I first started Stephen King’s behemoth series about ten years ago, reluctantly picking up a copy of The Gunslinger because, despite my somewhat dislike at the time with High Fantasy, I am a massive fan of his work. The Gunslinger is a perfect introduction into the somewhat fanatical realm occupied within the canon of The Dark Tower series and, ultimately, paved the way for me to pick up, and enjoy, the fantasy genre as a whole.
After making my way through four of the seven book series I stopped due to overexposure to the world (I’m pretty sure I read books 1-4 back to back, making a continuous story of a couple thousand pages) and did not pick them up again for some time. Fast forward to last year and the announcement of the film adaptation which, despite being a retelling of the first book, also acted as a sequel to the entire series due to some of the spoilers it revealed within its worryingly short run time. So, with about five months to the release of the film I worked out that, if I read 75 pages a night, I could finish the entire seven book series in that time.
In hindsight this was obviously going to fail, the reason I stopped the last time was due to overexposure and now I was trying to do it all again, only this time cranked up to 11. I made it to the end of book 3 by the time the film was released… on DVD. Suffice to say I have yet to see the film, which is probably for the best as I have heard it is shockingly bad.
ANYWAY… Long story short, I will be continuing my look through the Dark Tower series, only this time at a much more leisurely pace.
Out of the four Dark Tower books that I have read The Gunslinger stands out as one of my favourites. A reserved effort from King, who’s later Dark Tower books go on to reach around a thousand pages in a single novel, The Gunslinger is a quick and enjoyable read that perfectly manages to set up the world of the Tower and the character of Roland (the titular hero).
Something that King is very good at is revealing to us the horrors hidden within the real world, yes there are often mystical elements abound but they are set in true to life locations. The fact that this book deviates from this tried and tested idea is always a welcomed change. I am still fascinated by the world that the Tower exists in and always revel when King leads his characters through this world. One of the things that I find hard about the later books is his transition to the quote unquote real world, a necessity in terms of later plot I know but something I still find jarring. Its lack of to-ing and fro-ing between the worlds within the first novel allows the action to focus in on the Gunslinger and the path that he is on, something that is truly wonderful as Roland the gunslinger is by far one of King’s best creations.
The plot of the book itself (not including the hints at the larger narrative) are light on the ground but needed, echoing the somewhat barren landscapes that the Gunslinger crosses in pursuit of his foe. The whole aesthetic of the book (my edition the the dusty dark orange seen in the image) perfectly emulate the feel I always get from reading this entry into the series. It is a real shame that the covers inevitably changed years later.
The book itself is a brilliant read and a perfect entry point into a series that I am still battling with. Hopefully, given time, much like Roland I too will make it to the end and the Dark Tower that awaits us both.