The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) by Stephen King
Publisher/Year: Plume, 1988
Since the publication of The Gunslinger in an exclusive limited edition, this extraordinary novel has gained near-legendary renown. Now finally, this Plume edition, complete with the Michael Whelan illustrations, brings the work to the author’s millions of fan.
This heroic fantasy is set in a world of ominous landscape and macabre menace that is a dark mirror of our own. A spellbinding tale of good versus evil, it features one of Stephen King’s most powerful creations–The Gunslinger, a haunting figure who embodies the qualities of the lone hero through the ages from ancient myth to frontier western legend. His pursuit of The Man in Black, his liaison with the sexually ravenous Alice, his friendship with the kid from Earth called Jake, are part of a drama that is both grippingly realistic and eerily dreamlike, an alchemy of storytelling sorcery.
Complete in itself, The Gunslinger is the first novel in an epic series, The Dark Tower, that promises to be Stephen King’s crowning achievement.
What I thought
If you would have told me the first time I read this book that someday, I’d be giving it a 5-star rating, I’d have told you that you were crazy. The Gunslinger is not an easy book–to read or to comprehend, especially on your first go.
Let me tell you about my first trip to The Tower. I read this book, and at the end of it, I was entirely confused. I was determined to read through the series, though, so I continued on to book #2 and book #3…and I was hooked. But also perplexed. Surely, I had missed something with The Gunslinger, so I began the series over again. And just like that, I saw the brilliance that is this book.
And now, this is the first time I’ve read this book since finishing my first trip to The Tower. And, oh my god, the only way I can think to describe how I felt on this go is to say I felt like exclamation points were going off in my mind the entire time.
When the man in black says, “‘You are the world’s last adventurer. The last crusader. How that must please you, Roland! Yet you have no idea how close you stand to The Tower now, how close in time. Worlds turn about in your head,'” I literally yelled out loud.
**END POSSIBLE SPOILER**
Anyway, all this is to say that I urge you not to give up on this one. That makes this book sound bad, but it isn’t–I promise, it’s brilliant. It’s just that, as readers, we want everything clear-cut and spelled-out. The Gunslinger is anything BUT that. It’s ambiguous and confusing and weird, but it’s meant to be. Go into it knowing that, relax, let the story unfold, and try to absorb as much as you can. It will all make sense. The way King drops you into this world will all make sense.
This is one of those books that I love so much that I just want to hug it to my chest every time I pick it up. I love how with every re-read, I notice something new. My heart will forever pine for Roland, and this book itself brings us so many pivotal moments to understand what makes Roland who he is.
One final note–that opening line has yet to fail to bring me goosebumps when I read it.
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.