`The Gunslinger' is the first instalment for Stephen King's fantasy epic series `The Dark Tower'. Written over a period of almost 30 years, over seven books, spanning for a total of 3712 pages, this really is an epic saga.
This is the shortest book of the series, lasting for a mere 238 pages. The book introduces the reader to Roland (the Gunslinger) whose journey to reach the dark tower is first set in motion.
The novel builds up slowly, allowing the reader to become accustomed to King's Dark Tower world. Characterization takes on an important role throughout the novel, getting the reader to know and feel for Roland and the few other characters that appear in the pages. With the journey the reader is taken on through the seven books, this first novel does the task of setting the scene and introducing the complex and original character of Roland perfectly. The book is often described as the prologue to the series, which seems a suitable comment to make.
As a stand alone novel, `The Gunslinger' is a rather slow and laborious novel, that gradually builds to the next platform of the saga. But the book is an important introduction to this gripping epic, giving you a good entrance to the series.
The new and revised version of this book includes the story having been expanded and revised along with a sixteen page Introduction & Forward as well as a 28 page excerpt from the beginning of the second book in the series `The Drawing Of The Three'.
on 6 March 2004
The Gunslinger is the first volume (of seven) in the Dark Tower series, and introduces us to Roland of Gilead, the last gunslinger alive. Roland lives in a post industrial world that has reverted back to almost medieval conditions – according to its inhabitants it has “moved on”. A little at a time Roland’s background is explained – how he grew up among the ruling class of his country, and how he lost everyone dear to him in the revolution that brought an end to the rule of the gunslingers and laid Gilead in ruins. Now all he has left is the search for an elusive man in black, and ultimately finding the Dark Tower, a place of great importance, but shrouded in mystery.
King claims that the Dark Tower is inspired by Tolkien (what fantasy work isn’t?) and Sergio Leone’s movie The Good, The Bad and The Ugly - a spaghetti western with magic and a quest to save the world, in other words. It may sound like a strange combination, but King manages to fuse these two elements and make the story work. There are lots of fantastic elements in the history of the world and in the events that unfold on Roland’s way to catch up with the man in black, but the writing makes you feel like a remote observer, just like at the movie screen.
The remoteness does have one drawback – you never really get close to the characters. They are well drawn, but never become your friends to laugh and cry with. Another thing that keeps you at a distance from the story is the fact that very little information about why Roland needs to find the Dark Tower is revealed. In many ways, The Gunslinger leaves you with more questions than answers, but since there are six more books to fill in the gaps, I’m not particularly upset about it.
It is important to know that this is the revised version of The Gunslinger, published 2003, in which King has not only corrected minor mistakes and discrepancies with the later books in the series, but also rewritten some of the bad beginner’s prose in the first version (published 1982). I’m not familiar with the original version, so I can’t say if the revisions have improved the book, but I liked what I read so much that I will read the next book ASAP.
on 28 April 2003
The Gunslinger – Roland of Gilead, of a world that has moved on, tracks the path of the Man in Black. He is a wizard whom Roland believes is connected with the Dark Tower. The world is in chaos; time no longer runs in a straight line and the young are a rare thing. Roland’s world is falling apart from its very seems and the Dark Tower is at the centre of it all. It seems only that the path of the beam is constant and all other things are twisted and old.
The first part of the book is full of flashbacks to the early days of Gilead and of Roland’s upbringing with the training of his teacher Cort, a great gunslinger....Before reading the Dark Tower series I was never really interested in his style, it seemed slow and very simple. If you seem to have the same trouble with reading King’s writing then I advise reading ‘The Gunslinger’, it is written in a style ... that flows and intoxicates the readers until the hours go by and you find your self jumping from page 20 to page 110. By the end of the book you want to know more, what will happen and will Roland ever find the Dark Tower.
...I think Stephen King makes an excellent Fantasy/Horror writer...
The book was inspired by a poem King had studied as a sophomore called ‘Childe Roland’ by Robert Browning. The book came from a wanting to write something big, something powerful and damn brilliant. And so one evening he sat down at his desk and wrote the words;
“The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.”
And there was born one of my favourite stories.
I think one thing that interested me, and gave me a want to become a writer, was the way in which King admitted that he had no idea how the story would end. He has been gripped by the plot and it is holding the reigns, it is King who is the puppet on the strings and above him is the dark form of the man in black pulling on his strings. I think this is the true way to write, same as with Peter Straub, notes are for pussies, let the plot take the reigns and just delve in.
