The Gunslinger is a novel by American author Stephen King and is the first volume in the Dark Tower series, which King considers his magnum opus. Initially a novel that strung together five short stories published between 1978 and 1981, it was first published in book form in 1982 King substantially revised the novel in 2003, which is the version in print today. The story centers upon Roland the last gunslinger who has been chasing after his adversary, “the man in black,” for many years. The novel follows Roland’s trek through a vast desert and beyond in search of “the man in black.” Roland meets several people while traveling, including a boy named Jake Chambers who travels with him part of the way and Alice, a worn bartender with a voracious sexual appetite.
This is part one in a feature that will follow the gunslinger through each book as he tracks the infamous “man in black” and I will do my best to provide interesting commentary along the way.
I just started reading it this weekend and so far the best way I can describe it is weird with a capital W! I mean even for Stephen King. The beginning is a bit hard to follow but if you remind yourself over and over again that the world the gunslinger inhabits is an alternate reality to ours, you can follow the narrative a bit easier (a map would be great though). Stephen King is a master story teller and he clearly reached very deeply into his uniquely unusual subconscious for some of the prose in the first few chapters.
“The desert was the apotheosis of all deserts, huge, standing to the sky for what might have been parsecs in all directions. White; blinding; waterless; without feature save for the faint, cloudy haze of the mountains which sketched themselves on the horizon and the devil – grass which brought sweet dreams, nightmares, death.”
There is no question that Stephen King is a brilliant writer but it definitely takes a person with an open mind to appreciate his vision. After describing what could only be an arid wasteland he goes on to meet two characters. Brown and Alice.
Brown is an eccentric corn farmer who lives in a hovel with his talking raven Zoltan. The gunslinger stops for rest and information and it is here where he tells his story of “the man in black” and we hear our first impossible tale of his prey ressurecting a townie from Tull and his encounter with a bartender named Alice with an almost supernatural libido.
The gunslinger weaves a tale that is both riveting and bizarre in the extreme and though I find it just a tad hard to follow, I am looking forward to reading more.
I’m going to stop here just in case anyone wants to read along with me. I wouldn’t want to leave any spoilers. I would love to hear your thoughts on this book as well so please let me know what you think.
Stay tuned for more as I continue tracking “the man in black” alongside Roland the gunslinger.