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The Dark Tower #1

The Gunslinger

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In the first book of this series, Stephen King introduces readers 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 his desolate world, which frighteningly mirrors our own, Roland pursues The Man in Black, encounters an alluring woman named Alice, and begins a friendship with the Kid from Earth called Jake. Both grippingly realistic and eerily dreamlike, The Gunslinger leaves readers eagerly awaiting the next chapter.

231 pages, Paperback

First published June 1, 1982

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About the author

Stephen King

2,530 books828k followers
Stephen Edwin King was born the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. After his father left them when Stephen was two, he and his older brother, David, were raised by his mother. Parts of his childhood were spent in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his father's family was at the time, and in Stratford, Connecticut. When Stephen was eleven, his mother brought her children back to Durham, Maine, for good. Her parents, Guy and Nellie Pillsbury, had become incapacitated with old age, and Ruth King was persuaded by her sisters to take over the physical care of them. Other family members provided a small house in Durham and financial support. After Stephen's grandparents passed away, Mrs. King found work in the kitchens of Pineland, a nearby residential facility for the mentally challenged.

Stephen attended the grammar school in Durham and Lisbon Falls High School, graduating in 1966. From his sophomore year at the University of Maine at Orono, he wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper, THE MAINE CAMPUS. He was also active in student politics, serving as a member of the Student Senate. He came to support the anti-war movement on the Orono campus, arriving at his stance from a conservative view that the war in Vietnam was unconstitutional. He graduated in 1970, with a B.A. in English and qualified to teach on the high school level. A draft board examination immediately post-graduation found him 4-F on grounds of high blood pressure, limited vision, flat feet, and punctured eardrums.

He met Tabitha Spruce in the stacks of the Fogler Library at the University, where they both worked as students; they married in January of 1971. As Stephen was unable to find placement as a teacher immediately, the Kings lived on his earnings as a laborer at an industrial laundry, and her student loan and savings, with an occasional boost from a short story sale to men's magazines.

Stephen made his first professional short story sale ("The Glass Floor") to Startling Mystery Stories in 1967. Throughout the early years of his marriage, he continued to sell stories to men's magazines. Many were gathered into the Night Shift collection or appeared in other anthologies.

In the fall of 1971, Stephen began teaching English at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels.

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5 stars
222,523 (37%)
4 stars
182,138 (30%)
3 stars
128,182 (21%)
2 stars
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1 star
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 23,742 reviews
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11.2k followers
April 9, 2011

A few things you should know before deciding how helpful this review will be for you.

*** I think the Dark Tower series as a whole is a staggering achievement and belongs in any discussion without qualification of the “Greatest Fantasy Series of All Time.”

*** There are no spoilers in this review but I have read the series twice all the way through and am doing a third reading as part of a group read this month. Therefore, my review is colored by my knowledge of how the rest of the series is. Hence, I only give this book 4 stars because in comparison to the rest of the series, I thought this book was by far the weakest. In a vacuum, I would have probably given this 5 stars due to the “Chilly Palmer/Josey Wales” awesomeness of the character of Roland.

*** Roland Deschain is THE MAN and belongs among the truly ICONIC figures in 20th century literature and is certainly among my top ten favorite characters of all time. I think this is even more astounding given the Roland himself was initially patterned on the classic, iconic western gunfighter. Yet, through the series, I thought he grew beyond his original programming and became a truly unique figure.

*** I have read a number of Stephen King books beyond the Dark Tower series and have really liked some (The Stand, The Green Mile, The Night Shift) and really disliked some (Dreamcatcher, Cujo and The Dark Half). I just wanted to be clear that I like Stephen King but am not a “everything he writes is gold” fanboy…..beyond the Dark Tower series that is.

*** I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the ending of the series (don’t worry, no spoilers). I can not think of a better way to have ended this epic series and believe that it created a much more powerful memory of the journey through all 7 books. I think Stephen King should be applauded for allowing the story to take on such “MYTHIC” importance as I think he achieved with the way he ended this series. I know that MANY (and I mean MANY) disagree with me on this one and I can understand where they are coming from…….(psssst however, just between us….they are all wrong and I’m right…but shhhhhh).

*** I have listened to all 7 books are audio (the first 4 read by the late Frank Muller and the last 3 read by George Guidall). I believe that anyone who has read the books and not listened to these stories on audio is REALLY MISSING SOMETHING WONDERFUL. Those who have listened to the “Dune” series on audio can understand the incredible quality and enhancement that a superb reading of a great story can bring.

As mentioned in the above introduction, this book only gets 4 stars from me. In large part this is due to both the quality of the later books and also the fact that it is plagued by some inconsistencies that arose due to changes that King made in the later books. I applaud King for going back and re-writing this story to resolve these conflicts, but I still think this book suffers from the fact that King did not know how LARGE the story would become when he wrote this.

