Book Review: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, #1)The Gunslinger by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Read (again) for the Apocalypse Now! Reading Challenge, the Author! Author! Reading Challenge, and the Need to Reread Challenge.

I fell in love with this series many years ago, and this is my third read of it (don’t remember when the second one was, which is why I didn’t put it in the info). I think this book is probably the most poetic and beautiful of King’s work. This was the one where I realized he wasn’t just a horror writer, and that he fully grasped the nuances of SFF. A lot of people don’t like it, but I think that’s more because it’s not what they’re expecting than it’s a bad book. They read Cujo or The Shining and then they pick this up and are confused. Just pretend someone else wrote it, and read it anyway.

Obviously it stayed with me, because I’m now writing a Weird West series of my own. I think Stephen King would understand.

Recently I read Earth Abides, and I read a scene that sounded eerily familiar. The protagonist was travelling around the ruins of the United States after a great plague killed most of the population, and he looked for a long time into the tunnel into New York, and decided not to go in, afraid of the horrors he would find in there. And I remembered Larry Underwood leaving New York through the tunnel in The Stand. And I realized; this was it. This was the moment King got the idea. He read this scene, and he asked himself, “What would have happened if he’d gone in instead?” The result was a whole new story, but there are echoes of Stewart’s story in it if you know where to look. It’s an homage, of sorts.

Rereading The Gunslinger, I realize I had one of those moments where I asked myself, “What was Roland the Gunslinger’s world like before it moved on? What if it was a high fantasy court? What if there were elves and things too?” and the result is my series.

I mention this because I want to emphasize the enduring quality the imagery and the world of these books had on me, how they stayed with me and fascinated me. And the eerie surreality of worlds with reflections of our own make it more poignant.

The Dark Tower series is my favourite work by King, and I’m a fan. I highly recommend it.

View all my reviews

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