The Gunslinger (book review)


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.

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2 thoughts on “The Gunslinger (book review)

  1. “King” is one of those writers (or brands, if you will) that people feel obligated to consider, regardless of whether they really like horror books, or reading altogether. “Oh a new Stephen King book, I must decide whether I shall read it.” It’s so prolific that I’m not sure if it’s even in response to the quality or reputation of King’s writing, or rather a cultural rite that must be endured to be considered a knowing participant of the zeitgeist.

    I suppose this also goes for the “A Song of Ice & Fire” series or even a television show like, “The Walking Dead.” I certainly suffer the case of the latter example: “If I don’t watch this dumb show, I may in fact miss out on some important dialogue or campfire event going on in the culture right now.” And this just seems a sad state of affairs, if it’s true. This must be where the term “hate-watch” or “hate-read” comes from. It’s particularly frustrating because there is a lot of really good stuff out there which people may actually like a lot, but it doesn’t come with a popularity seal of approval and therefore it’s considered a risk. The logic goes: even if I don’t like “The Walking Dead,” I can participate in a dialogue about it (which is kind of similar to the argument for voting.)

    So that’s seems to be pretty much why 90% of the time I see a paperback in someone’s hands, it’s probably “Game of Thrones.” I obviously can’t see the Kindles very well, but judging from the e-book top-sellers, it’s probably pornography, which I guess is what any repressed mommy in puritanical America really wants.

  2. Pingback: My Favorite Fiction Books of the Year | Mike Dariano

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