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The Gunslinger: The Dark Tower - Stephen King

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Author: Stephen King / Genre: Sci-Fi / Fantasy

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      26.07.2012 14:42
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      Western/Fantasy fusion which asks some interesting moral questions as well as keeping you interested

      Title: The Gunslinger
      Author: Stephen King
      Pages: 224 (my copy has anyway)
      Published: 1982
      ISBN: 9780937986509

      Storyline and Summary
      The story starts out with Roland of Gilead (our "Hero") chasing our bad guy the Man in Black (or Walter) across a desert. Very early on the book flashes back to the town of Tull where Roland last spent time in civilization with catastrophic consequences and some action for you action junkies!

      Whilst on his journey chasing Walter across the desert Roland meets a number of other characters including a desert dweller called Brown (and his pet parrot Zoltan) as well as Jake Chambers, another key character not just for this book but also for the series as a whole, where Jake saves Rolands life.
      Throughout the book there are a number of changes in timeline (as mentioned above) including mention of one of my favorite (but under mentioned and used) characters, Cort, Roland's trainer. The book goes on to have a flashback to an experience Roland has as a younger man where he is responsible for the death of a cook. The picture painted by this scene is not a pleasant one, for Roland or the reader.

      Some more action ensues in the latter part of the book as Jake and Roland battle some Slow mutants and a magical Oracle as they are coming close to catching up to the Man in Black. Roland makes an important decision in the mountains beyond the desert which will go on to shape some of the series story arcs and haunts him for some time to come. I won't spoil the book as to whether Roland catches the man in black or not but suffice it to say the conclusion of the book leads on to the next in the series, The Drawing of the Three and Roland sets off again on his already long journey and moves closer on his quest to the Dark Tower...

      Important Aspects for me
      The main aspect I would like to draw attention to is Roland's determination and unrelenting desire to reach the dark tower. One of the major twists in the story (no spoiler) revolves around this desire. The line between Hero and Villain is certainly blurred in this book.
      Another key aspect to mention is the fact that this book very much has the feeling of being a western + some magic. The science fiction/fantasy feel is very well balanced between the cowboy type characterisation and setting and the fantasy elements we (as fantasy lovers) enjoy as well.

      Opinion and Conclusion
      Compared to other books in the series I would say its not in the top 3 but its very important to read this one and its a good book in its own right (if a little odd). I understand SK has released a new version (2012) which sorts out some discrepancies with the rest of the series (one has to understand SK wrote this series over a 30 year period and not just 8 books one year apart like most series).

      On the book itself I really enjoyed the merging of Western with Magic and also Roland as a very Clint Eastwood type character. I found I was wanting more and powered on through the series very quickly and for that I think the Gunslinger is well worth a read and setting off on your own journey to the dark tower with Roland of Gilead.

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      23.10.2011 13:32
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      One of Stephen King's better but lesser known books

      The Gunslinger is the first part of Stephen King's attempt at epic fantasy with the Dark Tower series. Written way back in 1978, it is the gritty, tight Stephen King of his earlier days, rather than the overblown melodrama he spends most of his time writing now.

      Set in a world that might be our distant future, or might be a parallel world only part based on our own, The Gunslinger follows Roland of Gilead, the last Gunslinger, on his trek across a bleak desert in search of The Man in Black. At 296 pages it is minute for a Stephen King novel, but the writing is tight and sparse and a lot is packed into those pages, probably more than in a lot of his 800-page door-stopping novels.

      The Gunslinger blends high fantasy with post-apocalypse Western, with its mid-west backwater townscapes and gangs of ragged, desperate people that are very Mad Max. It's obviously just an introduction into the world of the Dark Tower, so as a result we only get glimpses of the wider history of Roland's world and his intentions. In fact, at times the explanation is so sparse that some areas are left open to interpretation, such as the whole sub-plot with Jake or the very reason why Roland is pursuing The Man in Black in the first place. King often has omnipresent narrators who fill in the backstory (and fill his books with endless waffle) but here we only see what Roland sees and discover what he discovers, and it makes for much tighter writing.

      Despite being a Western-fantasy, its actually a lot harder than many of King's horrors, with more swearing, sex and violence than anything he's written in the last twenty years, at least. The whole section in the town of Tull is very dark indeed, and very well written.

      Overall, one of King's lesser known but better works. This is the second time I've read this book, and I felt it was a lot clearer and better second time around. I've now acquired the rest of the series (hence the re-read) so I hope they meet the same standard. Unfortunately, as each one is thicker than the next and the last three were written in the last fifteen years, I somehow doubt it, but we'll see.

