Saturday, April 2, 2011

Girl on Book Action: The Gunslinger: The Dark Tower I by Stephen King

The Gunslinger: The Dark Tower I by Stephen King
ISBN: 0-451-21084-0


In the first book of this brilliant series, Stephen King introduces readers to one of his most enigmatic heroes, Roland of Gilead, The Last Gunslinger.

He is a haunting figure, a loner on a spellbinding journey into good and evil. In his desolate world, which frighteningly mirrors our own, Roland pursues The Man in Black, encounters an alluring woman named Alice, and begins a friendship with the Kid from Earth called Jake. Both grippingly realistic and eerily dreamlike, The Gunslinger leaves readers eagerly awaiting the next chapter.

(The blurb is from since my copy of the book didn’t actually have one.  I hate that by the way).


My Thoughts:

Ah yes, I’m severely late to this particular party, but that’s true of pretty much anything Stephen King has written.  His work just has never jumped out at me as something I want to read (or at least I don’t want to read it more than the thousands of other books out there) – and yes, I’m ready to be lynched for not being a Stephen King fan.  Wait...haven’t we gone over this before?  I think we might have, so let’s move on.

I feel as though I’ve developed a bad habit on this blog.  I read and review part one of a series and then I don’t necessarily get back to you with the subsequent parts (or maybe this feeling is just all in my head) and here I am with another.  I promise, I’ll keep reading and reviewing these even if it takes a while.

Overall, I’m still not sold on King’s writing style (you know, based on the two books of his I’ve now read), but maybe it’ll grow on me.  The thing that bothered me the most is that he ends sentences with “however,” I  I think he only did this a couple of times, but it stuck with me in an unpleasant “want to fix your sentence” way.  As far as descriptions of physical reactions to fear go, I think he’s quite the master – I’ve never really thought about how to describe that clenching feeling in your gut when you’re afraid.  Actually, I think he writes physicality really well, because he doesn’t “pretty it up.”  There is nothing remotely attractive about fear, or hate, or rage.  None of these emotions are pretty.  On the flip side of this evident skill is the fact that I don’t know that I’ll really be into reading about the status of the Gunslinger’s balls for 6 more books.  Last in the “gripes about style” section, I was a little thrown off everytime a “thee / thou” showed up in conversation.  I understand that it’s meant to denote that the characters are using the High Speech of Gilead or something to that effect, but it was jarring compared with the style of the prose and just regular conversation which was gritty and a strange blend of archaic and modern.

I was surprised at how quickly I got through this book, which is to say it kept me turning pages at a good pace and I was engaged with the story.  I wanted to know what happened next and even more so what happened before.  How did Roland end up chasing a man in black across the known world?  And, honestly, the flashback sections were more interesting to me than the plod through the desert.  I wanted to learn more about the Gilead that was and then get back to the gunslinger's quest.  It doesn't help that when it comes down to it, I don’t like Roland.  I like intelligent, witty protagonists and he is repeatedly described as tenacious and a bit slow.  I know these traits have their merits; I just prefer other characteristics in a main character.  If it wasn’t for his profession, his history and his dogged search for the mysterious Tower he’d be completely unremarkable.  I was more interested in some of the secondary characters – like Cuthbert and Cort and Roland’s parents and I hope that his past gets more fleshed out as the series progresses (please don’t tell me about it! I want to find out on my own).  

I did appreciate that Roland had to make difficult decisions in order to find the man in black, his nemesis.  And the choices he made aren't necessarily the right ones, but he felt compelled to complete his quest at all cost, even if it means tarnishing his soul.  It made me wonder what I would be willing to sacrifice in his place.  So while on the whole, Roland didn't speak to me, his determination and the moral implications of his actions did resonate.

What will bring me back to reading more of the series is the world building and the mystery of the tower.  I don’t care so much about Roland and his quest, but I care about figuring out more about Gilead, about its society and history and about the Tower.  It takes some skill to draw in a reader with the promise of a world rather than an interesting main character, so there is that to applaud. *claps*  Of course, with a new book being written in the series I wonder if I should hold off and wait, rather than rushing through to the end to see what happens.  Decisions, decisions.


  1. i read this book years ago and get a ton of shit for thinking it was boring.
    i suffered through this book and had no interest in continuing it...and yet friends of mine are still demanding i read the rest.

  2. Well, I think you'll appreciate my review of the 2nd book then!

  3. i appreciate all of your reviews

  4. Aww! Thanks! It's nice to know they're appreciated!