That said, this book is an absolute essential read as it introduced the world to Roland Deschain of Gilead, Son of Steven, Gunslinger, Champion of the White, Descendant of the line of Arthur Eld, Bane of the Man in Black and Seeker of the Dark Tower. How best to describe Roland? Physically, he was inspired by Clint Eastwood’s “The Man with No Name” and so a younger Clint Eastwood is an excellent way to visualize him.
From there, you need to mix in a little MYSTICAL TEACHER/WARRIOR/MASTER SLOGAN DISPENSER:
yoda-1 .
Add a helping of NOBLE KNIGHT LEADER:
And then top it off with a large triple shot of BAD ASS MOFO:
…..with the end result being one of the most intriguing, layered (though it takes some time to peel those layers back) and complex figures in all of literature(in my opinion).

In this first installment, which is quite short compared to subsequent volumes we are introduced to Roland and the world he lives in as he is chasing the Man in Black. Roland’s world appears like a deranged version of the Old West but with occasional references to an older world that was much more technologically advanced. We are left with the impression of a very ancient world that is fading and running down. As Roland describes it, his world “has moved on.”

We also come to find that Roland’s world is not “our world” but that there are strange similarities between the two (e.g., Arthur Eld the great hero of Roland’s world would seem to be their version of King Arthur; both world’s have a version of the song “Hey Jude”, etc.). In addition, we learn that it is possible (though difficult) to travel between the worlds which is a fundamental aspect of the rest of the series. It is in this story that Roland first meets Jake Chambers who arrives in Roland’s world from a version of “our” New York City. I will leave you to learn for yourself the circumstances surrounding Jake’s appearance and the results

Through a lengthy flashback in the city of JethroTull we learn of both the mad skills of Roland as a Gunslinger and the otherworldly powers of the Man in Black. My takeaway, Roland can shoot the eyes out of hummingbird and 50 paces.

From there, the book moves ahead briskly until the inevitable final showdown between Roland and the Man in Black. The details, the interesting nuggets and the time spent with Jake are best experienced fresh so I will avoid spoilers. Overall, a good introduction to Roland and his world but merely an appetizer to the warm buttery goodness that is to follow and the epic tale of the Gunslinger really gets going in the next book.

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed….” And you should follow to, all the way to the end of the story and discover the wonders of this most original journey. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!!.
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,487 reviews79.1k followers
October 8, 2017
Please don't hate me. I know it seems sacrilegious to give a Stephen King anything less than 4 stars, but this one was SLOOOOWWWW for the first 75%. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it, but I did find this was an easy book to put down and not feel an urgency to jump back into for days at a time.

I've heard many folks describe this as a nice prologue to the series and that, in a sense, the action and story doesn't become investment worthy until book 2. That, coupled with the fact that I did become very involved in the final 25% or so of this book has me itching to continue on with Roland because DEAR GOD THAT ENDING!!! I was just coasting, coasting, coasting, and then then I had to reread the final couple of pages a few times to make sure I was following along properly.

All in all, I got the sense that this is a really special series and worthy of the high praise it has received for decades, and I expect my future reviews will hold more gushing and fangirling than this one did.

PS- my prim and proper mother (we lovingly refer to her as Nonni) is the one who initially convinced me to read this series and also invest in The Stand because she read both way back in her day. Who knew Nonni was so cool and hip and in the know?!
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,608 reviews10.8k followers
July 25, 2023
3/20/21: 5-stars yet again!!! Who's surprised?

Now the question is, do I continue to read the entire series and actually read the final book this time?

If ka says it is so, it will be.

3/15/21: It's been almost a year. I guess I should pick up The Gunslinger again. Why not!?

I only have 1,100 other books I want to read.

Picking up for the 4th time! 🖤

6/3/2020: ALL HAIL THE KING!!!

Five mind-blowing stars, again.

In contrast to the rest of the books in this series, The Gunslinger, is like the black and white portion of The Wizard of Oz.

By the time you enter The Drawing of Three, you're in Technicolor, baby!!


Reread number three.

Also, buddy reading with my dear friend, Shannon. It's her first trip to the Tower and I am so excited to join her at the start of her adventure!

Original Review:

Every once in a while, a reread will come along that completely changes your outlook and opinion on a story.

This was absolutely the case for me and my reread of The Gunslinger.

Originally, I read it in my early 20's, just out of undergraduate school and to be honest:

I didn't get it.
I didn't like it.

I didn't like the atmosphere.
I didn't like the strange dialogue.
I didn't like the ending for one of my favorite characters.

I had read a lot of King books and this was so different for me. Rereading it now, on the cusp of 40:

I loved it.
I love the atmosphere.
I love Roland.

I understand where this is going.

