The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger (2003)
By: Markus Zussner on March 19, 2006  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 238
I've been waiting a long time to read The Gunslinger, a real long time. Too long actually. I remember when I first set eyes on the cover of Stephen King's novel The Dark Tower volume 1 - The Gunslinger, the first installment in a series of Dark Tower Books. I was on the other side of the globe in a railway station in London trying to catch a train to Essex to meet up with my ex girlfriend. Stupid move. I said to myself, "wow, I have to read this book some time". Almost 10 years later I walk into a Gold Coast bookstore and see a whole Dark Tower display with a wall of Dark Tower books literally towering toward the ceiling. Holy hootin' heck there's six volumes published and a seventh on the way. I cashed out. Now finally, I have my very own copy of the first volume "The Gunslinger" expanded and revised and burning in my hands (this would be the Directors Cut if it were a Movie). With a whole journey of books ahead I prepare to settle in for the long haul.

The story begins with the introduction of Roland Deschain of Gilead, the last Gunslinger. He wanders the harsh dusty desert of a world that could very easily be our own world in the future. Roland is on a Quest to find something called The Dark Tower. Roland doesn't even know what or where The Tower is, only that he needs to find it. He is also in pursuit of the man in black who always seems to be just out of reach. Roland has been following him for a very very long time and senses a connection between the man in black and the dark tower. Along the way Roland encounters Alice, an alluring Saloon owner in a dusty dead-end town, Jake the abandoned child in a derelict way station who seems out of place in the world of the gunslinger, the slow mutants who hide and wait in the darkness of crumbling railway tunnels that cut through the mountains, Sylvia Pittson - a mad or possessed bible basher who bellows and lashes warped sermons about the evil in the land and about the so called Interloper, and of course the man in black who Roland must finally confront and make a choice between salvation or damnation.

Inspired by Robert Browning's poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came and T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land and Sergio Leone's Spaghetti western films, in particular Clint Eastwood's character (the man with no name) in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly . Tolkiens Lord of the Rings was also a source of inspiration. Have you ever wanted to read a book like Lord of the Rings but with orcs, elves, dwarves, hobbits, lost kings, and swordplay replaced with gunfighters, drug-addicts, hookers, booze, bars, harsh language, demonic evil, human sacrifice, time travel and parallel dimensions? Well if so, then this book is for you. It is not your typical Stephen King multi thousand page marathon of horror and terror that he is well known for. King has revised and fleshed out the novel but not by much. The expanded and revised Gunslinger reads at 238 pages, adding 35 additional pages (or approx 9000 words). The new introduction and foreword are quite interesting which is unusual as many introductions or forewords in books are bypassed as they can be quite uninteresting, and King reflects this in the beginning of his foreword; "Most of what Writers write about their work is ill-informed Bullshit. That is why you have never seen a book entitled "One Hundred Great Introductions of Western Civilisation" or "Best -Loved Forewords by the American People..." King promises his Foreword is exempt from the Bullshit Rule...and it is. The foreword is quite interesting and here King explains his reasons for the revision and other insights like The Gunslingers reference to other King Novels like The Stand (they call this a special feature on a DVD).

Although I do enjoy Stephen King's work, I am not a hardcore fan of his and you don't need to be to enjoy this book. if you like violent epic fantasies drenched in horror, then The Gunslinger is for you.

Additional Information - The Gunslinger was originally published as five installments in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It was first published as a complete story by Grant Books in 1982.
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