Thursday, January 27, 2011

Staceygarrett’s CBRIII Review #4: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

The Gunslinger was my second least favorite book in the Dark Tower series* (My least favorite is book 4, The Wizard and the Glass mainly because I thought this book would never end). I was warned before I started the series that the first one was a boring book and if I could make it through it then I would be fine. I didn’t find it boring at all but it’s a first book in a series and it does what every first book in a series does, it sets up everything that you are about to read and The Gunslinger does that well.

However, I read the version that was published in 2003 which was revised because so many people were bummed out and bored to tears with the first one so maybe I had a better experience than people that read The Gunslinger the first time around? I don’t know. But I didn’t hate it and I wasn’t bored and it really got me all jazzed to read the next six books.

The entire series is based on a poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” by Robert Browning. In The Gunslinger we meet Roland Deschain, aka Roland of Gilead, aka The Gunslinger, and we also meet the elusive Man in Black that Roland has been following for who knows how long. And we aren’t really sure why Roland is in search for the Man in Black just yet but we do know that the Man in Black is one wily bastard that needs to be stopped.

Roland must capture and kill the Man in Black as the first of many steps to get him to the Dark Tower which is Roland’s goal. Roland has been searching for the Dark Tower for a looong time. Like forever-ever. Why he wants to get there so badly has yet to be revealed but we do know it’s a cool place and he wants to make it there badly.  

The Gunslinger takes place in what I picture to be a western-type place but Roland calls it “the world that has moved on” that isn’t like the world we live in now but is peppered with references to our world like names for certain things and sayings and “Hey Jude” is even played on a piano in the background.

We learn in flashback that Roland had just come from Tull, a place not far from the one he is in now, and as he was following the Man in Black through Tull, the Man in Black set a trap for Roland which is the town of Tull itself. Think of the black and white part of Pleasantville. The end of
Main Street
is just the beginning again. And the only way for Roland to escape Tull so he can continue on his journey to the Dark Tower is to kill everyone in Tull, including women, children and his lover Allie. We learn very early on that Roland will choose the Dark Tower over everything including the people closest to him and this is a recurring theme throughout the series.

All that killing, of course, makes for an ornery gunslinger and when we first see Roland, he is less than chipper. Roland stays the night in a hut in the desert with a man named Brown and his pet raven, Zoltan. It is here that Roland tells the aforementioned story of Tull. After Roland leaves the hut the next day, he encounters a young boy, Jake Chambers.  At this point Roland is tired from having traveled so far and near death from having run out of food and water and Jake brings Roland back and shares with him his water and his jerky.

Jake doesn’t belong in this world or in this desert and he doesn’t know how he got there but he does know that he died, but he can’t remember how or where. Roland hypnotizes Jake to find out how he got there and how he died and we learn that Jake died in 1977 in New York City. Our New York City in our 1977. And the Man in Black had something to do with Jake’s death.

Roland is hesitant to let Jake tag along on his journey but he takes a small liking to Jake and the two set out into the desert together in search of the Man in Black.

I think if I go any further in the review it will spoil a few things which I am glad weren’t spoiled for me so I will stop here. I also don’t know if I can include the rest of the book without butchering the story and this series is one of my favorites so I will do my best to keep it in tact.

Again, I liked The Gunslinger and I know that many didn’t. The first book in the series really made me love Roland and it also made me care about what happens to him. If you don’t have any Roland Love in your heart after reading the first book, even just a smidge will do, you will hate this entire series. Trust me. The series is centered on Roland and you have to love him or at least respect him enough for you to make it through.

That being said, power through the first book. It is the shortest in the series and it sets everything up for you. If you made it to the end, CONGRATS! Just keep reading. You won’t want to put the second book, The Drawing of the Three, down I assure you. I can’t wait to reread it and review it.

*I have read the entire series a couple years ago and I am going back now and rereading for CBR. I think to effectively review a series like this you have to have read all of them first to even know what is going on. So that’s what I’m doing. You’re welcome. I will also be reviewing a few supplemental books that go along with The Dark Tower series i.e. Salem’s Lot and a short story from Hearts of Atlantis.


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