TITLE: THE DARK TOWER I: THE GUNSLINGER
AUTHOR: STEPHEN KING
PUBLISHER: NEW ENGLISH LIBRARY
BLURB FROM THE COVER
Roland of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger, sets out in pursuit of the Man in Black into 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 and begins a friendship with Jake, a kid from New York. Faced with an agonising choice, Roland is torn between damnation and salvation as he determines to find out what the Main in Black knows.
The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.
I might as well confess up front – The Dark Tower series are not only my favourite King works; they are my favourite novels of all time. The Dark Tower series are my desert island books. If I was stranded on a desert island I would only want these novels. I love The Dark Tower series so much I have hardback, first editions of the last three novels. The Gunslinger isn’t my favourite in the series but it’s a great way to open Roland’s adventures.
STRUCTURE: The Gunslinger is actually a novella as it is just over 200 pages long. It’s split into five sections, each one like a little vignette that deals with various stages of Roland’s pursuit of the Man in Black and how he eventually catches up with him. The stages are; The Gunslinger, The Way Station, The Oracle and the Mountains, The Slow Mutants and The Gunslinger and the Dark Man. Some of the sections include time shifts to different periods in Roland’s life including Roland being forced into an early test of manhood by his mother’s lover and how he becomes the youngest ever to gain the guns. This structure works really well. I liked the occasional trips down memory lane and the subtle way King blends in Roland’s back-story.
PLACE: The Gunslinger is set in a fictional world. There are echoes of our own world in Roland’s world. Both worlds share stories such as King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Some songs from our world appear in Roland’s world in a slightly different version including Hey Jude. King is on top form in The Gunslinger by giving just enough detail to allow readers to visualise Roland’s world. The best example of this can be found in the first two sections of The Gunslinger. The first section, The Gunslinger contains a time shift to Roland’s experience is a desert town called Tull. The Man in Black left a trap in the form of a dead man he brought back to life and a mad female preacher he impregnated. The preacher manages to turn the whole town against Roland and he is forced to kill every person in the town to stop them from killing him. King creates a vivid picture of this remote little town. The second section, The Way Station deals with Roland meeting Jake, a boy from New York who recently crossed over to Roland’s world when he was murdered in his own world. I was impressed by the vivid descriptions of The Way Station.
CHARACTERISATION: The characterisation is very good in The Gunslinger. The key player is Roland Deschain. Roland is a man with many flaws. He has made some hard choices in his past and done some terrible things. He is obsessed with finding The Dark Tower; the nexus of time in all world’s including Roland’s. These flaws make him very real. Even the more minor characters including Alice, the woman he beds in Tull, Brown, the desert dweller he meets in the first section and tells what happened in Tull and the mad preacher Sylvia Pittison are made of flesh and blood.
PLOT: King gets top marks for plot with The Gunslinger. I think the concept of this novel and the whole series is very original. King was inspired by epic poem, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came by Robert Browning (http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/rbrowning/bl-rbrown-childe.htm). I’ve read the poem and can see the link. There are a lot of elements that make up The Gunslinger. Roland has a lot in common with Wild West heroes made famous in Westerns. Roland’s quest for The Dark Tower shares similarities with other novels that deal with epic quests to stop evil and save the world. The way King executes this in The Gunslinger and the other novels is original and impressive. I shed tears when Roland lets Jake fall to his death so he can finally catch up with the Man in Black. The closing section The Gunslinger and the Dark Man paves the way for the rest of the series and made me want to continue Roland’s story.
The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King