- Author: Stephen King
- Publisher: Grant
- Release Date: June 10, 1982
- Pages: 288
It starts with a mystery and it ends with a mystery. The Gunslinger: The Dark Tower Book 1 is the tip of the iceberg in King’s popular epic tale that combines fantasy, mystery, and even some horror.
“Do any men grow up or do they only come of age?”
King’s Inspiration for The Gunslinger
While Stephen King is often hailed as one of the world’s greatest horror writers, a combination of three works outside of the horror genre inspired him to create The Dark Tower series. The Dark Tower website notes that King was inspired by The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkein, the poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” by Robert Browning, and the 1966 western classic The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly gave King the inspiration to branch out from the horror genre.
Roland Deschain, The Gunslinger is chasing the Man in Black (he is NOT Will Smith for those with a vast imagination). The end. Yes, that is the story. At this point, we don’t know why the Man in Black is chasing him, what he wants, or why Roland is looking for The Tower.
By the time the book reaches its end, some of these questions are mildly answered; this is where the Mad Max reference occurred to me. In Mad Max 2, Max does not have any strong motive for wandering around the desert except survival; things just happen to him, and he deals with them. Roland is more of less the same. He is chasing someone but with what purpose? I am sure these questions will be answered further into the series but as for this book, I felt it was trying to tell too much, but the length of the book was short enough not to be able to fit so much content into it.
“The price of any betrayal always comes due in flesh.”
It is hard to present the backstory while maintaining the pace of current events. Sometimes, the past story indulges readers so much into it that it ends up becoming a tale of the past and not present. Thankfully, The Dark Tower has no such problems. It balanced its past with its present very well, but it couldn’t handle its current story with upcoming events. There was so much that needed some valiant answers, but when those were most required, there were none.
The characters were utterly mysterious, and this is what wallop me as the power of the story. Roland himself speaks in riddles which I liked to interpret on my own and the growing mystery and his relation to the Man in Black is engrossing. He is a loner, and his behavior and dialogues interpret that; he is a man with no past to some, he is a man with a daunting past to us. What he was, what he is, who he will be, these are the questions that I would love to get an answer to and what is his motive in reaching The Dark Tower even when his Ka wouldn’t allow him to do it so easily? Roland is one of King’s most mystifying and fascinating characters. The Man in Black is equally odd and even though he appears for a brief time, what he says and what he does leaves me questioning so many things and while doing that, it cleverly sets the story for the next book to follow. The ending was ambiguous to the level that I want to read the next book as soon as I can.
“A coward judges all he sees by what he is.”
I can’t tell you a lot about The Dark Tower because there is not much to tell; this is a great book but what this isn’t is a great start to a series. There are more inquiries than there are answers and not enough of them are answered to justify the beginning of the story, but its strong cast of characters and the very fact that it doesn’t answer all the questions makes me want to read The Drawing of The Three (The Dark Tower #2) even more; and the certainty that The Dark Tower movie is in production, I want to read the books before the covers get an awful stamp that says “Now a major motion picture.”