Name: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1)
Author: Stephen King
Number of Pages: 340 (ebook)
Published: 11th March 2010 by Hodder (first published 1982)
In THE GUNSLINGER, Stephen King introduces readers to one of his most enigmatic heroes, Roland of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner, on a spellbinding journey into good and evil, in a desolate world which frighteningly echoes our own. In his first step towards the powerful and mysterious Dark Tower, Roland encounters an alluring woman named Alice, begins a friendship with Jake, a kid from New York, and faces an agonising choice between damnation and salvation as he pursues the Man in Black. Both grippingly realistic and eerily dreamlike, THE GUNSLINGER leaves readers eagerly awaiting the next chapter. And the Tower is closer…
“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”
So begins the epic tale of gunslinger Roland Deschain and his quest for the Dark Tower. I’ve decided to reread the books, see how much I remember from the first time and to see what else I discover this time.
It’s an intriguing beginning. Why is Roland so determined to follow? Who is the man in black anyway and what is he to Roland? Some of this will be revealed throughout the duration of the story.
It begins as a traditional Western type tale, as one pursues the other and they pass through the town of Tull. Although their paths never cross directly, between them they manage to wreak havoc of various kinds and leave destruction in their wake, and still the pursuit relentlessly continues.
The story draws you in, as Roland travels across the desolate and barren desert and up into the mountains, often reflecting on his past – hints of a completely different life lived in castles and a walled city, of courtly intrigue, schemes and plots, of friends and loves lost along the way. Of a young boy on the path to becoming a gunslinger but forced to challenge his teacher in order to become a man as various threats to his family and home become apparent. I loved these glimpses into the life that Roland left behind.
The Gunslinger introduces this strange world, a mix of the Old West but with hints of our own world and a time that has possibly been and gone. As Roland often reflects, ‘the world has moved on’. It’s similar to our world, with some familiar features, such as songs, ‘Hey Jude’ is mentioned more than once, but it’s also quite different, a world of magic and mutants, and a place that I’m looking forward to spending more reading time in (again).
On his travels Roland meets a young boy, Jake. Jake is not from Roland’s world, and doesn’t quite remember how he came to be at the abandoned way station where he encounters the gunslinger. It becomes clear as the two journey on together that Jake may be important in Roland’s relentlessly determined quest to find the man in black. This eventually throws up an interesting dilemma for Roland, What will he do, if a choice has to be made between a newfound friend and a long-time adversary?
The Gunslinger packs a lot into quite a short novel, and serves as a good introduction to Roland and his quest for the Dark Tower. To end, another quote, ‘go then, there are other worlds than these’, something that Roland is about to find out as his epic quest continues.