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      11.03.2011 10:17
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      An excellent start to the series

      The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger is the first in a series of seven fantastic books, Stephen King's masterwork. We meet the gunslinger Roland Deschain of Gilead on the trail of The Man in Black and find out just how far he will go on his quest for The Dark Tower. The gunslinger is a cowboy hero on a relentless quest to reach The Dark Tower and save it from falling. The book has a western theme, with the desert landscape, the crumbling half-deserted town of Tull and an oases in the mountains. However, King combines modern elements (the boy Jake comes from New York) with more old fashioned fantasy (with tales of Gilead past). The gunslinger is seemingly heartless, but his meeting with Jake awakens long dead feelings and shows that he does have a heart. Chasing The Man in Black, Roland and Jake undertake a dangerous journey under the mountains, where Roland has to make an awful choice...

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        18.12.2010 02:13
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        If we had a parallel world set in the Wild West, there's a good chance it would look like this

        "The Gunslinger" is the first instalment of Stephen King's Dark Tower series. A young King originally wrote it as a stand-alone novel (it was initially published in instalments in a "men's" magazine). Later publications of the book contain a premise written by King, basically saying that when he originally wrote this book he was young and his writing style could have been better, but stick with it: it's a good story. And I agree.

        Whilst he did make some revisions in later editions, he's kept the same style of writing, which as a reader I found fairly cumbersome and forced. It echoes the writing manner of JRR Tolkien (whom he was trying to emulate when originally writing "The Gunslinger") and whilst that in itself isn't a bad thing, I think it shows that this isn't a style that comes easy to him. The effort put into the writing, whilst admirable, doesn't quite cut it for me.

        I didn't particularly like the way the book is written, however the story itself is great. We follow Roland Deschain as he hunts down the "man in black" through a hostile desert. His ultimate goal however appears to be trying to reach a mysterious "Dark Tower". His sole purpose is to reach the top of the tower.

        This world doesn't appear to be unlike our own, though it has some marked differences (such as lacking our technological advances) and has "moved on". There's a definite Wild West feel to it, which is certainly a different take from the usual Fantasy novels (typically set in a Medieval-type world) and opens up a unique territory, which I'd personally never come across before (and admittedly haven't since).

        Roland makes for a very unlikely protagonist. He is an extremely solitary character, not the kind of guy you'd particularly want to spend any time with in normal circumstances, though he is obviously very sharp, capable to fend for himself and live in the wilderness as he follows the man in black and ultimately attempts to reach the Dark Tower.

        When I began the novel I started to picture Roland as a Clint Eastwood-esque guy, which is peculiar as I later found out that one of the people King used as inspiration for Roland was indeed Eastwood. I think this is no coincidence and a credit to the author to be able to relay this (though indirectly) through his portrayal of the character.

        As I mentioned, I found the book hard to read but I kept going purely because the underlying story was something that I'd never come across before. Simply put, it's a brilliant concept, and that was enough for me to carry on reading the whole book, so on the basis of this alone this book deserves four stars.

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          14.10.2010 17:56
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          One man seeks out The Dark Tower at the centre of reality!

          The first book in Stephen King's Dark Tower series that encompasses all his work and is referenced in the majority of his novels, The Gunslinger is a very different tale from what you might ordinarily expect from Stephen King! Part apocalyptic fantasy, part spaghetti western, part Arthurian legend, the book tells the story of Roland ~ The Last Gunslinger, a modern-day take on the knights of old, who pursues his nemesis, The Man In Black, across a barren desert waste-land on the way to The Dark Tower; the nexus point that holds together all possible worlds and is the centre of all reality.

          There are two versions of this book; the original edition first published mid-way through King's career before he really knew where he was going with the story and a revised edition released around the same time as Book 4: Wizard And Glass that references by then established pieces of Roland's back-story and puts right some of the errors and omissions King made before he had fully scoped and fleshed out important parts of the plot. Hence in the revised edition, we get references to the overall arch enemy, The Crimson King, and mention in passing of events and characters whom would later be greater revealed in the flash-back sequences of Wizard And Glass!

          Of the two, and I hold copies of both editions, the newer version reads more like the Stephen King fans know and love, the earlier version never entirely feeling quite...right and being far from the finished product it was intended to be. Some criticize King for doing here what he had done earlier with epic novel, The Stand, and accuse him of shamelessly cashing in but if you read the introduction, King does present a strong argument of why the new edition was nessecary to fit in better with the rest of the larger tale!

