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on 27 March 2016
I fell in love with Roland Deschain 'The Gunslinger' over thirty years ago, and I'm still in love with him and his Ka-tet.
The Dark Tower series is epic fantasy and I think it stands the test of time beautifully.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 27 February 2015
Roland is the gunslinger of the title. He is crossing the desert of a post-apocalyptic world in pursuit of a Man in Black for the whole of this book and you don't find out a huge amount more about him (there are future books in this series which I sincerely hope will fill in the gaps). On Roland's journey he meets some other people and befriends a young man from another world called Jake. As he faces the Man in Black he will have to make a sacrifice to ensure that good triumphs over evil.

I found this novel absolutely compelling. It is a fantasy novel which reads like a spaghetti western. There is no way that I could not imagine a young Clint Eastwood in the role of the gunslinger. Much of the imagery and description of Roland's journey, the people he meets and the places he visits is that of the American West yet when we hear about his childhood it is very much that of medieval Europe, The fact that Roland is searching of the tower is obviously a reference to Byron's poem (although you don't have to have read it to understand the book). The author cleverly weaves these strands and traditions together and produces a unique voice for his story.

By the end of the book an epic struggle between good and evil has taken place but you are still unaware of the nature of the battle and have no idea of why Roland is seeking the tower. Nonetheless it is a very satisfying read with some excellent description and a great use of tension to build to a climax. The author plays with the traditions he evokes and the result is satisfying and very different from anything else I have read in this field. The writing is spare and graceful - no wasted words here as there are just enough to create atmosphere and tell a basic story.

I really recommend this for the fantasy fan as it is so very different from anything else I have read in the field - and I can promise you that despite the author's reputation for horror novels this is not in that genre at all.
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VINE VOICEon 7 October 2003
Steven King's Sci-Fi Western blew me away on a Devon Beach this summer. How had I managed to miss such a good book for so long? I'm reading the third, in the series of seven, at the moment and I am hooked. What am I going to do after the seventh one is finished?
Roland of Gilead, our hero?, is a kind of Knight in a kind of alternate universe. For some reason I kept seeing Clint Eastwood as the man with no name from those westers from the sixties and seventies. There has been a "Moving on" as King describes it, and his world seems desolate and empty. Roland is on a quest to catch the "man in black" and then on to the "Dark Tower" of the title. His motives are not always clear and the reader just has to read on not always knowing what is going on. This is a King as his readers know him, supplying just enough info to keep you satisfied but no too much so you can pre-empt him. He expects loyalty and tenacity, and then rewards you with the information you need to work out the puzzles. And puzzles there are.
Kings trademark method of jumping from time to time and place to place to tell his story make this a challenging read. You don't even know the main characters name until you are one third through. The Outcome is thrilling and really sets you up for the "Drawing of the three", the second much larger and more satisfying read.
The Gunslinger nods at Tolkien, and those of you who have read TLOTR will notice small similarities now and again. However this is a far lighter and shorter story and you should be able to finish it in three sittings at most. The series however when fully published will result in one of the longest novels ever published, as king has stated that these are chapters of one novel published in separate parts.
A thrilling and captivating read and a real page turner. This series may turn out to be Kings finest hour, exept for "The Shining" of course!
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on 5 July 2015
250 others having already submitted reviews, I'm sure there's nothing I can add; it forms the introductory jumping-off point of the series, and as such is short both in length, and maybe on real excitement by comparison to others. It does contain one of King's most compelling, resonant lines: 'Go then - there are other worlds than these.' And of course, the iconic opening sentence.
I have long owned all the series in illustrated print editions (the first 4 paperbacks; whopping hardbacks of the others). For whatever strange psychological reason, I want neither to read print books any more, nor to get rid of my beloved ones. Hence I have felt compelled to buy the Kindle editions of this, King's meisterwerk, and read it yet again. They don't have the illustrations, but perhaps they're the better for that - why pin down the reader's imagination to that of an artist? Obviously I've seen the pics and can't now un-see them, but if there are new readers who haven't, so much the better for them.
That's all I have to say, really....
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on 21 May 2011
What can be said about "The Gunslinger" and "The Dark Tower" that hasn't already been said? In truth, probably very little. But here goes...

I approached this series as a steadfast avoider of King's works. Growing up as a child, I'd seen a few of his films and read none of his books...and for the most part I believed King's body of work to be a thing I would never actively seek out. That's not to say it was bad or that it was even distasteful. But I'd ignorantly resigned myself to the fact that all of King's works were of the horror genre, and that simply did not interest me. So vested was I in this belief that as I entered my teens and became more and more aware that King's stories spanned a much broader swathe of the literary buffet table, even so I was unwilling to give King's books a chance.

