The Gunslinger: The Dark Tower Book 1

With the movie now in the theaters I want to check it out.  I also wanted to read the book first.  Call me weird, but I like to read the book that the film is based on, even though it has driven me nuts in the past.  Either way, it gave me a good excuse to get into Stephen King’s longest (17)

This was a good novel.  I did read the revised and expanded edition, but still found it to be a really brisk read.  It never at any point dragged, and although it was only 231 pages, it didn’t feel short.  The story kept a solid pace, not slowing down, but never hitting a breakneck pace.  The book is solid.

It begins with our main character, The Gunslinger, Roland Deschain,  plodding the desert in pursuit of the Man in Black.  He evades or defeats head on the challenges left behind by the Man in Black, and you really get the impression that this is a character that has been broken down and beaten up by the long journey he’s been on.  He doesn’t seem to ever outwit or overpower foes or challenges, but outlast or out endure them.

Roland slowly makes his way across the desert to the mountains, and eventually has his encounter with the Man in Black.  What really got me about this, and also is going to ensure I read book two, is that the confrontation is riveting, but completely lacking violence.  I loved how King created a strong atmosphere of tension leading up to this confrontation, and despite no big fight, did not leave me as the reader let down.

Even the history of the Roland is let out in bits and pieces, and we see only his growth into his guns.  We don’t get to learn what drives him, what lead him to this driven mission to find and kill the Man in Black, only that he was greatly wronged.  We do get to see that he is smart and capable, but not in any kind of super-human or one of a kind way.  What his strength is appears to be an inability to give up.

I know I didn’t mention his companion for half the book, Jake, very much.  Jake just appears to be a tool to allow Roland to tell some of his story, basically acting as the voice of the reader saying “Hey, who are you anyway?”  Still, I have a suspicion he’ll play a part going forward.  Something about this story leaves me feeling that characters can be brought back in this series.  I’m looking forward to it.

Although Stephen King wrote this way back in 1978, I felt that it held up well.  It also has a great forward by the author, explaining why he made the changes he did.  On a side note, the Dark Tower series started in 1978, and was completed in 2004.  Folks should leave George R. R. Martin alone.

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