Tuesday, September 19, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Gunslinger (Book 1 of the Dark Tower) by Stephen King

An evocative literary mystical journey…

But one that doesn’t really go anywhere. Book one of the Dark Tower sets the stage, introduces the character, his protagonist, and asks a lot of questions.

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Dark Fantasy | Re-Published: January 2016 | Scribner | 340 pages

The Gunslinger is a story of a man on a journey, one he has been at for countless years; pursuit of a man in black, a man he knows nothing about, but suspects much. This man must answer for crimes, but those are oft unclear. The Gunslinger will travel to the ends of the earth, though, and stop at nothing to reach his journey’s end.

While King fashions an interesting world that is part nuclear, far-flung dystopia, part wild western showdown with a tall-walking hero, there is little to connect with as the Gunslinger’s journey is one of grave solitude. This is a story of remembrance, of old haunted (sometimes tormenting) memories. If anything is achieved here it is in laying a groundwork, a solid character we can sympathize with even if we do not wholly understand.

Much remained a question, left me wondering if what I read was “real”, some figment of a dying man’s last breaths, a conjuring by the mysterious sorcerer, or deeply buried allegory that never came back up for air.

The Gunslinger is a lonely man and the book is a lonely book. There was little grounding here, the side characters were superfluous, there to serve a means, and time seemed to mean nothing in this universe we are still coming to grips with.

I would have liked to have had more connection with the characters, to understand more of the Gunslinger’s journey, and when it started, to know what grave offense the man in black committed, the list goes on…

These and many more are questions brought up and never answered. There are allusions, and the ending brought a level of satisfaction, then twisted right back upon itself to make you question the reality created.

And why would the Gunslinger linger so long in that old western town while the outlaw continued on the run; and what about the child? The child! I should stop here.

It all seemed a literary experiment to blend and mash up your brain, leaving me unsure if the story would ever go anywhere in particular, or at least anywhere particularly interesting. I’d rather it had been more literal and less literary. That said, the ending brought light to some questions, ramped up the interest, but then trod upon my expectations with one last twist.

Will this amount to something in Book 2? I hope so. As a standalone story I rate this as 3 spent lead slugs (out of 5). Strangely appealing, though it is in desperate need of some answers to draw out my interest.

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