This book follows Roland of Gilead, the gunslinger of the title. As the book opens, he is chasing a mysterious figure known as the man in black (it’s not Johnny Cash, unfortunately). As the book tracks Roland’s journey so far, bits of his background are revealed, as well as more about the world which he inhabits. It is a world which is similar to earth in many ways, but there are some glaring differences. Indeed, there is something other-wordly and mystical about it, almost as though it is a parallel universe. As for Roland’s background, we learn that he was brought up in the ruling classes of his world, but that that world has all but disappeared now. Roland’s journey to track the man in black will lead him to his ultimate destination, The Dark Tower…
This book is the first in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and while I quite enjoyed it, I was left with an overall feeling of confusion, and that the book raised more questions than it answered. I can accept that in one way, as presumably any questions will be answered in subsequent books in the series. I quite like the dystopian feel of the book, but my main problem with it is that I never felt that the characters were particularly well drawn. I got a sense of Roland’s character, but he remained resolutely distant – it was impossible to engage with the character on any level.
Also, the glimpses of Roland’s childhood still didn’t really explain how he had come to be in the position he was in – of the last gunslinger. Again, I assume that this will be revealed in a subsequent book.
The writing certainly flowed easily and I found myself able to read huge chunks of the book at a time. I quite enjoyed the almost dreamy like quality of the writing, and while I was left a bit non-plussed when I finished the book, my attention was caught enough to read at least the next book. However, I would not recommend this to someone wanting to read Stephen King for the first time – I don’t think the book is anywhere near as good as say, The Green Mile. It’s worth bearing in mind however, that King was just 19 years old when he started writing The Gunslinger, and he himself has said that it is some of his worst work. Give it a try if you like dystopian fiction – it’s not for everyone, but you just might like it!
(Author’s website can be found here.)