          I really enjoy The Dark Tower books, though there are many fans I know who don't, and even if I wasn't entirely enamoured with the way it all ended, it is still good to go back now and read them all again! This is amongst the better of the novels in the series, the best being book 4: Wizard And Glass, and takes the reader back to basics and establishes essentially what the rest of the series was supposed to be all about (something that got kind of lost in later installments); an impossible quest orchestrated by the last of his kind!

          If you have never read this series from start to finish, then you cannot really call yourself a true Stephen King fan. The Gunslinger may be the first part in a seven-book series (an eighth book, a prequel of sorts, is planned but at the moment still resides only in the planning stages) but more than that it is the orbit around which all King's other books are centred!

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            01.09.2010 12:36
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            A must read for anyone!!

            Before I write this review on the Gunslinger I want to make it known that the first book in the series of seven is probably my least favourite, yet it is still an amazing book.

            Stephen King was only 19 when he wrote the first book in 1985. The final in the series was only completed a few years ago in 2003. The series has taken the majority of his career to complete and is without a doubt the best long series of books on the market and his best personal work.

            The series focuses on Roland, the last gunslinger in a post apocalypse world. He is on a quest to reach the Dark Tower, a mysterious 'tower' which holds together the universe. The tower is falling apart and Roland has taken it upon himself to try to protect it.

            Stephen King starts his uber-novel (a total of seven books with a total of over 4,500 pages!) with the gunslinger. The gunslinger focuses on Roland of Gilead, the last gunslinger. The book follows Roland across the desert in chase of the man in black, a mysterious magical magician. Roland encounters various stagers on his journey, and particularly a young boy named Jake. The chase leads Roland and his young new companion to a series of tunnels which lead through a mountain. They encounter hideous creatures and when they can finally leave Roland has to make an agonising decision.

            Some parts of the book can become slightly confusing but if you stick with it things will start to unfold. The more of the books you read, the more different story lines interlink (King even manages to incorporate himself in the latter books, and his previous work). The series genre is a varied mixture of sci-fi and Westerns. King says his inspiration for the series was Lord of the Rings and the similarities are very clear in some places.

            The Gunslinger is incredibly well written and will defiantly leave the reader wanting more (and there is plenty more to come). I cannot recommend the series of books
            enough.

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              23.08.2010 17:16
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              An intriguing start to the series, I am eager to read on!

              Stephen King is well known as the master on modern horror, but he also branches out and some of his books cover science fiction, suspense thrillers, and fantasy. The Dark Tower series is an epic piece of work, compiled over several decades. This book, The Gunslinger, is the first in the series and was written in sections over a period of 12 years. The book is short in comparison to most of King's work, coming in at just under 250 pages in my paperback copy. There are a further 6 books that follow and continue the saga. I got my copy of this book from a charity shop and it's an older edition. There are many print versions of this book and you can find copies on Amazon marketplace starting from just 1p plus postage + packing.

              Description: "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..."

              If I had to pigeon-hole this book I would call if a fantasy novel. The setting and characters are similar to those we may recognise from other stories and include wizards, heroes and common townspeople. We follow the main character Roland, the last Gunslinger, on his journey towards the Dark Tower. This book serves to provide a setting for the world in which the story takes place, introduce us to Roland and tell a little of his background, and mostly to spark our curiosity and interest in the Dark Tower itself. Roland is a mysterious character that prefers to act rather than speak and is set in his ways. He was brought up in a peaceful land where boys were trained to become Gunslingers, similar to Knights, and would protect the world of light. As Roland himself says, the world has moved on. We are left with a vision of a desolate wasteland that provides little hope for the future.

              King gives away very little information in this book. There are few hard facts about the characters, land, time, or anything really throughout the book. Although this is a fantasy setting there are little snippets that connect with our world as we know it. References to songs in particular, and also the character Jake who Roland meets later in the story. There is an edge of the Wild West to 'The Gunslinger', as Roland crosses a vast desert in search of the Dark Tower. He follows a figure known only as "the man in black" in a desperate struggle to catch up to him and obtain more knowledge about the Tower and how to continue his journey. The man in black is a dangerous, powerful man that has eluded Roland thus far. He has set a series of traps along the way, knowing that Roland will follow and fall into them. This leads to some emotive and violent action sequences, and we begin to see what Roland is really made of. He is determined and dedicated to his end goal and nothing will stand in his way.

