November 2010's SK Flavor of the Month - The Gunslinger

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November 2010's SK Flavor of the Month - The Gunslinger

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okt 31, 2010, 11:55pm

Put on your buckle shoes and your buckle hat (what was that all about anyway?). It's November!

The book this month is one I have to admit I haven't been looking forward to: The Gunslinger. The beginning of the whole Dark Tower thing.

There's two editions of this book. The original and a revised edition from 2003.

I have the original and was going to reread that, but a post by thegreattim in another thread convinced me to go to Borders and pick up the newer edition.

It might be interesting to compare and contrast the two, though my memories of the original are very, VERY hazy.

nov 1, 2010, 4:25am

I'll be listening to revised edition narrated by George Guidall starting probably Wednesday. It should be noted however, that I am an unapologetic Dark Tower junkie and this will be my fourth reading. Once, the original in the mid '90s (I almost gave up on the DT books after that). Once, the revised, in 2004 before reading books 5-7 as they we published successively. And last year I listened to all 7 audiobooks in order.

I may also listen to the original edition (read by King!) right after if I have time, in order to participate in any compare and contrast discussion.

I will try to reserve my enthusiasm in order to not overwhelm those less sure of these books. :-)

nov 4, 2010, 4:13pm

I just got to the waystation. I forgot how brief this book is compared to later volumes (or pretty much anything King writes).

nov 4, 2010, 2:06am

I'm reading my way through The Best of Weird Tales before starting on The Gunslinger. It's a book of short stories though, so next Monday I'll start in on the book whether I've finished my Weird Tales or not.

nov 4, 2010, 2:23am

Looks kinda interesting. Are they primarily stories set in the Cthulu mythos?

Redigerat: nov 5, 2010, 5:06am

#5 - Are they primarily stories set in the Cthulu mythos?

No, not at all. I think one of the stories in the book is a Cthulhu story.

Weird Tales is an old pulp magazine that started up in the '20's. It's where H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E Howard, Robert Bloch and a bunch of those types originally published their stories. 'Call of Cthulhu' and Conan both first appeared there.

The magazine has been canceled and revived numerous times. This particular book collects stories from the late-80's/early-90's run, so no Lovecraft or anyone like that.

Redigerat: nov 5, 2010, 7:03am

Oh, right. I knew that sounded familiar. My bad.

Anyway... back on track. I just finished the revised edition. I really can't believe it went so quick. Only two days. That being the case, I'm going to have a go at the 1982 version too. Should be interesting, back to back I imagine the differences will be all that more glaring.

nov 8, 2010, 6:21pm

I just finally found my copy. I will be reading the 2003 version because that's all I have. I am looking forward to it. I love great epic tales like Dark Tower, LOTR, etc. This is I think a solid book. It does get a bit weird later on when King writes himself into the story, of course we can discuss that then. Point here though is, the Gunslinger is great and one of my favorites. I'll start it tonight.

nov 9, 2010, 2:31pm

I've put The Best of Weird Tales aside and started on The Gunslinger last night and am fifty or so pages in.

The gunslinger is flashing back to Tull and had a flashback within the flashback detailing the man in black's time there.

Man, even without the introduction, you can just feel the influence of Spaghetti Westerns on this first book (which is a plus to me. I love those movies).

nov 9, 2010, 8:21pm

You said in reference to reading the original Gunslinger:

"Once, the original in the mid '90s (I almost gave up on the DT books after that)"

Funny, I had the exact same reaction. As a matter of fact I quit the series until I received Wizard and Glass for Christmas one year. I felt guilty about not reading it, so I gritted my teeth and fought through The Gunslinger again. It was painful the second time also, but the next three books more than made up for it. I think Wizard was the best of the series. I think that after getting hit by the car SK decided to end the series early. The last couple of books seemed a little rushed to me.

nov 9, 2010, 4:53am

I finished the first story. I dunno. I never felt connected to it. Up next is 'The Way Station'. "There are other worlds than these!"

For all the people that say they prefer the earlier, leaner King, I'm learning that I definitely prefer his later, denser 'word tapestries'.

The Gunslinger (well, the first story since that's all I've reread at this point) may be lean and mean, but it's also missing a lot of what I like about Stephen King.

nov 10, 2010, 7:05pm


That sounds a lot like my first experience. When Wizard & Glass was announced, I realized that I was missing (soon to be) four King stories that I could not read and that since I had ready everything else by that point, if I wanted more King, I better suck it up. It took me until I started book two before I really got into it. By the time I finished book three, book four had *just* been released and had about a three month wait at my local library. As a poor college student at the time I could not afford the $15 to buy it. If you know how The Waste Lands ends, you know why that was so difficult. :-)


I agree, it's not the most intriguing of stories. I also feel that Roland comes off like a giant a-hole with no soul to speak of. That being said, it does contain - like you mentioned - the single best line King ever wrote. "Go then, there are other worlds than these." I would totally tattooed that on my back being backdropped by the unfound door if I had the balls to get a DT related tattoo. Later in the book, it does get a bit more interesting (for re-reads, anyway) to see the connections and dual prophecy to the second and third books.

nov 10, 2010, 11:54pm

I am enjoying the story. Having read this directly after reading Tommyknockers I noticed a marked improvement in the quality of the story. This story seems cleaner, crisper, and less...greasy than Tommyknockers.

