Primrose's Reviews > The Gunslinger

The Gunslinger by Stephen King
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's review
Feb 18, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: stephen-king, fiction
Recommended for: everyone
Read in January, 1993 — I own a copy

** spoiler alert ** To say this book was a watershed for me is an understatement. It literally changed the way I read, how I read, and I probably wouldn't write at all if not for reading it.

The Gunslinger is the first in the Dark Tower series, which not only consists of the seven books in the series but also has ties to a great many of SK's other books. It's not horror, nor is it science fiction. It's dark dantasy at its very best, and it will by turns make you laugh, cry, scream in frustration, and probably throw the book across the room a few times.

What The Gunslinger (and in fact the entire series) is, is compelling.

The very first line, in fact, sets the scene for the whole series: "The man in black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed". Doesn't that just make you want to know more?

The Gunslinger is Roland Deschain, called the "Last of the Gunslingers" (sort of an amalgamation of an Arthurian knight and a gunman from the Old American West). In the opening scene he's chasing the ephemeral Man In Black across a vast desert in a world that feels like a post-apocalyptic version of our own. His ultimate goal (and obsession) is the Dark Tower, something shrouded in mystery and legend. Roland doesn't even know what or where it actually is, but he's obsessed with finding it. We read of his travels in search of this mysterious man, who Roland feels holds some sort of answer to help him on his quest.

As he travels across the desert Roland has encounters and experiences that offer him choices, the most profound being the discovery of the boy Jake Chambers at a Way Station in the desert. Ultimately, his choices teach the reader, and Roland himself, lessons that he didn't know he needed to learn. The decisions made from the lessons are the heart of the story.

Roland is noble, honourable and chivalrous, with a black-and-white sense of right and wrong; however, his obsessive search for the Tower often overrides his conscience. He knows that some decisions are the wrong ones even as he makes them, and the way he deals with his feelings of guilt over them makes for a wonderful character study.

Even if you "don't read Stephen King" for whatever reason, I recommend everyone who enjoys a story well-told at least try this series out. It's not stereotypical King in the gore and guts sense. It's a very different kind of King story, although it still has the 'heart' that is in so many of his books but is seldom talked about.

Some readers have found difficulty getting through The Gunslinger. The new version helps some, but it's still not the easiest book to read. I still recommend that if you have trouble with or even don't like the first book, read the next one anyway. King started writing this novel at nineteen, and it's different in style and tone than the rest of the series. Also, there are other wonderful, complex characters in the following books that travel through the series but don't appear in this one, and those characters are as well worth knowing as Roland himself.

I loved the book at first read, which was a good thing, too, because there was nobody to tell me to keep reading. It was only the second King book I'd read, and it's the one that made me a lifelong fan. Roland's story is compelling, and the reader will laugh and cry and love and rage along with him until the very last line of the very last page.

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