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Roland of Gilead
The Dark Tower: Gunslinger Bk. 1 - Stephen King
Member Name: dawnymarie
The Dark Tower: Gunslinger Bk. 1 - Stephen King
Date: 31/07/12, updated on 15/11/12 (98 review reads)
Advantages: A page turning beginning to The Dark Tower series
Why read this one?
I had my appetite for King's offerings whetted when I read Misery. Following that I read The Green Mile and learned lots from On Writing. I was aware that many books were still available for me to read and was opting for Carrie until I read a review that convinced me that The Gunslinger was the way to go. I understood that this Dark Tower series contained many books but my curiosity won over and I committed myself to the journey. The cover of the book looks mysterious and dark, the blurb on the back confirmed my decision - I was ready to begin.
This book is the revised and expanded version which includes approximately 35 more pages than the original. This needed to be done in order to tie everything in with the later books. King explains himself in a new introduction and forward.
In an apocalyptic world Roland of Gilead - the last gunslinger - begins his lone journey across arid desert land in search of The Dark Tower. He follows the Man in Black and when he comes face to face with him he knows not what he will do - he believes that he will kill him as that is what feels right, what he deserves. In deserted towns the Man in Black has enchanted people and set traps/tests for Roland - death traps which he will do well to survive. Roland will meet Alice and find comfort for some time before the urge to carry on takes him away. With little food and water he must travel with his mule across an expanse of hostile desert as he follows the trail left by The Man in Black. A boy named Jake, who is from New York, develops a friendship with Roland - both are aware of the dangers this may entail but it is the best option in this baron and mutated world - they take their chances and make progress through terrifying terrain that tests all of their senses and bravery. Has Roland got what it takes - can he make the decision that is needed in order to face the mysterious Man in Black ... and if he has what does all this mean?
Step forward Roland of Gilead...
First off, my attraction to this series was the concept and inspiration that brought those words into print. Inspired by Lord of the Rings when he was young, Stephen King knew that one day he wanted to write along those lines - when at a cinema watching The Good, the Bad and the Ugly it all clicked into place. The Dark Tower is a mix of the spaghetti western featuring Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef with a twist that is drawn from King's love of the Lord of the Rings books. I like both these genres and was excited by a story that had a mix of both, though didn't really know what to expect.
I thought the book may be a little slow paced due to the need for describing the area and environment but this was not so. King wrote this when he was much younger but even so he manages to stick to the story without going off on a tangent and getting carried away with description - it is all on a 'need to know' basis and that is what I like about his writing.
I could easily imagine the isolated, arid vastness of the desert land because King gave me some information about it and also because I have seen spaghetti westerns and remember the terrain well. Dusty and dry is not hard to imagine so it needs little dwelling upon with the pen. I soon get a feel for this abandoned and hostile new world and realise that Roland has no idea of the technology that used to be.
I get a good idea of Roland's appearance and traits as the prose develops and from interactions with others, that he meets along the way, I come to the conclusion that Roland is a good man. He knows wrong from right - even if he has to make a decision that seems wrong he knows that it is the only choice he has and therefore has the courage to make it the right decision. He has a strong mind and can avoid ruminating, most of the time, which is an important quality to see him through this quest.
Roland is the hero in this prose; he has to be as there aren't many to choose from - there are not many folk left in the New World. Even though much time is spent alone or in his thoughts I feel like I know a lot about him - enough to like him and care about him. Enough to buy the next book and continue his journey.
During his struggle across the desert he will meet with lone survivors who are managing to exist on corn and water with a few beans thrown in - this world is harsh and believable in the circumstances. From the heat of the sun and its impact on a dehydrated body to what it is like to struggle through unknown territory in complete darkness - King had me in no doubt as to what it would be like, his writing is well crafted - he can tell you a lot in a few words.
I liked the fact that King goes back to Roland's childhood and what life was like for the young apprentice gunslinger before he came of age - I like that I got to discover exactly how he did come of age- in all its glory. This enables some real meat to be put on the bones of this protagonist and I see what he is made off. I admire him. I like him, but I want to know so much more about him and this is what King is good at - he gives you plenty to be going on with but you want more.
Other characters are entwined in this captivating prose and include the elusive and mysterious Man in Black - how genius of King to begin the very first sentence with Roland following the Man in Black. I was hooked immediately as I wanted to know who this man was and why he wore all black, was he evil or holy? Why did he need to catch up with him? Was he to kill him? This character oozes mystery and kept me turning those pages. For me he felt like danger and the closer Roland got to him the more fearful I became of what may prevail.
Alice and Jake are two characters that interact with Roland on separate occasions. I liked them both and empathised with them too. Both had interesting backgrounds that I wanted to know about and provoked thought. Jake was the one who had me guessing the most though, he was from New York and this was fascinating as he didn't know how he had arrived at his current destination - alone? His memories were fading and Roland was doubtful as to the validity of the young boy's memories - he thought that he was dreaming them or inventing them.
When young Jake accompanies Roland on his quest they have an experience that is rather magical in the hills - grass and foliage are now described - this section of the book brought to mind Conan the Barbarian, this was a good thing as I like that movie too. This was another dimension to the prose and as well as intriguing me it fascinated me. In one book I could not believe how diverse and interesting the themes were, not to mention plot. And all the while King manages to stick to telling the story which is impressive as he could have been tempted so many times to put more into the description. Not necessary as my imagination works wonders with what he has given me.
I like that the book is sectioned and has chapters for each section, this made sense and worked well. The book is quite a quick read at 238 pages but very satisfying and even though it is part of a series I felt that what needed to be tied up in this book was, though I cannot wait to find out what Roland will encounter in the next Dark Tower offering -' The drawing of the three'.
I was not able to source it from stores such as Waterstones without ordering so Amazon or the libraries are a good option.
Bought mine of Amazon Marketplace for less.
Yes. I could not put the book down. If the premise appeals to you then I would say why not begin your adventure with Roland and experience Kings wonderfully crafted prose. I was sold when I discovered Kings inspiration to write this series - I love the Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns and Lord of the rings so I was on to a winner here. I appreciate an author who sticks to the story and this is one of Kings qualities. Description of the apocalyptic, western style, environment leaves you with little doubt of dry and hostile land - with appropriate detail and then you get to use your imagination. I was intrigued by the first sentence which introduced the Man in Black and had me guessing what that was all about. Roland of Gilead (the last gunslinger) is now within my heart - I care about him and like him - he has goodness within him whilst being capable of killing. He is tenacious and makes the best decisions he can. It was good to have Alice and Jake in the story as they were both endearing in their own ways and also helped to show another side to the gunslinger. I didn't know what to expect from this book but I like Stephen King so I went ahead and gave it a go - I am impressed and eager to carry on with the next book.
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Summary: Step forward Roland of Gilead...