Novel Review: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower Book I)

Stephen King, The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower Book I), 2003

 

The Gunslinger is the first instalment in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower book series, which deviate from his normal horror genre slightly. While incorporating elements of horror which made King famous, most notably from the Slow Mutants, the novel is predominantly a Western-style science fiction novel, set in an alternate universe, about Roland, the last Gunslinger, and his search for the man in black. Roland has been searching some years prior to this novel’s beginnings and his journey throughout this novel is aided and accompanied by various characters, which include a young boy from earth, Jake.

It’s unfortunate but this has to be my least favourite Stephen King novel. Initially this novel was a combination of five short stories, and in 2003 King re-released it with a more novelised approach, and it’s unfortunately noticeable with the flowing and sometimes the writing (every time that Allie is mentioned after the first chapter, it is followed by either his actions with her or where she came from: ‘Allie from Tull’). It also doesn’t have the character bonding one might expect from a full-length novel; Jake and Roland simply come across as two people (even though Roland admits to loving the boy as his own there’s no real signs of friendship or camaraderie between the two).

For one of the greatest writers of our time, the writing in this novel is rather unusual and, at times, hard to follow: mentions of things we don’t know about are frequent, mentions of words or phrases eventually blend in but it’s still confusing at the start and characters’ speech and dialogue vary wildly from understandable to confusing. His flashbacks, also, are not presented to us as flashbacks, merely the following chapter they’re written as if that’s what’s happening now, which can throw you off initially if one chapter ends with Jake discussing earth and the next begins with Jake on earth with a new family and new friends and a new life.

Without reading the following seven novels it’s difficult to say how much emphasis or set-up this novel place on the rest; but as a standalone novel it’s pretty poor overall: the characters aren’t well-designed, the elongated chase isn’t exciting and the eventual confrontation seems completely out-of-place from the build-up we’ve had.

 

Writing: * * *

Characters: * *

Plot: * *

Presentation: * * *

Overall: * * ½

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