In this first novel in his epic fantasy masterpiece, Stephen King introduces listeners to one of his most enigmatic heroes, Roland of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner, on a spellbinding journey into good and evil, in a desolate world which frighteningly echoes our own.
In his first step towards the powerful and mysterious Dark Tower, Roland encounters an alluring woman named Alice, begins a friendship with Jake, a kid from New York, and faces an agonising choice between damnation and salvation as he pursues the Man in Black.
Both grippingly realistic and eerily dreamlike, The Gunslinger leaves listeners eagerly awaiting the next chapter.
And the Tower is closer..
The gunslinger is the first novel in Steven Kings magnum opus series the dark tower. The dark tower series links to all kings books (allegedly) in one way or another, or perhaps more accurately all his books are wrapped in the world of the tower. Anyway that’s getting a bit ahead of ourselves. The Gunslinger focuses on Roland Deschain and he is the gunslinger, the last of all of them. He is part cowboy, part Arthurian knight, and he’s on a quest, the quest to reach the dark tower and climb to the room at the top.
The first step for this is Roland’s current goal and obsession, to catch the man in black! A mysterious figure who may be man, magician or demon. Roland isn’t sure, but he is hell bent on catching him, because the man in black may have answers, may in fact be the way to the tower and that is the core of Roland’s character, to reach the tower. The chase has taken Roland years, perhaps decades but there is now way to tell, time is breaking down and becoming strange and unreliable. The world has moved on.
The book begins with Roland delirious and dying of thirst and heat stroke in the middle of a desert, he is saved from a slow death (and a short series) by a young boy called Jake as he stumbles to an abandoned waystation. Jake is from our world, has little memory of where he is from and no idea why he has come to this strange place in another world. The world he has been brought into is post-apocalyptic. What is clear is that Jake has been left in Rolands path by the man in black as one last and terrible trap, and together they resume the chase for him.
On the way Roland will tell stories of his past and this is one of those books that the timeline jumps around a bit in. We start in the desert, hear about the town before the desert and the trap left by the man in black, jump back to Rolands childhood and his coming of age trial before coming back to the present.
This is not a fast paced book considering it’s a chase, rather it’s steady and unrelenting like its protagonist. Of all the books in the series this is probably the slowest and one of my least favourite. That’s not to say it’s bad! It’s a great book, I just prefer the others more. A large part of that is down to Roland, he’s just not that likeable. This is by design and he will grow into a more empathetic character as the series goes on but in this novel he is almost robotic, and makes decisions that are morally questionable at best in his desire to reach the tower and he accepts them. He is interesting and captivating but you aren’t rooting for him.
George Guidall does a decent job with narration and his tone kind of fits the world and the pace of the story. He is pretty dry though and he commits a huge narration sin mispronouncing some names that change later in the series. You won’t notice it on your first listen but if you come back later in time having finished the series it will bug the shit out of you! However if you are put off by this narration fear not, the next 3 books are taken over by Frank Muller and he is just fantastic. Unfortunately he will leave the series in very sad circumstances after book 4 after a motorcycle accident and the series will be once again narrated by Guidall who does a good job on the last 3 books even if he never matches Muller.
Would I recommend the Gunslinger? Absolutely! I have several times to several people and I won’t hesitate to recommend it to you. It may not be my favourite in the series but it is the first step on the journey and the journey is worth it. The series as a whole is one of my all time favourites! Also it’s worth a re-listen after you have finished the series because…….well do you like foreshadowing? Steven King clearly does and this book is FULL of it! You may not realise just how much the first time around but it is literally a book full of foreshadowing future events and you will pick up on so many you missed the second time around. You may even empathise with why Roland is so focused on reaching the tower, maybe. He won’t be any more likeable the second time round though!