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November 8, 2010


Review: The Gunslinger

Posted by on Nov 8, 2010

I know I’m breaking NNAR tradition, being someone other than Chris writing about The Dark Tower.  But, as Roland would say, the world moves on.  And, credit where credit’s due, Chris is the one responsible for getting me started on this series.  On a side note, about a year ago, Chris also lent me his copy of A Game of Thrones.  Picking up on a pattern?

If you’re thinking about following The Man in Black (who is revealed to be neither Will Smith nor Tommy Lee Jones) across the desert, hit the jump to find out if it’s worth all the trouble.

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I read the 1988 Plume edition of the novel (the source of the amazing Michael Whelan paintings featured in this review), not the post-2003 revised/remastered/expanded edition.  Chris and I already had a lengthy discussion about the differences between the two, so I won’t get into all of that here.  Just know that they are out there.  If anything, I would recommend reading the newer version (something I intend to do at some hypothetical future point where I have as much time as I want to read) for a smoother transition into the rest of the series.

Stephen King’s The Gunslinger, which took the author almost thirteen years to finish, tells the story of Roland, the last of a noble warrior caste in a world gone to ruin.  As the novel progresses, we slowly learn who he is and why he’s chasing The Man in Black on a suicidal trip across an uncrossable desert.  On this journey, Roland encounters demonic possession, dimension hopping, post-apocalyptic mutants, drug induced cosmic voyages, necromancy, and, of course, some opportunities for mad gunslinging.

Roland is cut from the same cloth as Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name.  Though he isn’t evil in the way that The Man in Black is evil, Roland is as remorseless as he is relentless.  And, while The Man in Black serves as the novel’s chief antagonist, his greatest weapon against Roland is often Roland himself.

They say that life’s a journey, not a destination, and the same should definitely be said about this book.  King never panders to the lowest common reader, and I spent much of the novel just trying to get my bearings.  And, just when I thought I had things figured out, I realized that this novel is, very truly, just the beginning.  Glimpsing the depth of the world that King has created, I hesitated to even write this review, knowing that I had only seen a very small part of the picture.  I don’t know where it’s going, but, like Roland, I won’t be able to stop until I reach The Dark Tower.  If you decide to make the journey, let me know, and I’ll meet you there.  One down, six to go, and the world moves on.

  • In other news, I have excellent taste in fantasy books 🙂