I'd seen "It" as a child and it properly frightened me. I'd seen both versions of "The Shining". I'd seen "Misery" several times before I was 14. These were all films that made me 'uncomfortable'. Yet I found "Misery" to be a fascinating film and willingly returned to. I saw and enjoyed "The Green Mile", only to discover later that it was a work of King's. The same was true for "Schawshank".

The evidence was slamming me in the face like a brick that there were good...great be enjoyed by Mr King, and yet I steadfastly refused to give most of King's work a chance. "The Dark Tower" certainly wasn't going to receive a moment of my attention. My brother mentioned he was reading the series...and how good it was. Indeed I was aware of the series, as you couldn't enter any bookstore without seeing them everywhere. The series had recently (at the time) been republished in anticipation of the the release of books VI and VII, concluding the series. The lasting image in my mind was that acid-green cover to "The Waste Lands" all over every bookshop window in town. It looked looked said "Stephen King" on the cover. Despite having a healthier appetite for the horror genre than I'd had in my youth, despite knowing full-well that King wrote excellent stories...despite actually knowing absolutely nothing whatsoever about the plot of the books...I couldn't have possibly cared less.

It was about two years ago when I stumbled upon a story surrounding the planned film adaptation of the series that I began to take interest. The story mentioned very briefly (a single paragraph) that (and I'm paraphrasing), [Stephen King's epic, inspired by such works as J.R.R. Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings' and westerns such as 'Gunsmoke' and Sergio Leone's "Man with No Name Trilogy" starring Clint Eastwood, would soon be adapted into a major motion picture series.]

I was flabbergasted. I was a life-long Tolkien fan myself and couldn't believe that this man whom I'd spent so much of my time actively avoiding could possibly have anything in common with my favourite author of all-time. I immediately began researching "The Dark Tower" (initially expecting to find that the author of the aforementioned article would surely have made some grave error). I soon learned that Stephen King had indeed been inspired by Tolkien in his youth, as had so many of his generation. I read that King had decided that he wanted to write a fantasy (not horror!) epic of his very own...but that he didn't want it to be concerned with elves, wizards and dragons as there was so much of that around already. It had been done well (by Tolkien) and it had been done a lot (by everyone else). The market was saturated.

Instead, King opted to wait...and contemplated what would become "his" epic. This eventually came to be published in a seven-volume series (soon to contain an eighth) beginning with "The Gunslinger"...which is what this review is really supposed to be about anyway.

The very fact that a 'fantasy' series could involve a 'Gunslinger' rather than...well, rather than what I was accustomed to seeing in my fantasy stories...was enough for me to track down an online-copy of the first chapter of "The Gunslinger". Like so many before me, I was hooked from the first line.

"The Man in Black fled across the desert, and The Gunslinger followed."

An absolutely perfect way to begin a tale, and I rank it just as highly as ever I have Tolkien's own introduction to his world, "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." It's a short line...a memorable line...and it instantaneously demanded my attention. It forced me to read on...made me want to know more.

Who was this Man in Black? Why was he fleeing and who was he fleeing from? Was he fleeing from The Gunslinger, or was he unaware he was being tracked and was simply fleeing for other reasons? And who was The Gunslinger? Why did he chase this unnamed man, who must surely be a villain (being so attired)?

We soon learn that The Gunslinger is Roland Deschain, and his role as "Gunslinger" could be equated to "Keeper of the Peace", "Preserver", even "knight". It is or was his task to stop his world from 'moving on'...but he has failed in his task to do so. The world has moved on...Roland is the last of his kind and nothing is as it used to be. The changes which are happening are linked to the mysterious Man in Black, and the mythical tower, which supposedly stands as the centre...the intersection...of many words or universes. A change is happening there, and not for the better. Roland's quest is to reach this tower...for what ultimate purpose is not known. Will he succeed...what friends and enemies will he make along the way? The choices he makes will affect not only his world...but all worlds including our own. But is it choice, or is it Ka..."destiny"?

I approached this series as a lover of Tolkien's works. It is with such an eye and mind that I have unavoidably cast judgement upon Roland Deschain and his world, his friends, his quest and his stories. Tolkien believed that an author does not 'create' stories. The stories are already there like leaves on a great tree of stories. An author simply finds or selects the story...and it is his job to tell it in a successful way...a task he referred to as 'sub-creation'. Tolkien believed that with any genre this sub-creation was the difficult part of storytelling, and the trick to successful sub-creation was to do so in such a way so as to encourage your readers to invest in and believe in your story. Once you question it...once you begin to think that what you're reading doesn't work or make sense, the spell is broken and the art of sub-creation has failed.