‘The Gunslinger’ will draw you in and never let you go, not until the tale has been finished, and not before. Good luck fair reader, for the Dark Tower draws near…
on 9 September 2003
When I first heard that King had rewritten the first part of the Dark Tower series I have to admit that I was a little annoyed.
When authors/directors/artists start playing around with there work, and releasing new versions of it, I get board. At the end of the day if they were not happy with the book/film/what ever in the first place, why release it at all? Why not take the time to get it right in the first place?
Well, it's not always that easy - or for that matter possible. Sometimes it becomes necessary to review past works in the light of experience.
In the two new introductions that the revised edition of The Gunslinger now sports, King acknowledges the fact that on reflection the first part of his masterwork was sadly lacking in several areas - and in many respects didn't quite fit in with the other books. As he points out he was twenty-two when he started writing about Roland and his quest for the Tower. He was not yet the seasoned writer he has become.
Dark Towers fans will probably all agree that of the four Dark Tower books in print (currently), The Gunslinger is the hardest to read, and lacks the style that King has developed. It also had the feel of a very untidy book, in that it was simply five novella linked together.
It's clear right from the beginning that King has done more then just update the language, and tidy up areas of the text. It's not a case of cut material being restored to the text of the book (as in the case of The Stand), this re-release of The Gunslinger address many of the continuity problems between the first part, and the subsequent parts of the story. In many respects it's a new book. King has not only revised the material, but in some places completely re-written it. Rather then being five loosely held together novella, this book now fits together as one story - and fits in very well with the other parts of the series.
Although I had doubts about the wisdom of a new edition of The Gunslinger, I not only found the new edition an easier read, but a much more comfortable one - and one that has a few surprises for readers. If you are new to the Dark Tower, then read this edition of The Gunslinger rather then the old. If you a fan, like myself, then pick up a copy because this is way The Gunslinger should have been all along.
What more can I say then; it's fantastic.
"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed..." these are the magic words which open "Dark Tower" series, one of the major cycles in the history of fantasy litterature. As we now all know, this first installment was written by a very young Stephen King under the influence of the great western "The good, the bad and the ugly", with Roland being initially a copy of Clint Eastwood's character in Sergio Leone movie. The desert chase was basically a retelling of Tuco's (Elli Wallach) pursuit of Eastwood's "man without name".
Now, this is not a totally easy book - in fact, the first time I started it, I got tired in the middle and stopped.... for 10 years! And when I tried again, I was hooked and enchanted. I read all the seven book cycle in the next months and count it as major event in my reading life. The enchantment of "Dark Tower" is due mainly to two things - a totally unique hero (Roland the last gunslinger) and an incredibly powerful decription of a world with which something is going really, but really wrong. The world of "Dark Tower" is somehow decaying, falling in pieces, loosing its structure, mixing with other worlds - and it creates an absolutely unique setting. So beware - if you have some deadlines in your work, wait with reading this book, because you could meet the same fate as me and spend every evening and every free moment reading "Dark Tower". And if you are a Stephen King hater beware even more, because you could suddenly discover that you were hating a major modern writer.
This is indeed a very magical and for that reason a very dangerous book! One of the best things in "Dark Tower" series is that as the Tower is the axe around which evolves all the worlds in the Universe, all Stephen King books are connected to this cycle. There are openings to the Dark Tower in almost all his novels and in the Dark Tower series are the entries to all his books. This is quite an achievement. And all of this begins with the man in black fleeing across the desert and the gunslinger following...
on 2 June 2012
The Gunslinger, the first in Stephen King's epic Dark Tower series, is a beautifully crafted novel which mixes genres. It's a western, horror, fantasy, and by the end philosophical novel. The hero, Roland of Gilead, is a cross between a Clint Eastwood character and the archetypal traveller, on a long quest through a strange world. His adventures are enthralling and tinged with melancholy, as we gradually learn tidbits about his mission. As this is the first in a series it ends on a "to be continued" note and numerous questions are left unanswered, but the book isn't meant to be read by itself, with no curiosity about what happens after.
Here King establishes an imaginary world with the breadth and depth of vision all great storytellers share. He doesn't spend chapter after chapter explaining the magic, but lets each strange development speak for itself. The narrative uncoils not like a snake or a machine but a flower, revealing its essence leaf by leaf, its scent teasing you. A barroom resurrection and an encounter with a lusty oracle left me in awe of this place King paints.