              When the Gunslinger seems to be reaching his lowest point, he comes across a boy named Jake. Jake is an unusual character in the book, as he is from our world. He is an ordinary American boy who we can all identify with, and thinks of things such as we do. He plays an important part in Roland's chase for the man in black, and is his companion through the hardest part of his journey.

              As a reader, I tend to stick to horror novels, with fantasy and westerns being my last choice for entertainment. I near enough detest these genres and have found very little in them that inspires my imagination. That said, I am a huge fan of Stephen King and love how he manages to make the un-imaginable, or even mundane, come to life in an accessible way that entertains the mind without stretching it too far. Apart from the length of some of his works I would say that are pretty easy reading, but are colourful enough to keep you interested. His level of detail here is just right - descriptive in a way that allows you to see the places but still add your own interpretation. As ever, the best thing about the book is the characters. Stephen King really seems to know people. He knows how they behave. It is fascinating to watch the twists and turns of the plot, and how the characters build their own paths towards their destinies. Some parts I found predictable, but there were surprises that I hadn't seen coming. There is a minimal amount of gore description, even through the chapters with murders and death involved. There was only one really nasty bit that I had to skim over, but I was expecting it (I have a finely attuned gore-sensor!) so I managed to survive un-disturbed!

              There is a lot left untouched in this book, but it is only the first and I am expecting more of the finer details to be revealed as I work through the rest of the series. Little is told about Roland's quest for the Dark Tower, other than that he is on it. We do not know why he is searching for it, what the Tower is, or what he expects to find when he gets there. We learn about his past but only in brief chapters here and there. He seems to have an odd combination of respect for tradition, detachment from his actions, and a romantic imagination. If you expect all the questions to be answered then you will not enjoy this book. Go into it open-minded and experience it without seeking answers and then you'll be ready to continue your journey toward the Dark Tower with the next instalment, 'The Drawing of the Three'.

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                11.11.2009 17:25
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                A gunslinger, the last of his kind, searches for a dark tower that could save humanity.

                In a world that is a shadow of our own, Roland has managed to survive rebellions, wars, near total destruction of the world itself... he is the last gunslinger, the last of a rare breed of men who were raised to keep the world from changing, to keep order... a symbol of all that was good. In this dark twin to our own world, priests dressed in black do not always stand for good, nor do they bring the peace the surviving population are praying for.

                In this dark world of endless deserts and tumbleweed towns, water is scarce, paper is more valuable than gold, and conscience is a thing that idiots possess. If you want to survive here, you need lots of luck on your side, and a strong stomach capable of eating whatever slimy mutants come your way.

                Roland, whose father was a gunslinger - something akin to royalty - has seen it all... except the Dark Tower. The latter has become an obsession. He has no idea of the who, what, when or why of the Tower, only that he needs to find it, and the only man who can help him find it has been leading him on a merry chase for what appears to be decades.

                Roland has been hunting the man dressed in black for so long he can hardly remember a time when he wasn't - the dark man has always been there, involved in Roland's life in one way or another - his numerous attempts to destroy Roland have failed, and he has succeeded only in turning an innocent and trusting lad into a tough and vengeful gunslinger who will hunt him down and kill him... after he's discovered how to get to the Dark Tower, of course. The dark man, dressed as a priest, is far from benevolent - he is a magician who can just as easily kill you as bring you back to life - but Roland is up to the challenge. He'll do whatever it takes to make it to the Dark Tower.

                The first in Stephen King's 7-book 'The Dark Tower' series, 'The Gunslinger', although first released in 1978, was later revised [in 2003 I think] and a few new scenes were added... also, because so much time had lapsed between the writing of the first book and the writing of the last, Stephen King wanted to make certain, before the final books were published, that everything flowed smoothly - after all, as King stated himself, 'The Dark Tower' was never meant to be, or even written as, seven books... it is first and foremost one single long story... the story of Roland. If 'The Gunslinger' was revised it was because it had been written when King was much younger, and it contained, in relation to the other books in the series, a few errors that hindered the flow of the story. For those who read the original version, it would probably be a good idea to purchase this revised edition if you're planning on continuing or even re-reading Roland's epic adventure.

