Monday, January 10, 2011

Stephen King's The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower I)

This review of Stephen King's The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower I) is part of the 2011 Stephen King and Read Me Baby One More Time Challenges.

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed. It is in this first sentence that we already meet Roland Deschain, formerly of Gilead, in pursuit of his old enemy Marten (or Walter, or Randall Flagg, or ...). As the chase continues, we are treated to some of Roland's backstory, whether the relatively recent encounter with the townspeople of Tull, or events of his childhood that set his feet upon the path he now walks.

And if you'd not come to the conclusion already, once the events surrounding Jake the boy from New York found at the Way Station unfold to their (end), you wouldn't be wrong to dislike Roland a litte, or at least to see him not as a cookie cutter hero, but a real man; a hard man; a man forged of bullets, murder, pride, vengeance; a man of unparalleled focus and intensity. A man on a mission.

By the time the gunslinger and the man in black finish their palaver, I think it's safe to say readers will be intrigued by what has been put forth: what is this Dark Tower? Who is the man in black's master, who could grant virtual immortality to the furthest of his minions, and only by visiting through dreams? What this thing about worlds having moved on? What did Jake mean when he stated Go then. There are other worlds than these.?

Then pick up book II - The Drawing of The Three, and prepare to yourself be drawn even further into Roland's world.

ADDITIONAL NOTES for those who have already read the book:
I read the "revised and expanded throughout" version, but with the "original" version on hand to compare and contrast some passages. I'm sure somewhere online someone has done just that, and provided exhaustive analysis of what was changed and why between the 1982 and 2003 editions. Here I'll just note two main things that I made a point to look up.

The first was in Tull, when the pianist Sheb comes bursting in on Roland and Alice in a blind jealous rage. In the revised version, Roland recognises him as someone who was involved in what went on in Meijis. I remember in Book IV that the early (if not earliest) encounters between Roland's ka-tet and the bad guys of Neijis occur at a pub where were have someone plinking away at the keyboards... I guess that was also Sheb? I'll find out/confirm it once I get to Wizard and Glass :)

The second actually covers many things, but they all occur during the palaver between Roland and the man in black during that enchanted night. The main thing that was changed was that Marten *was* Walter who in turn *was* the man in black (in the original, Walter was the man in black, but Marten was someone else, someone Roland later tracked and killed). That the man in black's master was Maerlyn, who lived backwards in time, was nixed: instead he is Legion, and that's about it. No mention about the Beast that lives in / guards the Tower.

These amendments definitely help tidy things up a bit: the confusion about Marten/Walter was always at the back of my hubby's head, so when I was done with the reread, we sat down and discussed the changes, he with his notes he'd made of Books I - IV, and me with the two versions to flip between and quote from. Major quality time, I tell ya! No, I'm being neither sarcastic nor facetious. I've mentioned before that Stephen King, specifically the Dark Tower series, was one of the subjects we bonded over way back when we were dating. So yesterday's discussion was a great throwback to our younger days :)

Next, I picked up The Eyes of the Dragon: that review will be up in a few days... stay tuned!


  1. Eyes of the Dragon is one of my all time favorite books! Although I read the Dark Tower series, the first book is not my favorite, and I had to read it a few times before I was able to move on in the series- books 2 and 3 are my favorite of the series.

  2. Kate: I tried to get a friend of mine to try the Dark Tower but she stopped at #1 saying it was just "too dark" for her taste. I can kinda see that, but knowing what come after, the starkness/darkness fits right in but doesn't overwhelm, I think. I don't know which of the series is my fave.. maybe #4 just because of all the backstory of Roland and Susan, showing how he might have been pretty human back then, until that tragedy? I know I hated #6 because it felt like a token tome before we reached the final book. Perhaps a reread will lessen the dislike I remember. All the more reason I had wanted to jump back into the Dark tower anyway! :)

    I just posted my The Eyes of the Dragon review, would love to have you weigh in on it :)

  3. I'm one of those readers who felt pretty confused during The Gunslinger. I recently decided to give the series another try, and I'm up to Wizard and Glass. I'm having a much better experience past The Gunslinger.

    That's awesome that you and hubby have that Dark Tower bond.


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