The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger
The Gunslinger is the first volume in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. I first read The Gunslinger as it was serialized in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction from 1978 to 1981. I lost track of it afterwords as college intervened and then King seems to have lost track of the series himself since the next volume didn’t come out until 1987. I decided to reread this one and the rest of the series along with Amanda at Floor to Ceiling Books.
In this volume, we find ourselves traveling through an odd desert landscape with a Gunslinger. It becomes apparent that the desert isn’t a desert in our current world. There are mutants and magical references. It is unclear at this point if the story is in a completely alternate world or a distant future version of our own. The Gunslinger (we find that his name is Roland) is hunting a mysterious Man in Black.
Parts of the story have the flavor of the old west about them. Other parts are more future history and still other parts are high fantasy. When I picture Roland, I am basically seeing Clint Eastwood from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Along the way, Roland meets several people. A boy, Jake, who it seems may be from our time journeys with Roland for part of the trip.
We learn parts of Roland’s back story through a series of flashbacks as he makes his way through the desert. He grew up the son of a Gunslinger in a sort of feudal kingdom. It seems that the Man in Black somehow causes the overthrow of this land. We also see that Roland has a fairly hard education in the ways of being a gunslinger.
King’s writing is sparse and often beautiful in this volume. I could really picture the landscape through which Roland journeyed. This isn’t the easiest book to read through. A number of difficult things happen and Roland isn’t always a sympathetic character. I enjoyed this volume, but didn’t love it. I did like it enough, however, to continue on with the second volume, The Drawing of the Three. More about that, later.