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I decided to read this book after it was recommended to me by my boyfriend. The front cover intrigued me and I wandered what the dark tower was - this question is one that the characters also strive to answer throughout The Gunslinger series. This is the first book in quite a large series. From the first chapter this book captured my imagination and lead me as well as the characters on a journey to find the tower. Along the way there are many downfalls and blessings and I felt each one as strongly as the characters within this book. The Gunslinger is written in true Stephen King form and from reading this first book in the series I am sure you will be hooked. A word of warning though - this is a long series and may not be suitable for someone looking for a one off book or something to read on holiday. A seasoned reader, however, will love this book - especially if already a fan of Stephen King.
The way to capture the mind of the reader is to leave them asking questions - and this is certainly achieved in Stephen King's: The Gunslinger.
By the end of this introductory narrative, more questions were proposed than they were answered, which shrouded even the humble beginnings of this tale in mystery and suspense - incidentally, a feeling maintained through the rest of the series, and even after the finale.
Undoubtedly the master of horror, King is able to more freely and eloquently craft his story when there is no sense of impending doom, and time is not of the essence. I found myself lost in the landscapes, and the intricate contextual preludes, which served as fine support for the relationships to be formed later, and as a perfect way to elucidate Roland, in an environment which contained no means to display his expertise otherwise.
As soon as I'd finished this book, I was in to town to buy the next!
I have been a Stephen king fan since nineteen seventy-eight; so basically, thirty-four years. Just sitting back and thinking that makes me think 'My God, where has all that time gone?' And before anyone asks, yes I'm 45 in October.
The story of my reading of the Dark Tower books, of which there are seven in the original series, is an adventure in itself and one which I will share with you now before I move on to review the first volume.
I have read over fifty King novels and have signed books in my collection. There are many books that I love and many epic tales, such as 'The Stand' and 'It' that will forever be a testament to King's imagination and prowess as a story teller. However, for me, The Dark tower series must go down as one of the best fantasy, horror crossover tales ever told. Tolkien may have created one of the best, if not the best, imaginary world in 'Middle Earth' but believe me Stephen King's 'Mid-World' runs it a close second.
I think even Tolkien would've doffed his cap to King for the sheer scope and diversity that us readers are privileged to witness when reading these books.
I remember picking up a copy of 'The Gunslinger' (book One of The Dark Tower series) in nineteen eighty-two when I was fifteen years old. I won't go into detail about the book here but will save that for the review proper. I found it captivating and different; something new that to me at the time had not been done before.
Needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed the book and could not wait to get my hands on the second volume. I waited and I waited and I waited; several tumbleweeds did there windswept boogie past my much looked upon feet. Five years would pass and then at last in nineteen eighty-seven I heard the announcement that volume two Entitled 'The Drawing of the Three' was about to hit the shops. I pre-ordered a copy from Andromeda bookstore in Birmingham. But wait, I thought, I must read the first volume again as a refresher. So I sat and reread volume one and finished it the night before I went to pick up my new copy of volume two (oh the joyous wonder of the world of fiction). I would not be disappointed as volume two was three times the weight in wordage as the first offering. I found it captivating and enthralling and once again I was away on another plane in the land of Mid-world. The only drawback was the damn four year wait for volume three 'The Wastelands'. Once again when the time came, I felt I needed a refresher, so I reread volume one again and then volume two. Volume three was an even thicker tome than the other two so I would forgive King eventually; that was until the six year gap to volume four. Six years Stephen! What are you trying to do to me man, was the cry from my bedroom with a scowl at the first three volumes sat on my bookcase.
So, nineteen ninety-seven and volume four 'Wizard and Glass' came out and yes, you guessed it, I reread the other three first. Fifteen years between book one and two is a long time and to be honest it only makes the story epic, in the true sense of the word. Now, volume five would be another six years but in no way can I hold this against King as he almost lost his life and in the process would make a decision that would appease every Dark Tower fan to their hearts content. Stephen King was out walking one day when he was hit by a truck. He was hospitalised for months and he was so ill he almost lost his life. He made a decision that he would not or could not write again and his millions of fans would mourn the death of the great writer but be grateful and happy that the great man had survived. While lying in his bed he got to thinking about Roland of Gilead (The Gunslinger) and of the torture he had put himself and the fans through by not finishing the story. It was King's own curiosity about how he would end this story and of whether Roland would find the Dark Tower or whether one of his ka-tet (group) would find it instead, raised his writing muscle from the jaws of literary death and into a new found child-like enthusiasm to finish the tale. That was fantastic for King fans but what would be even more stupendous would be the fact that not only would he write volume five in Two Thousand and Three but he would write volumes six and the final volume seven in Two Thousand and Four. So having had four books in twenty-one years, King fans, myself included, and were now treated to three books in just over a year! Volume Five 'Wolves of the Calla' would be the first, followed by volume six 'A Song of Susannah' and finally, volume seven 'The Dark Tower'.