                Now, down to the nitty-gritty... first I would like to say that although I was, back in the 70's, a big Stephen King fan, the seemingly endless and needless jabbering in his novels slowly took their toll and I turned away from King in order to embrace the work of Dean Koontz and John Saul [same genre, but a lot less gibberish]. Although I did pick up a few of his novels over the years, 'Misery', 'Dolores Claiborne', and a few others here and there, I did not actively 'look out' for Stephen King books.

                A few weeks back, I read a review for 'The Gunslinger'... and was intrigued, but not enough to go out and purchase the entire collection [although I did look into doing so]. Having decided at the time that it was too big an expense, not to mention that 7 Stephen King books would very much be like reading the Webster Dictionary half a dozen times in the very least - although the story would probably be far more interesting, it would nonetheless be extremely time consuming. I decided against purchasing the series, but there was a part of me that still wanted to read the books... regardless of the cost and possible prattle that would no doubt cause me to skip pages.

                When my stepson showed up with his belongings during his last visit, he pointed to a few bags of books and told me to help myself... although we share the same interests, I wasn't in a reading 'mood' at the time because we'd just learned that he was being shipped off to Afghanistan [he's a soldier]. At the end of his week stay, he asked his father and me to go through the bags of books and take what we wanted - whatever we weren't interested in would be put up in the attic with the rest of his belongings until his return. Realising that it had to be done, that his belongings needed to be packed away, I looked in the bags and my mouth dropped... it was the entire 7-book 'The Dark Tower' series. Fate had obviously decided that I would be reading this series, and so I have begun to do so.

                Although I have read numerous King books over the years, I have to admit that 'The Gunslinger' came as a bit of a surprise. I knew Stephen King's intention was to create something along the lines of Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings', but his subsequent fascination with spaghetti westerns set the tone and he was inspired to write something that is so impregnated with the deserted wastelands of the old west that the dust literally wafts off of the pages as you turn them.

                As Roland travels through the desert, his throat parched, his skin dry and leathery, his mind slowly ebbing away as well as his life-force, you get a real 'feel' of what he's going through. The words on the pages swiftly turn to images in your mind, and you can see the story progress as though it were a movie. For once, King's jabbering serves its purpose... but only because it isn't endless. His descriptions, although running on at times, serve to highlight what's going on, and to emphasise 'feelings' and 'emotions'... they also serve to create an incredibly realistic setting regardless that the world of 'The Dark Tower' is not really the one we know.

                'The Gunslinger', the first book in the series, also the shortest in length, sets the pace for what will become an incredible journey for Roland. Although it does touch upon portions of Roland's life, the first book is not a complete 'telling'. Roland's past very much remains a mystery throughout the first book and the second... which I just finished reading and which I will review later. We are given glimpses into his past, and to a certain extent we get to know the man behind the guns, but his nature is changeable, like the scenery, and as varied as the mutants that crawl through the pages of the book. We are never told 'exactly' what happened to Roland's world or how he came to be the 'last' gunslinger, but it will come... you get that feeling, as you're reading, that everything will be explained in time.

                Roland is an intriguing character that is reminiscent of nearly every western movie hero I have seen, from Clint Eastwood in 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly', to Jason Robards in 'How The West Was Won'. The type of mysterious and mean-looking cowboys who slap their hats on their pant legs and cause a miniature dust storm... you know the type... with the rolled cigarettes just hanging at the corners of their mouths as they squint into the distance. Yep... that's what Roland is... he's a gunslinger. He's mean-looking, calm, distant, and incredibly fast with his 6-shooters, but he's also a man capable of great emotions.

                Although the latter paragraph might put off those who hate westerns, don't turn your backs on this series because it isn't actually a western. Gasp, horror... in fact, you'll be hard put to find anything that even resembles a horse in this book. The truth is, it has the look and feel of a western, but Roland's world is actually far more advanced into the future than ours. Roland's world is... our world waiting to happen.

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                  09.10.2009 11:07
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                  A good opening book to a very good series

                  The Gunslinger is book one of the seven-book series known as the Dark Tower series, written by Stephen King.

                  The book, and indeed the series, revolves around a cowboy/nomad type named Roland Deschain who is on a kind of pilgrimage to the Dark Tower, which is basically a huge building that holds the world (and possibly even the universe) together. It is set both in a different world to ours, and the same one. That is to say, it's our world, but it has "moved on". There are many similarities between our present day world and Roland's world, not least a lot of the technology being the same, such as fuel pumps, train tracks etc (although, pretty much anything electronic no longer works) and there being a lot of pop culture references (Hey Jude, the hit for the Beatles is mentioned quite a lot in this book, and also throughout the series).

