The Gunslinger is an American wild-west, fantasy, horror, science fiction novel set in an alternate universe. I read the 1982 version of The Gunslinger as a teen, and didn’t like it, which was odd because Stephen King is my favorite author. When I heard that a movie was being made about The Dark Tower series I knew I would have to read the series, and re-read The Gunslinger. The edition I just read was published in 2003, and in the foreword King explains that in 2001 he decided to go back and revise the entire series so he could finish Roland’s story properly – adding about 9,000 words (35 pages) to The Gunslinger. This edition is leagues better than the 1982 publication. So – if you read the 1982 edition of The Gunslinger and didn’t like it, you may want to give this new 2003 edition a shot.
Want to read the first paragraph? The Gunslinger by Stephen King #FirstChapterFirstParagraph
The Gunslinger is set in “Mid-World”, similar to “the Old West”, but it’s an alternate universe where “the world has moved on”. Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger, is traveling across the Mohaine desert chasing the sorcerer called the man in black. “The gunslinger had followed the man in black across the desert for two months now, across the endless, screamingly monotonous purgatorial wastes, and had yet to find spoor other than the hygienic sterile ideographs of the man in black’s campfires.” (page 6)
Roland stumbles upon a dwelling, owned by a man named Brown who has a pet talking raven called Zoltan. Brown tells Roland that the man in black had passed through about six weeks before and stayed for supper.
The gunslinger had been going 16-18 hours a day since “the horror that had occurred in Tull”. Brown (is he the man in black in disguise?) doesn’t push it, but gently prods the gunslinger to tell the story. And so, Roland tells Brown the story of a woman he met in Tull who told him the story of when the man in black had come through town and brought a dead man to life. Sometimes I hate it when there is a story, within a story, within a story, but when King does it he weaves it in such a way that you are drawn down into the pits of the tale.
After Roland leaves Brown’s place he travels for an extremely long period, becomes severely dehydrated, then miraculously stumbles across an old way station where a young pre-teen named Jake Chambers provides him water, food, and shelter. Jake had somehow been transported to Mid-World after dying in an alternate universe that is similar to our own world. Roland tells Jake that he needs to find the man in black so he can make him take him to find the tower. Jake joins the gunslinger on his quest, and together they travel across the desert, chasing the man in black.
“The greatest mystery the universe offers is not life but size. Size encompasses life, and the Tower encompasses size…” “Size defeats us. For the fish, the lake in which he lives is the universe. What does the fish think when he is jerked up by the mouth through the silver limits of existence and into a new universe where the air drowns him and the light is blue madness?” (page 313)
The Gunslinger is a slow-burning novel that will draw you into The Dark Tower story. You’ll be wanting to know more and more about each character, and King will give it to you in dribs and drabs. Who the hell is the man in black? Is the gunslinger really the good guy? Where is this tower, and why does the gunslinger need to find it so badly?
I can’t wait to read the next book, in fact I was perusing books at a second-hand store yesterday, and coincidentally out of the half a dozen Stephen King books there, The Drawing of the Three was one of them.