The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, Book 1) Review
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Too often I’ve encountered the argument—the one that goes: You really think that Stephen King is a classic author? The answer is yes, yes, yes I do—and the man deserves recognition. Fifty years from now, he’ll be the only author that I can think of who will be deserving of this designation (well, he and maybe J.K. Rowling...) from our time. His works have been passed off as mindless horror once too often for my liking, so, in his defense, I present this column.

The Dark Tower is without a doubt the most ambitious work of fiction that Mr. King has yet attempted (he finished the seventh and final installment of this tale this year). It’s part western, part post-apocalyptic fantasy, and part philosophy (the philosophy of Ka, the wheel of destiny). The novel centers on Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger, and his quest for the dark tower, an ominous place that’s the very face of evil and the central theme of the novel. Little is known of the tower in the first book, but the reader feels its presence on every page.

The book opens with one of those classic lines that lets the reader know that the author is serious about the size and scope of the tale to follow: “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

From here, we follow Roland in his pursuit of the mythical man in black—but catching him is merely the beginning of his quest. Along the way, he befriends Jake, a boy from our world who was killed by the man in black and brought to the gunslinger’s world, a world that has “moved on.” What “moved on” means is only hinted at, but the basic gist of it is this: the world that was once civilized has moved on to darker times. So to restore order to his world, the gunslinger must seek out the dark tower—and to do this, he must catch the man in black.

Hints of Roland’s past, a past that’s filled with severe training, coming-of-age challenges, treason, and the deceit of an evil wizard are provided, setting the stage for the future installments in the series. There’s also a lot of action, which always has a western flavor, as the gunslinger must shoot his way through towns that have been corrupted by the man in black, who sets trap after trap for Roland and Jake.

It would be sacrilege to go further into the plot, but I will say that the book doesn’t disappoint, and the series is absolutely intriguing and definitely worth reading. Even if you aren’t a fan of Stephen King’s other books (and seriously, who isn’t?), this one is different. Even the writing style he uses is different from his usual bouts of lengthy genius.

The Gunslinger is a deceptively short read, (deceptive because the books that follow get progressively longer; the series makes War and Peace look like a short story). If you find that you like books such as The Lord of the Rings—books that become worlds—you’ll love this series. I know I do.

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