Length: 238 pages
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Roland of Gilead is the Last Gunslinger. Excellent at the skills of his profession, he is on a journey to find the Dark Tower. The Tower has its secrets, it has its powers, and it has its enigma, of which Roland knows very little. All he knows is that he needs to reach it. And the only one who can take him there is the Man in Black.
Having followed the Man in Black for as long as he can remember, Roland can sense that he’s closer than ever before. But the path leading to him still holds surprises. Roland meets an alluring woman who manages to dull the best of his senses, a kid from the unknown world of New York, and a town that stands at the brink of chaos. Roland knows that each of these holds tricks that are meant to stop him, tricks that will force him to use his deadly skills. He also knows that he must do what he has set out to do. But can he make the right choice when pushed to choose between salvation and damnation? Or will the decisions he makes finally blur that thin line on which he walks – the line that separates good from evil?
The Gunslinger is the first part of King’s Dark Tower fantasy series. The book comes with a lot of expectations, especially when King himself states that the series has been greatly inspired by The Lord of the Rings. It promises to be, “eerily dreamlike and grippingly realistic.”
You can definitely see the inspiration part of it, and it stays true to its dreamlike and realistic promise too. It’s a good book, but brings with it, a certain amount of disappointment (the result of too high an expectation, perhaps).
The thing that bothered me the most was the excessive intentional vagueness. There were a lot of things that were said under the surface – part of the charm, sure, but also annoying at times. The book has a complicated story and even though it’s just giving you a glimpse into that tale, some more explanation, some clarity, would have really made a difference. This is even more so the case because the story is set in a very different world which oddly mirrors our own and yet, just isn’t ours. This adds to the entire enigmatic feel but causes quite a bit of confusion too, because you’re expecting things to be a certain way but that’s just not how they are. All this, put together, made the book a little heavy and difficult to read.
What I liked though (and hated at the same time) was the emotion that the story evokes in you. You associate greatly with Roland – you hate what he needs to do, as much as you feel (strongly) for him having to make such difficult decisions. There is this deep sadness around and within him that, in its own way, resonates with the emotion that lies within so many of us.
So many people in our world go on living our lives, trying to be as happy as we can. Yet, somewhere deep within, there is a sadness – an unfulfillment – for having to do the things that help us survive, but not doing the things that help us really live. This dissatisfaction can be the result of tiny things or large ones, and may be a part of us for minutes or years, but we’ve all felt it at some point in time. We spend most of our days ignoring that feeling because who would want to believe it exists or address it? The Gunslinger, for some strange reason, reminds you of that feeling. It forces you to recognize the fact that there is a darkness within everyone and sometimes, you just have to face it. And at the end of it, you do what you have to, and you face the consequences, whatever they may be. It may be this evoked emotion that makes the book more difficult to read than it should be. At the same time, it makes it an experience instead of just a tale.
Then there is the fact that it is disturbingly graphic at points, leaving you with visions unfolding before that make you horribly uneasy – the kind that feels like you have something unpleasant under your skin. That, though, is part of why you’d read a Stephen King book anyway.
The characters are, expectedly, well developed, with shades of gray that make them very human and very relatable. The story moves along at a good enough pace, shifting between present and past, and comes to a good conclusion. Things become a lot clearer and just like that, you’re hooked onto the series, wanting to know what happens next (there’s also the hope that this very complicated world will become clearer as you read more about it).
So, should you read The Gunslinger? I’d recommend the book to anyone who:
- is a Stephen King fan
- likes fantasy
- isn’t too bothered by graphic details
- wants to remain one step ahead of the book-to-movie adaptation curve
What did you think of the first part of King’s epic fantasy? And are you looking forward to the movie (I’m half-terrified, half-intrigued about how this book will be brought to life)? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
And have an awesome 2017!