                  Throughout this book, Roland is chasing "the man in black" across a desert, and as the story goes on you really feel the urgency with which Roland is persuing him. I also think that Stephen King did a good job of describing how difficult Roland's task is on a physical and mental level. You can really believe they've been walking through the desert for a long time just from the way Roland reacts to certain things.

                  I found that it is a great introduction to the character of Roland, with quite a lot of things from his past mentioned, and also a good beginning to the series.

                  The story (both the Gunslinger, and the Dark Tower as a whole) can be a bit slow in places, but it's well worth persevering with it, and you will be wll rewarded when you reach the end.

                  The Dark Tower continues in The Drawing of the Three.

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                    26.09.2009 22:33
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                    5 Star book

                    The Man in Black fled across the desert and the Gunslinger followed.

                    ==== Background info ====

                    The Gunslinger is the first novel in Stephen King's Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger begins the epic tale which follows the Gunslinger, Roland of Gilead in his epic adventure to reach to the Dark Tower and right the wrongs of his alternate universe. This universe has many similarities to our own but is different in its workings.

                    ==== My opinions ====

                    Overall I think this is a very good book, it help sets the scene for the later books and gives you some interesting backgrounds of the characters. The books have just the right amount of action and story-telling to keep you interested. Sometimes there can be a bit of waffle which can make it difficult to stay focussed but as you read further into the series you seem to find out that it is needed and is just one of the difficulties that you have to get through.

                    The main character is one who is very complex, this book shows you an early Roland a man who plays by his own rules and his own set of morals, a man who is quite difficult to like at first as he appears quite a rash man, underneath that there is actually a man that cares but it is quite difficult for him to show that until he meets Jake. There is also something appealing about Roland and I'm not sure what it is, possibly it's just as simple as the fact he is the good guy and lets face it, we all want the good guy to win.

                    One thing to watch out for in this and other books in the series is references to King's other books, now I won't spoil it for you but will leave you with this, Father Callahan.

                    ==== Availability and price ====

                    The book is available from all good book retailers and is quite an old book by now so should be available quite cheaply, you can pick it up off Amazon for example for £5.99 which I think is great value, the set looks rather impressive when you have them all side by side.

                    ISBN : 0340829753
                    Publisher : New English Library

                    ==== Overall ====

                    Overall this book is a must for any fiction / thriller lover, ok the book series is quite length but I think they are justified and this book does a very good job of setting you up for what happens in the rest of the series. Another thing worth mentioning is to look out for the ending of the final book.

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                    17.09.2009 16:18
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                    A fantastic read, setting the scene for an epic series to follow

                    First published in 1982, The Gunslinger is the first novel in the epic "Dark Tower" series by Stephen King.

                    Inspired by stories of the Wild West combined with Tolkein's "Lord of the Rings", the book follows the adventures of Roland Deshain as he chases his nemesis, the enigmatic man in black, across the barren desert wilderness of King's imagination.

                    King is often written off as a shlock-horror writer but that is to overlook his prowess as a story teller and as a builder of characters. This book sets the scene magnificently for the series that is to follow, revealing fragments of the plot fleetingly whilst giving an insight into the nature of Roland, the last Gunslinger of Gilead. The world he creates is vast in scope and remains strange and alien, whilst drawing parallels with our own, making the tale that much more believable.

                    Ultimately this is a book that cannot be read on it's own as it is only the first chapter in a truly epic tale, but it leaves the reader wanting to know more - what is the motivation of this strange, driven character, what further part will Jake Chambers have to play, and who or what is the mysterious Man In Black?

                    The seven novels in the series took King 20 years to write, so be prepared to be in it for the long haul. This is probably both the major strength and the major weakness of the book. Readers looking for a quick read and a satisfactory conclusion may be diasappointed, whilst reader's prepared to immerse themselves in King's strange Universe will be drawn in, and may find themselves reading this book for a second time after the series' unnerving and unexpected conclusion.

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                      03.02.2009 18:55
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                      This is King at his very best!

                      I remember when i first looked at a Stephen King book and this was it. I opened the first page in the middle of my local WH Smiths and started reading the first page just too see if i liked it.
                      Lets just say it took a member of staff to ask if i was going to buy the book when i realised i had read nearly 22 pages!
                      The story is set in a world alot like ours apart from it has a very cowboy feel about it. The main character is Roland a man who is crossing a desert following 'The man in black'.
                      There are alot of things in Rolands world thats a bit like ours and slowly these things start to make you wonder what happened to Rolands world and who is this man in black? And why would he be after him? Each question makes you want to read more and more, and before you no it you will have a thousand more questions. This book draws you in and doesnt let go. Its so hard to put this book down, and when you reach the end you will want to get the next part of the Dark Tower series.
                      Each location, each character is so powerfully written its as if your there.

