why you have no idea. The more interesting part of the book is the alternate fantasy world (mid-world? limbo?) the characters live in. It has this American old west feel to it as many parts of the land is barren. It’s hard not to picture of Roland as some kind of cowboy in a classic western movie. But besides that, the world is not exactly the world we live in today. His world has “moved on”. Think of it as some sort of post apocalyptic world but not to the heavy extremes. Roland will meet characters that have been part of the before world, something he doesn’t quite understand himself. Point is, the world they live in is fairly weird and it adds a mysterious feel to it.
Between his travels from different places, the story would give us a flash back of Roland’s childhood. The problem is everything just feels a bit odd. I had to constantly remind myself that the original version of this book was written many, many years ago. The author at that time was just starting his career. Much of the book surrounds Roland yet I’m not sure if he’s the good guy, the bad guy or someone in between. It feels like a mess at times and the author definitely does help in any way with his writing style. Many users will feel completely frustrated throughout the book because not much is made clear. Again, why is the man in black so interesting to him? There is so much useless drivel going on that it can get quite hard to focus on what exactly is happening in the book. Patient readers like myself who made it to the end are still left with more questions than answers. However, I think that was the point the author wanted to make. Towards the end of the book, the conversation between Roland and the man in black does make some things clear. It portrays the feeling like this is some whole Matrix/Men in Black sort of thing.
What the author does do quite well is portraying the world around the characters. He doesn’t need to use a lot of words and yet everything is still so vivid in my mind. I guess that shows Stephen King’s genius mind at work even when he was still considered an amateur. Action wise, there are some pieces of it here and there but not exactly what I call the main attraction of the story. Roland is a gunslinger and so obviously he has a pair of guns to work with. There was a part in the story where it flashes back to Roland’s earlier life battling his teacher that got me more excited than anything he did in the present.
Without a doubt, The Gunslinger is a very weird book when you first pick it up. You really need to have an open and vivid imagination to see things through. I have even read that fans of the series did not so much like this introductory book and that things will definitely get better starting with book two. After reading the description of The Drawing of the Three, I can completely agree as well. It definitely sounds much more interesting. The good news for me is that the series has ended as I wrote this review with a total of 7 books in the series. The 8th book is set sometime between the 4th and 5th novel, chronological wise. I will definitely put the next book in the Dark Tower series in my “to-read” list but just when I will get to it I can’t say.