The Dark Tower by Stephen King
Originally Published: 1982
The Gunslinger by Stephen King is the 1st in the Dark Tower Series, an epic tale of good vs evil. Part western, part fantasy, part science fiction, it is hard to classify.
“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” And so begins the tale of our hero Roland, whose search for the Dark Tower will take him to many worlds. It will show him love and loss, friendship, hardship, hatred, fear, good and evil. It will test him. Sometimes he will fail.
In this opening book, we are introduced to Roland of Gilead, the last gunslinger, who lives in a world that has “moved on”. It is a world closely related to ours, with common elements such as the song “Hey Jude”, but in which things like gas pumps are worshiped. But the world he lives in is dying. And if the Dark Tower falls, all worlds fall. So he must reach and save the Dark Tower. This is his quest.
Roland’s backstory is told through flashbacks and conversations he has with people he meets on his journey, like farmer Brown and his crow Zoltan. Farther along, he meets a boy named Jake Chambers at a waystation. Jake has died in our world, when pushed in front of a car. He may not survive this world either.
We learn of Roland’s early gunslinger training by Cort, of his best friends Cuthbert and Alain, his parents Steven and Gabrielle, who had an affair with Marten.
Roland eventually catches up with the Man in Black (he is known by many names), who tells his future with a deck of tarot cards, and when he cannot convince Roland to give up his quest for the Dark Tower, he puts him to sleep. When Roland wakes up there is a skeleton bedside him, who he decides is the Man in Black.
This book was not the easiest read. The first time I read it (as a teenager), I wasn’t sure what to think, as it was not King’s usual style (Carrie, The Shining…). It seemed…boring. But as a King fanatic, I stuck with it, and re-read it when the next one came out, and again and again. Each time it gets better!
Favorite Quotes from The Gunslinger:
“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”
“The hawk does not fear you, boy, and the hawk never will. The hawk is God’s gunslinger.”
“Go then, there are other worlds than these.”