                      I wont spoil the plot but if you like adventure with a fantasy twist this book will suit you.
                      i enjoyed the adventure so much i didnt want the story to end, but like all stories there has to be a end and I'm so glad i got this book to set me on the road though Rolands adventures.

                      Even if your not a big Stephen King fan i think you will still enjoy this book.

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                      10.01.2009 18:41

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                      Everyone should read these.

                      I first read this book a few months ago, on recommendation from my husband. he read the whole Dark Tower series of seven books and kept saying how brilliant he thought they were. I'm not a fan of Stephen King's horror books, so was reluctant to give it a go. But he kept insisting, and I thought they really must be good for him to rant this much about them. So I gave it a go. Well - what can I say? this is fantastic. Its not like Stephen King at all - its more of a Wild West fantasy. it tells the story of Roland and his quest for the elusive Dark Tower. Throughout the seven books characters come and go along the way - and I guarantee once you start these books you will NOT be able to put them down. For those of you that have read other books of his you will notice the references to these in the Dark Tower books - eg Father Callaghan from Salem's lot makes an appearance.
                      If you like fantasy books, or the Lord of The Rings, or just like reading in general, you MUST read these. They are the best books I have ever read. Nothing I have read since has compared.

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                      20.12.2008 12:37
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                      A very solid introduction to an excellent saga

                      Many authors have embarked on what they see as their ultimate works, usually in the form of a lengthy tale, a saga of epic and memorable proportions. One of the most renowned authors in the literary world, who usually writes in the field of horror, is Stephen King, and for many years he plotted his ultimate works, which we now know as The Dark Tower. Publication of these works was completed in 2004, as the seventh episode was published, but for us, it started in 1982 with the limited edition copy of the first book in the series: The Gunslinger.

                      Upon release of the mass market paperback of The Gunslinger in 1988, King's works started an immediate cult following. The book had experienced a hubbub of interest throughout the middle part of the 80s, but is considered to be a bit of an anti-climactic start of what turns out to be a fantastic series of books. The Gunslinger first introduces us to Roland of Gilead, the gunslinger of the title, and we soon learn of quest to reach the Dark Tower. As part of his overall quest, which is further explained in the later books, Roland is pursuing a character known only as The Man In Black across a desert, ever in the distance, following his trail as he trecks past a Way Station and the sinister town of Tull.

                      It is important to be careful when reading this book, and allow yourself to just accept what is being presented to you. If you start expecting a conclusion and an explanation to the events in this book, then you will most likely be disappointed at the conclusion. It must be noted that the book is the first in a carefully plotted and very long saga, and as a result it must be treated as such.

                      As we follow Roland's path across the desert, in harrowing conditions, excellently explained and detailed by King, we get a true feel of the character before us: a determined man, the last gunslinger. To give us a picture of the man, he is likely a cross between Clint Eastwood's The Man With No Name, and Viggo Mortenson's portrayal of Tolkien's Aragorn. And indeed, it is important to note where King's inspiration for writing the series comes from. A foreword in the more recent updated version of The Gunslinger explains how a young Stephen King was so enamoured with Tolkien's Middle Earth saga in The Lord of the Rings, that he wanted to write his signature saga almost immediately. The patient side of him held back for a number of years, waiting for maturity and a clear mind from Tolkien before doing so.

                      The result seems to project patience beyond belief, giving us a slow and careful introduction to Roland's quest, to reach the far off Dark Tower. As yet, we are unsure as to the significance of the Dark Tower, and the first in his series of seven books merely deals with an isolated chapter of Roland's quest, and the importance of him catching up with The Man In Black.

                      While this can be incredibly frustrating and confusing, what it does do is give King and us as readers a very good chance to explore the character of the last gunslinger, Roland himself. Gunslinging is more of an art, something that we may find close to the accuracy experienced in such lavish cinematic productions such as 'The Matrix', or more recently, 'Wanted', to show just how skilled gunslinging is: every bullet hits the mark exactly as is intended.