Of course, before I read volume five I reread the first four volumes, so now I had read volume one, The Gunslinger, five times. Now my story doesn't end there. In two thousand and four I didn't read the last two volumes because of work commitments and then in two thousand and six I moved from the UK to Holland. It would be two thousand and eleven before I picked up volume six and yes I reread the whole series again; so book one for a sixth time. So volume six was great but I was forty-four last October and my eyes are deteriorating, so I started wearing reading glasses. I was given The Dark Tower volume seven, which is called The Dark Tower as a present in paperback form having left the hardback in the UK. The print was so small that I had to give up after one hundred and sixty seven pages. I know this as it irks me something rotten.
So here we are in two thousand and twelve and my new glasses are ordered and I'll receive them in two weeks. I will restart the Dark Tower volume seven and finally finish a story that has almost spanned my life time thus far. I am a lover of books but am toying with the idea of a Kindle Touch for the practicality. I will always think books are better but a standard English paper back over here is fourteen euros and a hardback anywhere between twenty-two and twenty -six euros, which is horrendous, so having a Kindle makes sense as I can get e-books for nothing and won't have to carry loads on books on holiday with me. Anyway, that's another story; let's talk about volume one 'The Gunslinger'.
'The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed'The opening line to the first book in The Dark Tower series is one that has stayed with me for a long time as I constantly came back to reread the first volume over the years.
Roland of Gilead is the last of an order of gunslingers that derived from a great line of men that started with Arthur Eld. Arthur Eld is revered by gunslingers just like King Arthur in the real world. We learn a little of Roland's childhood and his coming of age as a gunslinger. The western world that Roland and is gunslinger friends live in is a lot like the western world that we know of where cowboys and Indians coexist. The difference being that Mid-world is also a magical world and a lot more advanced in technology than the great western plains that cowboy fans are familiar with. It was in fact a lot more advanced than the world that we live in today but now the world has moved on and things have been forgotten and unlearned. As mid-world is torn asunder and cities fall, Roland finds out that he has to find the Dark Tower. It is fabled to be the centre of Mid-world and control all universes. If Roland is to save Mid-world he must reach the tower at all costs. He knows not what he must do when he arrives there but feels sure in his gut that it will be revealed to him in some way when he does.
In this opening novel of the series we don't really know that much about Roland's present circumstances, such as how old he is or how long he has been pursuing the mysterious man in black. We do find out more as the novel moves forward and have more answers at the end; although there are more questions.
Roland meets a young boy by the name of 'Jake' who he is sure he knows already. They build up a good relationship and then Roland has an excruciating choice to make when he has to decide whether to keep on after the tower and sacrifice the boy or stay and save him from certain death.
Will Roland finally catch up with the man in black and just who is he and what answers does he have?
The book was released in nineteen eighty-two.
I love this book and the series even more. It doesn't end with the seven books either as eight years later in two thousand and twelve, King has penned another Dark Tower book called 'The Wind Through the Keyhole', which is a story that slots in between volume four and five. King has also been rumoured as saying that the seven or now eight books are only a small part of and uber novel.
There are also comic versions available and each set of comics is available in a hardback version in graphic novel form.
A woman named Robin Furth has also penned a couple of books called 'Stephen King's The Dark Tower a concordance, volumes one and two. Each one has been endorsed by King himself and they are a must for all Dark Tower fans. They act as a reference for everything that Mid-world contains and tell stories of all the characters involved in the series, of which there are many.
A lot of the characters in the Dark Tower books are from other King novels and a lot of them tie up loose ends from other books rather nicely.
It is the ultimate fantasy series; with bits of Science fiction, fantasy and horror delightfully mixed in by one of the best imaginations there has ever been.
What I would say to anyone thinking of reading them is give the first book a chance. It is a little slow at times and has to build a back story of huge content. When you get into the second book you will be glad you continued and then it is a case of not being able to read the rest because they are just so good.
Once the first three books were in print a special run of them was produced with art work by Bernie Wrightson. They are superb and a great part of my collection.
Wrightson was a horror comic illustrator from the sixties and seventies. He worked on such titles as 'House of Secrets', 'House of Mystery' and 'The Swamp Thing' series, some of which I had in my early collection of comics myself.
I would highly recommend this book and the series, even if you're not a King fan. If you are a King fan and haven't read them, then you simply must; not doing so would be sacrilegious.
King has really outdone himself with this series and the different places he has created in his books all come together full circle. It is not just his life's work but his life. King has been on his own journey, in search of his own tower and I think he can rest a little easier now knowing that his story has been told and so has Roland's.
The Dark Tower book 1 is a great introduction to a series which changes and challenges the reader with each passing book. Essentially a collection of short stories, which weave together to create the fabric of this world the eponymous gunslinger inhabits, The Dark Tower Book 1 is able to ease us into this strange mix of science fiction and western whilst also giving us our first insights into the strange and dazzling character of Roland Deschane and his quest for the Dark Tower. Weaving in elements of sci-fi, fantasy, western, horror and historical epic the Dark Tower Volume is 1 is a novel that is a pleasure to read because of the strong images it creates in your mind. Much like the show it greatly influenced, Lost, it introduces us to a battle of good and evil which is only partly addressed here but will become evident by the stories conclusion. Rich, grandiose and thoroughly entertaining King's first foray into the world of the Dark Tower is definitely worth reading.
Book Series: The Dark Tower