The Gunslinger (Dark Tower 1)
Synopsis:In The Gunslinger, King introduces his most enigmatic hero, Roland Deschain of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting, solitary figure at first, on a mysterious quest through a desolate world that eerily mirrors our own. Pursuing the man in black, an evil being who can bring the dead back to life, Roland is a good man who seems to leave nothing but death in his wake.
I've been wanting to read this series for awhile now. I've heard some rave reviews, but for some reason I've never felt compelled to go down to the book store and buy myself a copy. So instead I wait until I happen across a second hand store and look for a cheap copy I can take home. Unfortunately, while many of the other books in the series pop up in my local book haunts, people seem to hold onto this first book and make it that much harder for me to get started on it. Then, last week while I was looking through my bookcase for some books to read for the "books I should have read" challenge I found a copy alongside my other Stephen King books. I have no idea where it came from, or how long it's been there. Perhaps the book fairy dropped it in when s/he realised my search was going no where. Regardless of where it came from, I now have a copy and have finally been able to read it!
This'll be a short review because the way the "universe" is being created makes me think that I can't really impart anything without knowing what comes next (which I don't), so instead this'll be succinct and I'll revisit the review once I've completed the series. What I do want to discuss is Stephen King's mastery as an author. One problem I have with fantasy novels is when the author spends a good 100 pages outlining the world and history and loses track of the narrative. King manages to solve this problem by slowly seeping out details of the world, but painting enough of a world for you to understand what is happening as it happens, even if you don't know the full complexity of the world. In fact I think art is a perfect analogy for the way the fantasy world is created. The original sketch and base colours are firmly in place, we know this is a desolate and dying land where people are hard done by and evil plays a firm hand. But we can't yet see the details that will slowly be added a layer at a time, adding depth, detail and substance to the picture.
If you've read the series you'll possibly laugh at my inability to piece to world together with the clues given in this first book, but I'm still not exactly sure what this world is. Is it a future Earth? The reference to The Beatles and machines long unused suggest this is the case, but the discussion and demonstration of demons suggests it isn't quite that clean cut. Are there parallel worlds with "doors" linking them that seeps bits of each world into one another? Is it a Planet of the Apes type situation? There are so many possibilities yet I have absolutely no idea, not yet, but I have faith that King will continue to tantalise and intrigue me with his leaking of details. The release of details may be slow, but at no time was I exasperated. I want to know more about the world, but the journey of the protagonist Roland is captured with such detail, and captured my focus so completely that the details of the world aren't necessary until they impact upon Roland and his quest.
Roland is a fantastic protagonist. He's tall, dark and handsome (well I'm adding the handsome bit), haunted by his past, individualistic, solitary, quiet, broody, tough, determined and so many other things. He actually reminds me a lot of the Doctor from Doctor Who, both are the last of their kind, haunted by their past, take on new companions who never last long, and keep their personal story close to their chest. Both are touched by sadness and on many occasions seem to have lost hope in their crusade, yet fight with every inch of their being for it. Roland is a complex character and I can't wait to learn more about his past, and continue on his adventure with him.
So to sum up my teeny review, this book is a compelling start to a series I can see myself getting quite addicted to. I didn't blitz through it quite as fast as I did with Game of Thrones but it held my attention enough to determine that this time I'll go right to the book store to find the next book in the series, no book fairy needed!
My Rating: 4/5