Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series has hovered near the rear of my ‘Books to Read’ list for almost a decade. I’ve never been excited to read the series because I knew so little about it. During a re-reading of On Writing, I noticed that King mentioned it. Then a few blogs did too. Then I saw a digital library cop of The Gunslinger: (The Dark Tower #1)(Revised Edition) was available.
I haven’t read a lot of King. My copy of On Writing is well read, its cover and pages showing wear like a well scribbled notebook. I’ve gotten 11/22/63 out from the library twice and put it down twice, only making it to page 555 in the process. I like the movie versions of Shawshank and Green Mile but didn’t try either book. Not knowing anything about the series then, I began the book.
My copy – the revised edition – had a forward that got me excited. When King began The Dark Tower series he was trying to write his own Tolkien-esque adventure book sans goblins and halflings. Wonderful, I thought. The preface also said that death-row inmates and terminally ill grandmothers were writing to him asking how the story ends (the first book was published in 1982 and the last in 2004). Wow, I thought. This must be damn near perfect if people are begging for a resolution before they die. I can’t imagine if King were writing these today. George R.R. Martin is regularly criticized for taking a long time on the A Song of Ice and Fire series and those books are both thicker in spine and guts- hard for someone to be thicker than King but Martin is – and are published more frequently. Well then, let’s begin this book.
The title character, The Gunslinger immediately appealed to me. He’s a bit of an outcast, the last of his kind. He’s on one last mission to do something only he can do. In stories I don’t mind this arrangement but in movies I can’t stand it. The divergence between favor and aversion exists in my imagination. When I’m reading a book I can fill in the details that fit with what I want and expect, in a movie those details are provided for me, usually with a heavy hand.
The Gunslinger must travel across a dessert, through a town with a trap, and battle mutants in a dark cave. Then at the end, The Gunslinger gets his man. Not. I should have known that in an eight part series, Stephen King wouldn’t provide me with the closure I was hoping for, not even a little. The final tenth of the book led me in an opposite direction of my hopes and expectations, and I finished it only to say I did.
I’m going to give book two, The Drawing of Three a chance. I’ll likely read the entire thing but will only stick with this series if it’s really good. As King says himself, life’s too short to read things you don’t like.