The Gunslinger by Stephen King – a review (spoiler free)


The last time I read a Stephen King novel was probably more than a decade ago, and I didn’t pick up the the first book in The Dark Tower series because I needed to take hold of another Stephen King book. It’s just that when The Dark Tower’s out there calling your name, you can only ignore it for so long.
Before starting out I had heard both the good and the bad about the series. Some told me (my brother included – a man whom I lean on heavily for book reviews and information) that they had read the first book and didn’t find anything worthwhile, that there just wasn’t enough there to pull them in. Then there were the others (mostly people I didn’t know), the masses who loved the story and never wanted it to end.
I can remember for the longest time telling myself, “Yeah, someday I’ll get to it,” but never knowing when that day would come around. Let’s face it, there is that whole deal with length; it is a 7 book series. For those of you out there who have read even a trilogy, you know that reading a series with anything past three (even the three books itself at times) is a commitment. So, yes, I kept putting it off and putting it off, and finally, here I am, in the inchoate stages of my graduate degree program when I start it.
The first book The Gunslinger could have been finished in a day, but I took two and a half. The read was both easy and nostalgic for me. It brought me back to all the familiar flavors that make up the beauty of King’s writing. Before getting into this, I’ll state that before the series, the only King that I had read were stand-alones: things like Misery, Needful Things, Cujo, Carrie, and Skeleton Crew. All of which are solid King books. But I never did a series. I’m trying to think now if King has any other series out there. Some may count the Green Mile as a series; it was when it first came out, in chapter books. There’s a special English word for them, but I forget it now.
Yes, I had read other King goodies, but now it was time. It’s The Dark Tower; it has to be done.
I’m not going to throw out any spoilers here. That always sort of irks me. This is way after the fact. The final book was released in 2004. Yeah, it’s been a while, but you know what. There’s someone out there who hasn’t read it. Some people view it differently, but my statute of limitations expires after 20 years. I’m not the kind of guy to go and see the midnight showing of some highly anticipated movie and then tell everyone about it the next day. There’s a word for that too; it starts with a ‘d’ and ends with an ‘ick’.

I’ve digressed. One of the finer parts of the book was the introduction. King talks about the number 19 and its relevance to the story. He talks mainly about what life was like when he was 19 and the way his ambitious heart oftentimes took off without his being able to control it. He speaks to the young writer who has yet to fall prey to the shackles of the life others want him/her to lead. He speaks to that person and with well-penned words of encouragement, goads them not to turn back, not to listen, not to follow any other direction but that of his/her heart. It’s inspiring, and worth at least a second read.
I’ve only read the first book of The Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger. Unlike my brother, it held my attention. I’ll admit that the hold wasn’t as strong as some other books I’ve read, but it really didn’t have to be. In fact, if the hold was inordinately strong with the first book, it would be hard for him to maintain that hold throughout the entire series. King’s smart. The second book, The Drawing of the Three, is in the mail, and I’ll probably have it by the end of the week (thank you, Amazon).
The progression is slow, but methodical. The author’s delivery is simple, but pulls on your curiosity. He walks right where he wants to walk, and you, the reader, walk right along with him, not knowing or caring why. I read this book and thought (and continue to think) Damn, nineteen.

If you’re a fantasy/horror reader or writer, I would aver that The Dark Tower is a series you would benefit from. Don’t keep it on your ‘some day’ shelf forever.

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4 thoughts on “The Gunslinger by Stephen King – a review (spoiler free)

  1. Hank says:

    Sup, Strib. Still haven’t gotten around to it. I try to stick to his Lovecraftian stuff whenever, possible, but if you dig, then I’m fairly certain I will as well, old soul.

  2. Hank – Thanks for the note, brother. Yes, his Lovecraftian is always good. I’m still feeling out the DT series (only been through one book). If I’m good with it at the half-way mark, I’ll give you another shout out and pass the world. Love and Peace to you and yours, my man.

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