The plot is simple: Roland, the gunslinger, chases the man in black, a mischievous sorcerer, through an apocalyptic waste land. Come to think of it, the whole plot can be summed up in the book's first sentence: "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." Along the way Roland meets a friendly hermit, a troubled boy and the hopeless residents of Tull, a lonesome tumbleweed town. Each adventure is more exciting and mysterious than the last. In this novel (short, for Stephen King, at 238 pages) Roland faces everything from religious fanaticism to carnivorous mutants.
Towards the end of the novel there's a stunning sequence which explores philosophical ideas, and shows this author at his most transcendent. The earlier encounter with the oracle hints at this profound segway, but nothing prepared me for its beauty. Those who like challenging popular fiction will love it.
For fans of Stephen King and dark fantasy The Gunslinger is an excellent, enrapturing read.
on 13 September 2011
This is the first book of the `Dark Tower' series. Been meaning to read these for ages but never got around to it.
The book features `The man in Black', and no, it's not Johnny Cash, it's Flagg. Also known from the other King book's `Eyes of the Dragon' and `The Stand'.
Roland, the last gunslinger, is tracking the man in black. We are not told how long this has gone on for, but we join them as the chase gets very close.
Along the way we are allowed into a little of Roland's past and the tale of how he came into manhood.
I don't want to say much about the story line for fear of showing some spoilers that may ruin it for someone else. All I can say is that this is classic King as his very nearly best. This was one of those novels where I found myself daydreaming in work and wondering what would happen next. When I'd finished I went and bought the other 6 books in the series.
In this first book, we are also introduced to Jake, a boy pushed into Roland's dimension to befriend him and test his strength of character. Roland's world has `moved on' and although there are many things we recognise, most would seem at home in the Old Wild West, including the town of Tull. Expect demons, oracles, talking crows called Zoltan and of course the formidable Man in Black.
on 2 June 2005
When I first read this i have to admit, it did seem to drag a bit at times. The story is usuall focused around Roland (the Gunslinger) alone. It is also much a case of meets someone, leaves, meets someone else they leave etc... So its hard to get connected with any of the characters other than Roland. It dosent help that almost the entire first half of the book is basically a flashback with a flashback, with various other flashbacks later on. Yet even with the odd writting pattern and ins-and-outs of characters you will still be compelled to read on. The sections based on Rolands past leave you anticiapting the next delve into Rolands former life wanting desperatley to know what it was that set him on his journey to find the allusive Dark Tower, then theres the boy Jake, who a boy meets in the desert way station, who came from a world much like our own and who ill say no more about. Read this, and i promise you that what lies ahead will give you an emotional rollercoaster ride like youve never experienced before...
on 26 November 2004
I have not read much of Stephen King's horror writing (in fact, now that I am on the fifth Dark Tower book, I have read more of these than his other work), but after reading his 'How to Write' (sic) book, I have become much more interested in his work. I actually stumbled across this first book in the library and have since been hooked on the series.
I have rated this book as four stars, simply because it is a good introduction to the series that get better each time throughout the series (well up to No. 5 anyway). I would have to agree with "realityblows" in that there seems to be some influence from other fantasy epics, but Stephen Kings admits in his introduction to being influenced by "Lord of the Rings" - however, I would disagree that this is a problem, as I think he has taken the base and made something great of his own out of it.
I am hooked on the quest for the Dark Tower and don't know what I'll do once it is finished - never mind what Roland and pals are going to do!
on 22 September 2000
This book is derived from a series of short stories written by King between 1978 and 1982 for The Magazine of Fantasy and as such, it is a little disjointed in places, while keeping a common thread. It is really a scene setter for the books that follow (The Drawing of the Three, The Waste Lands & Wizard and Glass) in which Roland of Gilead (The Gunslinger) continues his quest to find the Dark Tower. The style in which the book is written is part fantasy, part sci-fi, part western but all genius. King departs into the world of fantasy fiction rarely and keeps us waiting for what seems like aeons for the next Dark Tower instalment, yet when they arrive, its always worth the wait. He's mentioned that he thinks there will be about 7 books to the series and at the current rate it could well be 15 years before we see this tale draw to its conclusion - its been 18 years since this episode was published - but like wine, it will improve still further with ageing.
Whether you are a fan of King or not, this is one novel that you really should try, and if you like Clive Barkers Imagica/Quiddity books or even Terry Pratchetts Discworld novels, then you should find The Gunslinger entertaining at the least.....just dont expect elephants in space!