                      Roland's character is a very determined one, and the difference between him and the Man In Black is immense, with Roland's arduous trecking in completely adverse conditions in complete contrast to the mocking and apparent ease of travel of his adversary. It is almost a hopeless quest for Roland to catch his target to learn more about the path he must take to get to the Dark Tower, but just when hopes are nearly lost, along comes another character, surprisingly in the form of the young 11 year old boy, Jake, whose combination of innocence and shrewdness appears inspiring to Roland, who takes the boy as a travelling companion, sure in the knowledge that he is somehow important to the quest.

                      Exploring this element any further in this review would no doubt spoil it somewhat: safe to say that Jake does play a part in this and further episodes in the saga, and it appears that everything King brings into the story has relevance and importance that we will only know when the time comes.

                      In terms of writing style, I found the book quite arduous and confusing. Due to the descriptive nature of the book, it was slow going for me. The story itself is surprisingly short, a mere 200 pages or so, although the copy I have is the more recent revised edition and contains nearly 300 pages of entire text, inlcuding the first couplr of chapters of episode two of the saga, entitled The Drawing of the Three. 200 pages was enough for me: any longer and this intrinsic and curious introductionary chapter would have been more disappointing. As it is, it is confusing enough, but as I have already mentioned, it is important to regard it as the first part of a long story as opposed to expecting some form of closure and a definitive ending.

                      King has created a world seemingly in the midst of fantasy and reality. Despite references to the Beatles' 'Hey Jude' and consistent passages which relate to the world as we know it, there is no doubt that Roland is travelling through a world steeped in fantasy, and this is the magical side of the book that King lets us see. The combination of fantasy and reality adds to the interest, and made me want to read on to the second book, and ultimately the end, to pursue Roland's quest to the end, and although I found it a hard read at times, I was amazingly curious and determined to further my understanding of the entire saga. I had a certain element of confusion as Roland himself was unsure of why he was on this quest! He is seeking the Dark Tower, which will provide ultimately the answers to the questions he needs answering. The confusion comes in that Roland doesn't even know the questions yet!

                      While King's motivation for this book clearly comes from The Lord of the Rings, the main character and his quest comes from a Robert Browning poem, where the poet describes Roland and his approach to the Dark Tower. It is enticing enough, that an author more renowned for his horror writing than anything else, should take a poem and his love for a classical fantasy series and create his own twisted fantasy saga: a quest for one man that he cannot do alone, and is intoxicating to read.

                      Fans of Stephen King's work must expect something a little different in subject matter, but the writing style is very much King's. The length of the book may be short, but the length of the entire story, all seven excerpts, will not surprise: the author is known for writing long books. I highly recommend taking the time to read this book and to continue with the saga if you feel it is just a disappointment. It is very important to keep in mind that The Gunslinger is an introduction and the first part of a quest, and that is how we as readers must regard it: a quest to read to the end, which I am sure will be something special.

                      The seven books in the series are:

                      The Gunslinger
                      The Drawing of the Three
                      The Wastelands
                      Wizard and Glass
                      Wolves of the Calla
                      Song of Susannah
                      The Dark Tower

                      There is also a short story attached to the series, called Everything's Eventual: The Sisters of Eluria, which is set before the adventures of the Dark Tower and features Roland in a separate quest.

                      The Gunslinger is available in many different versions. I recommend the more current version, released in 2003, which features an introduction from the author, and also has the first couple of chapters of the second book at the end. Either way, I recommend this book. It is well worth the read, but be patient, and keep reading the saga.

                      The Gunslinger currently retails at £7.99, as do the other books in the series. I managed to pick up my copy for much cheaper in a charity shop, and amazon.co.uk currently have the book priced at £4.99.

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                        19.10.2008 15:22

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                        You have to read this book, just so you can enjoy the rest of this amazing series

                        The first book in what must be one of the longest series ever written, the Dark Tower. It is also one of the best series ever written.

                        It's just such a damn shame that is starts off on this rather mediocre story. King himself has said he is not very happy with the story and has released an updated version which is better, but still not nearly as good as the later books in the series.

                        So before I go any further, for anyone who has already read this book and was disappointed PLEASE DON'T GIVE UP, the rest of the series is pure, pure gold, and you are missing the chance of a lifetime if you don't read it.

                        The story is simple. The Gunslinger is chasing a man across the desert, that's it realy.

                        It is not a great book, it is a King book, so it is not bad, well written etc. But the important thing is to remember it is part of a series, just read through this short book, so you understand what is going on, and then get ready for the magic that begins in book 2.

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