Publisher: Pocket Books
Released: June 24th 2003
Rating: 4 Kitties
The Gunslinger is yet another entry on a very long list of series that I am so very far behind in reading. That being said, I’ve decided to make a dent in that list, and with the movie out, I felt that there was no time like the present. I haven’t read a ton of other series by Stephen King, so I suspect that I missed a lot of subtext here, but I felt it was better to get started reading than not.
Side note: I’m absolutely in love with the cover for the version I bought (I know there’s a couple of different covers). The color palette is so striking. I know, I know. It’s bad form to like the movie adaptation cover, but in this case I’m willing to give it a pass (see the over covers below for comparison).
Even without having read all of Stephen King’s works, I can see how expansive his world building is, and just how talented he is at doing so. The Gunslinger is certainly no exception to that. At first glance it may seem like a pretty straight forward dystopian novel, but it is anything but. Stephen King’s dry sense of humor and irony truly shine in this book, which really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
Gunslinger #1 is actually a pretty quick read, being only 327 of pages. It took me only one comfortable evening settled in on my couch to get through it. I’ve heard the rest of the series consist of larger novels, which would be appreciated, as I would like more time to immerse myself into this world.
Roland Deschain, AKA Roland of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. It has a pretty nice ring to it, doesn’t it? An epic name calls for an epic quest, which thankfully Roland has. He’s seeking out the Man in Black, as he is known, the reason why is less clear. Going into this I knew that Roland was inspired by one of Clint Eastwood’s characters. I’ve obviously also seen how Edris Elba looks playing the role (based on trailers, as I haven’t seen the movie yet). The two meshed together in my head to make the stoic and solemn character that I imagine Roland would be. Okay, his character is actually a lot more complicated than that, but I’m just speaking for how I pictured him aesthetically.
Roland lives in an old, rundown world. At first I found myself wondering if it was the future of our world, or that of another world. It becomes clear later on that, despite the similarities (music and many of our stories and legends are shared – more on that in a minute) his world is very much not our world. Though it may be a sign of what is to come. As far as the shared legends are concerned? I haven’t read ahead yet, but I wonder if they’re stories based on other worlds? Or something to that effect at least.
Along his journey Roland gains and losses many companions; some merely by the fact that he keeps moving onward, others not so much. The one character that obviously stands out the most is Jake, a young boy that as far as I can tell, got pulled into this deserted world from ours. I’ll leave the how or why for you to find out. (Side note: It’s worth mentioning that the movie has received criticism for switching the main perspective to this character, instead of having it be based on Roland, as in the books. I can’t verify that information as of yet).
There are a few lengthy flashbacks for Roland’s character; giving us details on who he is and how he became the man we know. Not all of the details are explained – yet, I have faith that those details will be revealed in one of the later novels.
The final showdown between Roland and the Man in Black…well let’s just say it wasn’t quite what I expected it would be. You would think that means I’m upset about it, but actually I’m not. It was refreshing to have the final encounter be something completely different from what I anticipated. Despite the unexpected nature of it, I still found the conclusion pleasing, and even though it left a lot unfinished, it was clear that the next books would expound further on what was left out. So naturally I can’t wait to get my hands on book two (and so on). This is where being behind comes in handy, as I don’t have to wait for it to release.