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The Gunslinger (NC-17)

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three stars

Author: Stephen King

Publisher: Scribner

Publishing Date: June 24, 2003

Series: The Dark Tower, Volume 1

ISBN: 978-1-5011-4351-9

“New knowledge leads always to yet more awesome mysteries.” 

I first decided I wanted to read this novel because I had seen the movie “The Dark Tower” and could not wait for the sequel to release. Little did I know that The Gunslinger, book one in the Dark Tower series is NOTHING like the movie. Thanks to a bit of research and friends who have read the whole series, I found out that this was done on purpose, as the movie is a continuing of the book series.

Pros & Cons

I think one of the things that I was most impressed by in this book was King’s ability to keep my interest during this long, drawn-out desert journey with little human contact. Though the book was slow paced it wasn’t agonizingly slow, which allowed me to keep pressing through. I actually didn’t find myself struggling with turning the pages until after I was about 200 pages into the 252-page book. The end was not super climactic and resulted in a struggle to keep interest.

In addition to the pacing, I personally found that some of the dialogue was cryptic and referenced things that I didn’t always catch initially. For example, at one point there is a reference to masturbation, and yet the way it is referenced I had a “wait, is this saying what I think it is saying,” moment. Some of the struggles I faced could be due in part to my age, and in part to the fact that I’ve grown quite accustomed to the Young Adult genre, which is usually much more straightforward.

One thing that I really appreciated about this book was King’s use of accurate biblical references, and even going as far as to capitalize the “H” in Him when referring to God. Though this may seem small, as a person of faith, I appreciate the small signs of respect. I also was thankful that King was able to create a classy literary fade-to-black effect during the more sexual scenes in the book. Of course, he has a reputation to uphold, however, so he never shied away from the bloody details of grittier scenes.

I find it difficult to discuss pros and cons to this book as I feel there wasn’t much of either. The novel isn’t riddled with plot holes and didn’t leave me irrevocably confused. That being said, it also neglected to leave me with the desperation of immediately needing to read the next volume in the series, and I didn’t feel greatly moved by the story. In fact, *spoiler* I was left unmoved during the death of a character.

Characters

In this novel, our protagonist is Roland, better known as The Gunslinger. Roland isn’t very religious, as he’s more of an “ordinary pilgrim.” He is on the journey of tracking the Man in Black, which is potentially costing him his soul. We find that his morals decrease as his risktaking increases throughout the plot. He’s very mysterious throughout most of the book, and we mostly get to know him as the “dutiful, closed-off, soldier.” When he finally does begin to open up it just reveals an ungodly amount of guilt and self-loathing, though he held a secret close to his heart: he was a hopeless romantic. I will say, though, that once Jake comes into the picture Roland’s character takes a huge shift towards paternal. He’s very fatherly towards Jake which definitely gave him a softer side.

Our antagonist would be the Man in Black, known as MIB for the rest of this review. The MIB really reminded me of a Trickster, and not the sit-on-a-whoopee-cushion kind. He reminded me of the mythological gods kind of Trickster – evil and set on tormenting people for his own pleasure. The MIB also displays a lot of character traits of the “anti-christ” in his language and behavior, as he gives off a false sense of safety by allowing people to believe he’s a pastor of some kind. 

Jake, who initially starts as a supporting character develops into a main piece of the puzzle. He starts off very needy, and timid, but he quickly develops into a little soldier of his own. Having experienced some trauma at the hands of the MIB, Jake is alert and dedicated to following Roland during his tracking of the MIB. Other than being very attentive, and developing in his survival skills, I don’t feel that Jake developed much more. He continued to show whiny child-like behavior all the way unto the end – but what can you expect from an eleven-year-old?

Conclusion

I rated this novel NC-17 because it is most definitely not meant for children. As the story encounters prostitution, drugs, death, and rape, I do not feel anyone under the age of 17 should read this novel. The story as a whole is centered around some kind of holy war between good and evil, but it also has deeper undertones as it embraces some religious and philosophical ideologies. Personally, I wasn’t greatly impressed by this novel, but I am interested to see what happens in the next installment.

Quotes 

“You will not see what you do not look for, maggot. Open the gobs the gods gave ya, will ya not?”

“They’ve gone to the land of Nineteen. Whatever is there.”

“Beware the man who fakes a limp.”

 

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