The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) by Stephen King. 251 pages. Simon and Schuster.
To fully appreciate The Gunslinger (as a fellow writer) you have to read the introduction by the author and realize that this book was originally written when Stephen King was in college. The version I read had been subject to a revision by the author in 2003, but there were still many indications that it wasn’t up to the caliber of his usual work. It doesn’t seem to have the casual flow and finesse that King normally has in his books, and some of the vocabulary seems put in there to impress, rather than just because it’s the right word.
And the book was somewhat slow. The story is basically–as it unveils itself–about a man, a gunslinger who is in pursuit of an evil sorcerer referred to as The Man in Black. The Man in Black is responsible for destroying the world that the gunslinger is from, and he has vowed revenge on him. At the same time, he is seeking something called the Dark Tower, a nexus of sorts that will somehow set things right. Most of this first book in the series is set in a desert where people struggle to survive, have trouble remembering the past, or even how many days have past, and end up going crazy pretty easily. It’s pretty bleak, but in reading reviews many others have said if you are patient and wade through the first book, the rest of the series gets much better.
What I found interesting in the book was the myriad spiritual references. Having read King’s autobiographical On Writing, I know that he grew up going to church, and other books of his, like The Stand, also have strong biblical themes. But there are references to Jesus and God, the Last Days, Satan, the Antichrist, and even a counterfeit virgin birth.
My advice on reading this is the same as those reviews, and is what I plan on doing. I wasn’t as impressed with this volume, but I am withholding judgment until I read one or two more books in the series. The spiritual references especially have my attention. What got me to read the book, however, was learning that the book was intended for a movie coming out in February starring Matthew McConnahey as The Man in Black. So that’s something to look forward to.
I give the book two stars out of five.