First published in five separate parts for ‘The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’ between October 1978 and November 1981, Stephen King’s now worldwide renowned first instalment into the Dark Tower’ series entitled ‘The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger’ was later re-released as the complete first book to the epic series in June of 1982.

Inspired by Robert Browning's poem ‘Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came’ from 1855, King utilised the visual idea behind the poem to set down the initial tracks of this epic fantasy saga.  In June of 2003, the novel was further revised and re-issued as a more complete and consistent expanded edition (of which this review was taken from).

DLS Synopsis:
Roland of Gilead is the last of the great Gunslingers.  His quest is to catch the mysterious man in black and ultimately to find the great legend that is the Dark Tower - an epic construction fabled to be at the centre of the entire universe.  He must make his way across the often barren and hostile landscapes of Mid-World, where magic still lingers across its many far regions. 

On his journey across the barren desert, Roland encounters the young Jake Chambers, who revives him with some desperately needed water.  Upon their meeting, Roland learns of the recent passing of the Man in Black and begins to glimpse a series of locked-away secrets within the boy's mind that show the death of the lad, but in another time and seemingly another world. 

Together the two wanderers set off in the direction of the Man in Black.  An almost endless journey filled with horror, danger and constant inner-turmoil.  Along the way they will encounter many people and unearth many secrets.  Around every corner hostiles may well be waiting, and the path they take is never an easy one.

Mutants and oracles, demons and prophets; Mid-World is still a place of great magic and a land of incredible marvels.  And it is a world which will test Roland over and over again.  He must make the choice of what is of the most importance to him.  And find out what fate has in store for the last of the legendary Gunslingers…

DLS Review:
The first instalment into this truly epic series is certainly the most daunting and mysterious of the books.  King opens a vast multitude of doors from the very outset, submerging the enfolding storyline in a confusing wealth of baffling side-stories and hinted at depths to this vaguely familiar universe.

Indeed, the actual setting of the series is a strangely surreal, almost post-apocalyptic style universe, where the natural laws of our world are warped, but still hold many elements that are remarkably similar. 

The novel is principally there to set the plot and premise, introducing the principal two characters of Roland and Jake, and to begin to weave the many interlacing layers to this unique and incredibly elaborate storyline.  The importance of this first novel towards the entire series cannot be overstated.  It’s the first stepping stone that begins the whole epic journey.  It opens the doors to the character of Roland, and delves into the hidden back-story of both Roland and Jake.

As a standalone novel, ‘The Gunslinger’ is just a fragment of a much larger picture.  Its plot is of a much more gradual pace, with precedence given to setting the scene, creating the atmosphere, developing on the characterisation and ultimately introducing the whole saga.  This first instalment is far from fast-paced and action-packed, but rather gains its gripping intrigue from the many glimpses of the wonders to come.

King’s overwhelming passion for this imaginative saga is clear from the outset.  His writing is fluid and poetic; clearly relishing on the limitless opportunities of his newly created universe.  Its dreamlike prose pulls the reader into the magic of the storytelling.  Its an open doorway to adventure.  A limitless dreamscape promising an epic journey and unearthing of untold mysteries.  ‘The Gunslinger’ is exciting and enchanting from the very first sentence.  And perhaps most importantly, it successfully sets down Roland's world perfectly; with the first steps to his journey having only just begun.

Written over a period of almost thirty years and spanning well over three-and-a-half thousand pages, the entire Dark Tower series is truly an epic adventure. 

This is by far the shortest book of the seven, lasting for a mere 238 pages.

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Dark Tower’ instalments:

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