Wednesday, August 18, 2010

#25 The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger

Who? What? Huh? Where am I?

Oh, right, I’m here.

So I just got done reading the first book of the Dark Tower series called The Gunslinger. It wasn’t until I was halfway into it that I realized I’d already read it before. I suppose that says something.

I was weary going into it. I’ve always heard that the Dark Tower series is different from the typical Stephen King. Sadly, I love the typical Stephen King. The Gunslinger wasn’t bad, but I can’t really tell you if I thought it was good.

First of all let me begin by saying that since I opened the book I automatically pictured Clint Eastwood as the main character, Roland. It didn’t matter if the description was off, the personality, or the attitude, I pictured Clint Eastwood. I’m still picturing Clint Eastwood, and that makes me happy. The novel follows Roland, who is the last gunslinger (gunslingers apparently being like Judge Dredd), as he chases the “man in black.” Apparently the man in black is some kind of sorcerer priest or something. Eventually he meets up with a young boy who continues with him on this quest, Jake. It is after this meeting that we really gain insight into the character. We are given descriptions of his past events, what his life was like growing up, how he became a gunslinger. It is also with the introduction of Jake that King begins to mindfuck the shit out of us. I assumed we were in some alternate universe…I couldn’t understand why people lived in castles and acted rather medieval like if they had guns. Not to mention he goes from castles to a town out of the wild west. Then, because of the presence of modern technology decayed and decrepit, I assumed it was something post-apocalyptic. However that didn’t explain the medieval ideas either. It does explain the mutants though. When Jake gets introduced is when I started to get mindfucked. He is apparently pulled from the present time (as he is dying) to the future? So then I started thinking that maybe, just maybe, the world we are in is limbo. But why wouldn’t people remember their past lives like the kid does? Then again, how did he have a mother (Roland that is) if he died and then showed up there? Why does he not understand some of the kids terms…like “subway?” Even if he was in the future wouldn’t they still know history? He knows about dinosaurs but not about TV? How would/could we revert that far back? Where did all this mythical shit come from…like a sorcerer? Right, where was I? Plot? Fuck it.

In other words the book raises entirely too many questions without enough fucking answers. Granted, I know this is/was/always has been intended to be a series but still. Why would you write a novel that left so many things unanswered? In fact, aging your main character by 10 years at the end of the book, like he’s some kind of Rip Van Winkle, just made it worse. I did find that he seemed to paint most of the women in the story as whores though. Why? I don’t know…but his mom appears to cheat on his dad, the lady in the wild west town just wants dick, the crazy lady just wants dick, the daughter of the guy who runs the stables just wants dick, the demon lady in the mountains just wants dick.

The world is rather immersive though. You can feel the pain of the desert as Roland travels through it. You understand the attitude of the people who live alone. You can comprehend the mass hysteria that travels through an entire town. It is easy to grasp the ideals of a lot of the characters, the need to be harsh, to be strict, to be emotionless. Roland is by far the most interesting aspect. A man with no emotion, no passion. He’s calm, cool, and collected as he mows down his opponents while duel wielding pistols.

If they turned this into a movie I’m curious who they would get to play him. No body now quite has the personality to pull off the Clint Eastwood of the spaghetti westerns.


  1. To be completely honest, I know everyone talks about how great The Gunslinger is, but up until he started really fucking up the series with the last few novels, I always liked that one least. It was just so odd . . . the women, the darkness, I don't know. On the other hand, I think the fourth (Wizard and the Glass) was my favorite. So yeah, the next book deals even more with the alternate universes angle since it introduces Eddie, the drug addict from New York. I think King has said a few times that he was inspired by Robert Browning's Child Roland to the Dark Tower came and it's actually printed in its entirety in the seventh (?) novel. There's a lot of cross-over between his other work and this - I know in some of his novels, the page that listed all his other novels would occasionally put an asteriks next to the ones that had a Dark Tower tie in - sometimes it's really cool and neat; other times (mainly later in the series) it seems forced.

  2. Dude give the other books a chance, they're well worth it. Well, 2-5; with 2 and 4 being the best. The Gunslinger is a tough read as far as keeping your interest and setting up the universe. It's not so much that Roland or Jake is from further in the future than the other, it's just that technology and pop culture overlaps somewhat and advanced differently in each dimension. Hence Roland's dimension having castles and saloons, "hey Jude" and decrepit gas stations. Books 6 and 7 really mess things up ( written post accident) but it's really cool how all of King's other works are all directly tied into the dark tower.