‘The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger’ by Stephen King

isbn9781444723441

“Set in a world of extraordinary circumstances, filled with stunning visual imagery and unforgettable characters,  The Dark Tower series is Stephen King’s most visionary piece of storytelling that may well be his crowning achievement.
This newly revised and expanded edition of
 The Gunslinger, for which Stephen King has written a special introduction and forward, is the mesmerising first book in his spectacular, epic Dark Tower series.
In
 The Gunslinger, 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 a desolate world which frighteningly echoes our own.
In his first step towards the powerful and mysterious Dark Tower, Roland encounters an alluring woman named Alice, begins a friendship with Jake, a kid from New York, and faces an agonising choice between damnation and salvation as he pursues the Man in Black.
Both grippingly realistic and eerily dreamlike,
 The Gunslinger leaves readers eagerly awaiting the next chapter.
AND THE TOWER IS CLOSER… 
  

I’d never heard of The Dark Tower Series before around 6 months ago, when I first heard that it was being made into a film. I found out that Idris Elba, one of my favourite actors, had been cast as the lead and I was immediately drawn in. One of the best actors working today starring in a film that is based on a series written by arguably the most talented and prolific writers still publishing struck me as a sound bet. But I’ve always been the type of person who prefers to experience the initial medium before the adaptation so I bought The Gunslinger and put it on my To Read shelf.

In the introduction for this edition, King makes it clear that for him this was his epic. The Gunslinger is the beginning of his fantasy series and serves as an ode to all those epics like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings that went before. Knowing that, I went into reading this novel with certain expectations. I knew that this book had to really grip me and inspire a real love for the characters and need to know how their journeys would end. My attention span isn’t the greatest and I’m certainly not the sort of person to be able to finish a long series that really doesn’t work to keep the reader interested throughout. I love a long series as much as the next avid reader but I need each book to be entire in its own right. And by that I mean I find it very difficult to keep myself interested in a series that clearly strives towards one end goal, where every book is basically a very long chapter. Obviously the best series weave each separate novel together seamlessly but they also, in my opinion, should be able to stand alone and still hold up as very good individual stories. This, for me, was where I had trouble with this book.

I did like it, I feel the need to make that very clear. But my trouble was that as interesting as Roland’s history was, and as drawn as I was to reading about his journey while following the Man in Black, the book was both too much and not enough for me. It really did feel like just the beginning of the series and, although it did fulfill it’s role in introducing the characters and story and making me want to read on, once I’d finished the book it didn’t feel as though that should have been it. It felt unfinished, like I’d somehow lost some pages somewhere and I’d missed something. It didn’t feel like a complete story. Roland felt no closer to the Tower at the end of the book and the meeting with the Man in Black felt very anti-climatic.

Perhaps my main problem was that, with this edition starting with the forward from King, I began my reading already wary.  King warned in his introduction that many people read this first book but didn’t finish the series and to hear that when you are first delving into a world is never a positive start. After that I knew that it wasn’t going to be plain sailing and I was searching for answers to whether I did like the book and if not why not.

Like I said, I did enjoy reading the book and in fact read it very quickly. I like the character of Roland, such an unusual hero that you can’t help but be intrigued by him and his story. And I do think I will read the rest of the series at some stage, but unfortunately I don’t feel in any hurry to do so.

If I’m completely honest with myself, the reason for my disappointment is probably a combination of a number of factors. For one, I loved reading the other works of King I’ve read and thought him such a brilliant author that I now expect too highly of his work. But also, as someone who adores the fantasy genre and grew up reading as many fantasy stories as I could get my hands on I’m more than a little bit tired of grumpy man roaming a world like ours but not ours to save it. The only women in this story did not last long and certainly didn’t have a nice end.

It’s only the first installment, and not a very large one at that, so maybe it’ll get better the further in I go, but I feel as though if the second book doesn’t do something truly unique that breaks free from the norms of the genre and introduce more than one female character who lasts longer than 30 pages this series may just lose me, which would be a real shame because I normally adore King’s work.

4 stars

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