Howdy! (not so) Funny story actually. This book has been sitting in my to-be-read pile for quite a while now, two years to be more precise. I bought this in the summer of 2015 for my birthday and I swear I’ve been meaning to read it ever since but somehow never had the time. Fortunately they decided to make a movie, so I set my mind to finish the book before venturing to see the film adaptation (because I’m old-school like that).
Sooo… quite frankly I’m not sure where to begin with this book. Even if it’s a short one and I read it like my life was depending on it, it was quite an adventure. Stephen King had me hooked from the introduction (the first word is ‘hobbits’ – and as you can image the Lotr fan in me was hyped when I started reading) which addresses his love for Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and also the beginnings of the series that was to be The Dark Tower; how he envisioned it from the start, how he started writing, how he stalled for a bit and then an unfortunate event actually pushed him into finishing the series. I can’t say I’m a connoisseur or a fan of King’s, given that I’ve only read one other book by him (which turned out to be the second volume in his Bill Hodges Trilogy, but I really enjoyed it – maybe I will write about it another time), but this one was really my cup of tea (or should I say coffee?).
In a nutshell… the main character is Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger; a man with a troubled past and in search of a mysterious enemy called the Man in Black. We first meet the two chasing one another through the desert, but the book shortly shows us glimpses into Roland’s past: the city of Tull, where he wandered more than he was supposed to and a trap set by the Man in Black was waiting for him, bits and pieces of his own childhood which gives you a lot of context for the character. While crossing the desert Roland stumbles upon yet another mysterious character, the boy named Jake, who soon becomes very dear to him (despite the Gunslinger’s attitude which might make you think such a thing is not possible) but whom Roland suspects is just another trap set by his nemesis. Together with the boy Jake they pursue the Man in Black into the mountains, that being the last step of their journey in the first book. Will the Gunslinger catch the Man in Black? How is the Dark Tower related to all of this? What is the fate of the boy named Jake? You can only find out by reading this amazingly different fantasy book.
“Time’s the thief of memory”
The first 30 pages were quite a shock to me; it’s completely different from any other fantasy book/series that I’ve read so far. The western vibe really changes everything, and that combined with Stephen King’s writing made this book an awesome experience for me. It wasn’t at all predictable, it was a continuous surprise, which I think is very difficult nowadays given how many fantasy books have been and are being written. This book was like a breath of fresh air. It was intriguing and somehow complex; I felt that King was using this book to begin his story, this one volume being just a piece from a bigger puzzle (just as he explains in the introduction: the 7 books of the series were meant to be like one huge book); even so I consider it to be a great stand-alone book, without having read the sequels.
Roland, the main character, is strange. The quest is strange. The enemy is strange. But in fiction, as well as in life, this was the case where I can say the stranger the better.
Despite being so enthusiast about this one, I can also understand why it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s a book filled with intricacies, with little details that build this book and give it its unique flavor, but at the same time I know that we are not all lovers of these details and that some of us need a more straightforward story. Consider this a warning. Also, I believe this is the kind of book that could always surprise you on your second read. Or on your third. Or on your fourth. There are so many facets of this story that we could miss on our first read, and somehow a re-read might shed some new light upon the characters and the action. So maybe, just maybe, it might grow on you if you weren’t so excited the first time.
As for myself, I will definitely finish this series and review it, as soon as possible. As for you, if you are a fan of Stephen King you’ve probably read this one already; if not I think you should give it a try (it seems quite different from the other one I read and it also seems interesting that an author that writes mainly thrillers and horrors gave fantasy a go). For the fantasy fans out there this is a must-try, the western atmosphere really brings a lot of good stuff and also it’s a story that breaks the pattern of the classic fantasy genre. Have fun reading & see you soon!
“The mystery of the universe is not time but size.”
Overall rating: 5 stars
Goodreads link: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1)