Tolkien believed this to be particularly difficult when dealing with the fantasy genre. After all, it's much easier to get a reader to invest in and believe in a story concerning 'real world' events such as modern or historically factual warfare, a detective story, a romance novel, murderous thriller...than it is to ask a reader to believe a man can fly, or that dragons walked the earth, or that hobbits used to be as natural a part of this world as men. If you can tell such a story...sub-create it...successfully...and your readers are invested and come along willingly to where you take them...then you truly have made something special.

I am proud to say that Stephen King has made a convert of me. Not only am I enamored with King's sub-creation of all things concerning Roland, but I have a strong desire to read other works by King, particularly those which "link" or "connect" with "The Dark Tower" (e.g., 'The Stand'). That is perhaps the greatest praise I can offer, considering my previously ignorant and stubborn unwillingness to try to meet him halfway.
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I really liked this book although it did confused me in some places. I thought there was always something I was missing and had to re read certain parts. I will probably have to re read this book again. I think there may be something about Stephen King writing that makes it slightly harder for me to get into. I am going to look at carrying on with this series,maybe giving this book a 2nd read before doing to make sure I fully understand what is going on. Roland was a good character and I liked that we got quite a bit of his background in the story. I will probably do a better more detailed review once I have re-read it. I still give it a 4 star rating though as the bits i understood where really good.
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on 14 May 2016
I've not read any of Stephen King's books-but as a fan of fiction fantasy this series was recommended. I'm not sure...I'll have to see how it goes. The writing is very descriptive detailed and atmospheric. It's very testosterone fuelled however and some of the words used in the dialogue are confusing -they seem perhaps made up ? Or maybe it's something I done understand as an English reader. .
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 August 2007
"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...
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In The Gunslinger (originally published in 1982), King introduces his most enigmatic hero, Roland Deschain of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting, solitary figure at first, on a mysterious quest through a desolate world that eerily mirrors our own. Pursuing the man in black, an evil being who can bring the dead back to life, Roland is a good man who seems to leave nothing but death in his wake.

So along with the BookLikes crew (as I now refer to them) I have started a re-read of The Dark Tower series from Mr King with the first volume – The Gunslinger.

We’ll get the bad out of the way first – this is not my favourite of the novels in this series. In fact I will be honest and say the first time I read it I ALMOST did not continue, despite my absolute regard and love for the writing of Stephen King…I thought that perhaps his epic fantasy would not be for me. I was utterly wrong of course, so very wrong and I now stand here corrected.

The second reading of this gave me much more – possibly because I know what is coming, I absolutely think this is a must read – however I would still tell anyone coming at this for the first time, this was written when the author was young and whilst it has been updated and expanded, it remains in this readers opinion the weakest of the Dark Tower Series. That is not to say that it is bad, it is in fact extremely good. Still, you may be tempted, like me, to abandon the rest – don’t do it. Keep going. If only because you will then one day experience the sheer brilliance of Wizard and Glass.

In this volume we meet Roland as he crosses the desert in pursuit of the man in black – as we follow him on his journey we get hints of his past and possibly his future – and soon his quest for The Dark Tower will truly begin.

As usual its Mr King’s imagery that will get you – every single time. The bleak landscapes, the terrifying encounters and as always a strong and beating heart at the centre of the tale, this sets the scene for a truly magnificent quest that will take over your life until you are done.

All in all a decent read, see the caveats above and dive in. Ultimately this is a journey worth taking.

Happy Reading Folks!
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on 6 November 2014
ok you can put down the pitch forks and that torch, and you can stop measuring me for a coffin.

and now thats out of the way my thoughts it just didnt grab me now i know its a part one of a longer story but after finishing it i thought it was quite a bad start, the lead character is not likeable, the story didn't really go anywhere and for the most part i felt as if i was watching season two of a show after missing season one and the only hints i was getting as to what had happened in season one was the odd dream sequence the lead character was having and even that was half of one episode out of a 15 episode run.

all in all the book reminded me of the bits from The Two Towers (book) where Aragorn and co are tracking the Uruk-hai across the land but stretch out to fill out 200 pages and then theres no real pay off at the end just a see you in the next book.

now i will be getting the next book as i want to see if it gets any better but if it goes on like the gunsling has i doubt ill finish it.
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