Page Turners

The Intriguing Opening of the Gunslinger


I really like Stephen King. The man can be incredibly hit or miss, but he does have a pretty great average considering the staggering amount of work he puts out. I have no idea how he’s able to keep such a near constant flow of novels churning out. Well, I think cocaine held a part for a while, but that’s neither here nor there. Anyway, I love King. I’m generally not a horror guy, be it film or novels, but there’s something about his work that really draws me in. There was a large portion of high school where basically all I did was read his classic stuff, one after the other. And there’s a lot of good stuff. But as much as  King is known for horror, the one novel of his that I would put head and shoulders above the others would have to be the Stand. It’s a rambling, weird, exciting apocalyptic tale that really blew me away the first time I read it. It’s just full of wonderful characters, and creates a really interesting apocalypse scenario and an intricate world that rises from the ashes of the old. It’s weird that my favorite book of King’s would be one that wasn’t horror, but that’s how things shook out. But what is weird is that I never gave a shot to his other famous deviation from horror. The Dark Tower series. It’s something I’ve been aware of for a long time, but have just never given a shot. I don’t really know why, maybe because it was a long series, and a pretty big commitment if I were to dive on in, but whatever the reason, I had never dipped my toe in the Dark Tower. Until now. There’s a film adaptation of the series coming out soon, and I’ve been seeing some glowing endorsements of the series on various movie sites I frequent, and it was enough to push me into finally giving it a shot. And you know what, I’m intrigued.

The plot of the novel revolves around the exploits of a man named Roland, a gunslinger. He lives in an odd world that seems to be an apocalyptic version of our world, and his mission is simple. Find the Man in Black. He’s clearly been hunting the Man in Black for some time at the beginning of the novel, and when it picks up he’s in the middle of a godforsaken desert, struggling to survive and just wandering through the endless wastes, trying to track down this mysterious man. Along the way Roland meets some poor unfortunate souls who are trying to live out some semblance of life in the desolate desert that he’s found himself in, but the novel really gets going when he finds a deserted house containing a young boy named Jake Chambers. Jake appears to be from our world, or at least our time. He has memories of his life in Manhattan before randomly and mysteriously being transported to wherever it is Roland is. And, feeling some paternal interest in Jake, Roland brings him along, and the two begin to bond as they continue to travel around the wastes, always hunting for the Man in Black. And really that’s the whole novel. They just keep looking for the Man in Black, passing out of the desert, into a forest, up a mountain, and into some vast mine system. And by the end of the novel Roland and Jake have been separated, Roland has spoken with the Man in Black, but nothing is resolved. Roland learns that there’s a lot about his world that he doesn’t understand, and that the Man in Black isn’t his real enemy, that he needs to get to a mysterious Dark Tower that’s the nexus of all reality. But not the one with Man-Thing. And that’s where things end, for now.

Now, the role of a first novel in a series is really to introduce you to things, and draw you in. And this book is a huge success on that front. It’s not really a satisfying story on it’s own, because there’s no real closure, and it just opens up a whole can of worms of new plot threads to be investigated in future installments. Which I will certainly be reading. I really enjoyed this world that was created, and Roland the lone gunslinger wandering the mutated world like a post-apocalyptic cowboy. That’s some fun imagery. And there’s enough mystery to keep me checking out the series to get solved. Because I really have no idea what was going on. I don’t know what the Dark Tower really is, how Jake Chambers got to their world, why Roland is chasing the Man in Black, and just what’s going on in their world. I have heard that there’s  a weird connection to this series with the Stand, in that the weird possible Antichrist character from the Stand, Randall Flagg, makes appearances in this series, which is odd, but interesting. Because I could totally see this taking place in the decimated world that was left after the Stand. Which would be a real bummer, since you kind of end that novel hoping that they were going to rebuild society, not create weird cowboys and mutants. But I guess I’ll figure out the mysteries of the Dark Tower as I continue to explore their world over the months and years. And this book has me excited to do so.

The Gunslinger was written by Stephen King, 1982.

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