After seeing the atrocious adaptation that was the film, I decided I should visit the source material to see if I might actually enjoy the story. I have minimal Stephen King interaction (outside of Cujo and Misery—both read for a Books into Movies book group) so I don’t have too many pre-conceived notions about him as an author.
However, now I’ve processed the book I’m torn. There were parts of this I enjoyed but knowing what’s coming and knowing how many books there are left in the cycle I’m not sure I’ll be able to stick with it. A large part of this had to do with it starting in medias res (Wikipedia link), but not like a bit, but like what felt near the end. Maybe it’s not and I’ll be surprised, but it really feels pretty late in the story.
I think what I enjoyed the most was the interactions between the characters. Whenever there was dialogue or the characters interacted with each other I found it engaging and worth the read. Most of the time outside of that it confused me about what’s happening, who was whom and where exactly in the story I was. Where in the story I was, was the bigger problem because at one point I was in a flashback in a flashback and then the next chapter flashed back to a different time period. This isn’t a problem for a writer, but when you’re writing an epic like this it definitely causes more issues than I would prefer being introduced to a story.
If I’m honest the real reason I will stick around for the rest of the books (or at least the original trilogy) is to find out how we got to the post-apocalyptic world in which this takes place. There was this,
“That’s right. My land had a Biblical name—New Canaan, it was called.” (188)
and I still have no idea what this refers to. I mean sure the Bible, but really? Is this saying the Biblical world is a real place and then our world and then the books current world. I sort of think that’s the case based on the film and the world jumping, but who the hell knows.
All of this being said, King is a story-teller. He drops just enough hints (and apparently went back to re-write this) to keep the reader intrigued while simultaneously relating the human experience of his characters to make them relatable even in such an out-of-the-usual place as this.
“It was strange how some of childhood’s words and ways fell at the wayside and were left behind, while others clamped tight and rode for life, growing the heavier to carry as time passed.” (8)
“The boy is your gate to the man in black. The man in black is your gate to the three. The three are your way to the Dark Tower.” (179)
Now, I’m not sure what the second one means, but I do know the next book in the series is called The Drawing of the Three. Maybe that connects to this prophecy. Who knows—the next book has three doors on the cover.
Recommendation: Honestly, I don’t know. King mentions the entire series is really just one book and that this is just the opening chapters of the “series/book.” It’s hard to judge a book based on this and if I’m honest it was a little too slow-moving to keep me engaged if the series was a single volume. The ending, however, was just enough of a cliff(ish) hanger that I do want to know what’s next.
Opening Line: “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”
Closing Line: “The gunslinger waited for the time of the drawing and dreamed his long dreams of the Dark Tower, to which he would someday come at dusk and approach, winding his horn, to do some unimaginable final battle.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from The Gunslinger
“At nineteen, it seems to me, one has a right to be arrogant; time has usually not begun its stealthy and rotten subtractions.” (Loc. 39, Introduction)
“He was a romantic, he knew it, and he guarded the knowledge jealously. It was a secret he had shared with only a few over the years.” (89)
“He is too young to have learned to hate himself yet, but that seed is already there; given time, it will grow, and bear bitter fruit.” (111)
“He fled the light and the knowledge the light implied, and so came back to himself. Even so do the rest of us; even so the best of us.” (282)
“Few if any seemed to have grasped the truest principle of reality: new knowledge leads always to yet more awesome mysteries. Greater physiological knowledge of the brain makes the existence of the soul less possible yet more probable by the nature of the search.” (287)
“Everything in the universe denies nothing; to suggest an ending is the one absurdity.” (288)