The Gunslinger

Stephen King’s The Gunslinger

In the last 3 years, I’ve begun to read pretty much constantly. I’ve always got one or two novels on the go but recently, I’ve realized that I had never read anything written by Stephen King. On a recommendation from the internetz, I decided to give the Dark Tower series a go. A pretty ambitious first attempt, I thought where better to start than one of the most widely acclaimed series of all time?

Early after deciding that he wanted to pursue a career as an author, King decided that he wanted to write an epic – something akin to Tolken’s Lord of the Rings series. Writing “The Gunslinger” in 5 parts, King had them published in “The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction”. In total, it took King 12 and a half years to finish the first novel when it became published in 1988. Since then, most specifically in 2003, King reissued the novel “revised and expanded” which included several edits and an additional 9000 words. King did this in an effort to make the book more accessible to a new audience as well as clear up some inconsistencies in regards to the later novels.

Taking place in an alternate universe similar to the Old West, Roland of Gilead continues his quest to catch “The Man in Black”. Roland pursues “The Man in Black” as he believes the Man holds the key to his destiny in reaching The Dark Tower itself; his ultimate destination. Along the way, Roland meets various characters that will shape his journey in ways both good and bad.

I’m not actually aware of what King has changed from the original; I couldn’t seem to find many glaring changes online in terms of differences from the original story other than the fate of a major character. It seems to be mostly due to what he considered an amateurish writing style in his early days.

I will say this; I loved “The Gunslinger”. I did find the writing style a little challenging at first. I’ve got limited experience when it comes to works of fantasy and science fiction, so a lot of the places and characters were a bit strange and hard to pin down. However, after really getting into the novel, I found it hard to put down and a pretty quick read.

King does a masterful job painting a picture of Roland’s world; his descriptive nature is pretty impressive. He gives you the ability to develop a detailed mental picture without going overboard – which is pretty important. As someone who’s never read a King novel, it’s hard to believe that I somehow avoided him for so long. Roland’s battle in the city of Tull around the middle of the novel was riveting, King is easily able to control a battle involving dozens of townsfolk – it’s clear why he’s so respected and revered, even this early in his career.

It’s hard to imagine this successfully transitioning into a movie; it seems too big for film. Then again, you have Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Lord of the Rings and James Cameron’s recent epic, Avatar. It’s pretty clear that we’re living in an age where entire worlds can be created out of nothing; it could work. Despite saying that he would rather keep The Dark Tower series within the literary world, King sold the rights to Star Trek director, J.J. Abrams recently and the project is in its beginning stages. It’ll be interesting to say the least.

I’m very intrigued to take on the other 6 parts in the 7 part series. Sooner than later, they’ll be sitting on my book shelf ready to go. I kind of wish I had purchased the box set; it would have been a lot cheaper.

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