I too love the influence of western novels on this book, and having read all seven books plus a number of related books am having fun catching all the allusions. I don't think Roland comes off as a soulless a-hole, as much as someone obsessed with his quest. He feel bad for the boy and for the things he has to do, but he cannot allow anything to stop him.

nov 10, 2010, 12:43am

I only feel that way about Roland in regards to this book specifically. They way he is with Allie, Jake 1.0, and in some of the flashbacks, just rings of selfishness. His humanity does start to show through in later volumes. But he still has the tendency to inspire people to sacrifice themselves for him and his tower.

For what it's worth, The Gunslinger was written 5 years before Tommyknockers as a whole. And the majority of passages, over the previous 4 years before that, as they were serialized in the magazine Fantasy & Science Fiction. It is arguably some of King's earliest work.

nov 10, 2010, 4:11am

I believe the first Dark Tower stories were written in 1970 or so. WAAAAY before The Tommyknockers and most anything else he wrote, though it was published in F/SF in 1978. (Now I'm trying to remember where I read that? Maybe the new introduction? An interview? I dunno. I'll have to double check.)

I'm reading through The Way Station now. It is better than The Gunslinger (story). Roland was totally a soul-less a*hole in that first story. I know he was supposed to resemble Clint Eastwood's 'Man With No Name', but considering where the story goes, he comes off like a murderous prick.

nov 11, 2010, 12:02pm

Oh, I realize, that Gunslinger came first. I'm not saying he got better with age. It's just that Gunslinger is a far better story than Tommyknockers, IMHO.

nov 11, 2010, 1:33pm


Redigerat: nov 11, 2010, 3:58am

Gunslinger is a far better story than Tommyknockers, IMHO.


How's that for well reasoned and lucid discourse?

No really, I don't know. The world is a pretty neat one. Unique anyway. But it's just not grabbing me (though The Way Station was a tremendous improvement over The Gunslinger). Reading through The Oracle and the Mountains now. They just camped near some willows and could actually see the man in black with their naked eye. He is handling the chase well.

I do wonder why paper is so scarce? The gunslinger's land has plenty of wood and I can't imagine that they can craft six shooters and bullets, but can't figure out paper. That's just me nitpicking. I wouldn't mark the book down for it. But it does bug me.

nov 14, 2010, 9:02pm

I finished the book this morning. After the rocky first story, each one got better and the story got more interesting. I found I was more interested to the flashbacks to the kingdom of Gilead than I was in the gunslinger's pursuit of the man in black.

I'm piecing together some sort of review now.

Redigerat: nov 16, 2010, 8:09am

The world King presents in this book and expands on in the later books is just so intriguing to me. I'm a fan of a good dystopia anytime, and while this book does not fill that definition to the letter, it is certainly a world that has moved on and in a state of decline. That the world is our world after an unimaginable downfall makes it that much more intriguing. I love all the references to our world gone by: "Hey Jude", the ancient machines, etc... more come in later books obviously, but these tantalizing glimpses make me want to re-read all of them again right now.

Regarding the incongruities: The paper scarcity does bug me too. There is clearly some technology left in Roland's time, and certainly the development of paper (or at least parchment) was one of the earliest development civilization had produced. You think they'd be able to figure something out. As far as you mention jseger, I could be wrong, but the impression that I get is that all the guns, bullets, etc... come from before. Roland restocks (or reloads spent shells) when he can (the ammunition is not all too rare *yet*) but I don't believe anyone is making any more. Quite possibly there are no centers of industry left anywhere in midworld.

The flashbacks are definitely a high point of the book. Roland's battle with Cort and the hanging of the chef were fascinating insights into Roland's mind. "Teach me no more, bondsman. Today I teach you." Possibly the second best line in King's oeuvre (Damn this could make a great movie. I really hope Opie does not mess it up). Anyway, I think the backstory is what makes Wizard and Glass such a powerful book. I'd love to see King write the story of the fall of Gilead and the battle of Jericho. Too bad his assistant Furth already claimed that story in the comic series. Bah.

Anyway, I have more thoughts somewhere, but organic chem homework is calling me. I'd love to read some reviews and hear more people's thoughts. Looking forward to it as the month progresses.

dec 31, 2010, 7:56pm

Just finished the book. I'm kind of on the fence--I enjoyed the book but didn't love it. I am however looking forward to the others, since it sounds like it gets better as it goes along.

I found I was more interested to the flashbacks to the kingdom of Gilead than I was in the gunslinger's pursuit of the man in black.
I agree jseger. That world reminded me of The Talisman and The Eyes Of The Dragon, both of which I enjoyed very much, so I was particularly interested in getting more backstory.

(Damn this could make a great movie. I really hope Opie does not mess it up).
One of the latest articles I saw has Viggo Mortensen as a potential Roland. Here's an article from Entertainment Weekly for anyone interested.

jan 25, 2011, 3:57pm

I finally finished! I agree with LibraryLover. It was a good book but not great. I did like it better this time around than I did 20 years ago. I'm interested to see what happens so I will read the next book in the series.

maj 20, 2018, 4:36pm

I'm doing a one-chapter-per-week buddy read on Litsy. So far I think it's confusing and boring with interesting moments sprinkled throughout. So many people love the series that I am encouraged to keep going!