The palaver between Roland and Walter at the end left me in absolute chills. Where once I gave this 3-stars, I now give it a very solid 5.

I put it down and immediately went to my bookshelf and grabbed The Drawing of Three: The Dark Tower II and started reading it, staying up way past my bedtime in order to do so.

Now this thought consumes me:

I need to get to this damn tower!
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
554 reviews60.6k followers
February 11, 2017
All I could think throughout this book was… what the hell am I reading?!

This western fantasy has to be the most confusing book I’ve read in a long time. Some parts were more interesting than others but overall I was very disappointed.

After hearing everyone rave about this series I have a hard time understanding why. I don’t believe it would be this popular if it wasn’t for Stephen King’s name on it. There I said it!

I didn’t like the story very much nor the writing.

I had been warned that the first book wasn’t as great as the others but I’m currently not in a rush to continue.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,621 reviews994 followers
July 17, 2023
Twelve years in the making, and kicking off the story that would envelop King's career, this was finally released in 1992. When I first read it, I thought it was OK, but had zero interest in the Dark Tower or the following books. It was only on reading it a second time, having now read some of the subsequent books, that I could appreciate this scene setting foundation of this series. On this, my third reading (second reading of this revised version), this book is more like a marker to outline the rest of the then yet-to-be written series. First time readers beware this is a magnificent series, so don't let this, at times meandering, other times engrossing opener put you off; and Constant Reader, this is a book you absolutely cannot skip.

A sombre introduction to one of the darkest anti-heroes in fiction, who brings a new meaning to the word collateral damage. Lots of the foreshadowing in this book is blatant, yet I missed it on previous reads - or forgot it. So much of the Dark Tower lore is set out in this book. On first read the ending didn't sit well with me, and even now it's far from one of my favourites. What King does well, as per usual, is tell a compelling coming-of-age story (Jake's). The storytelling style kind of works, but it feels like that there is not enough information in the shared tales told by the characters, this is probably intentional - but more depth in the characterisations would / may have served better. The characterisation of Roland however is on the money. All-in-all a quite laid-back start on the road to the Dark Tower. An 8.5 out of 12; 2 "and the Dark Man followed" very strong Four Star Read.

2018 and 2006 read
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
805 reviews3,866 followers
May 10, 2020
Nothing beats the real Wild West, except a dark fantasy infested badass Kingian character exposition starting one of the best fantasy horror hybrid series of all times.

It reminds me of the style of some of his short stories, in fact, it are 5 short stories put together to a short novel and young Kings´ writing was darker, more direct, and epic, different than during his drug years and again different than in the period after when he kind of calmed down (not got old, because he is the King!). One could call it the 3 main periods of his work, as it´s done with painters, but I´ll keep that one for later in the review of the last part.

I remember when I first read this novel after something between 10 to 15 King novels from different decades and was awed by the completely different style, brutality, and epic badassity of this one, there is no useless ballast (no, he didn´t become too wordy, every word has its legitimation). It´s the ultimate Hold my beer, Chuck Norris mixed with horror elements to get the septology (the one between doesn´t really count, it´s great, what else, but not a part of the series for me) started.

Analyzing how King evolved while writing this project is a bonus to the unique and amazing entertainment it provides, a masterpiece of one of the greatest literary geniuses of all time if not even the human writing the best literature ever. Next to Pratchett. When King was young, he wrote harsher, invested more time and space in detailed descriptions, worldbuilding, and less focus (but still more than many other authors) on characterization and focused on one plotline. One may find it hard to say if it´s the same author when reading one of his first and one of his newer works, as he changed to focusing on characterization and complexity and didn´t care so much about the epicality of the world and outer plots anymore. Or he just got too lazy to do all the extra work this brings with it.

However, why are you still wasting your time reading this drivel, immediately start reading one of the best fictional series of all time!

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for Luca Ambrosino.
83 reviews13.7k followers
January 31, 2020
ENGLISH (The Gunslinger) / ITALIANO

When I read this novel more than twenty years ago, I did not appreciate it. Clearly, Roland's story did not charmed enough my distracted and teenage mind. Therefore, I decided to prematurely stop the "The Black Tower" series. A few days ago in a bookstore I stumbled on a copy of the new edition of "The Gunslinger", and reading the preface I understood a couple of things. FIRST: not just myself, but also Stephen King was young when he wrote the same edition of "The Gunslinger" that I read eons ago. SECOND: to overcome the incomplete literary maturity possessed at that time, Stephen King thought to revise and enrich the original novel, publishing a new edition that for simplicity I will define "more mature". In fact, in that preface King confesses that when he starts writing a novel, he has no idea where he's going with this, let alone when he stars to write a multi-volume saga! In this light, the rearrangement of "The Gunslinger", done only after completing the last episode of "The Black Tower", was necessary.

The plot is simple. Roland is a gunslinger and chases the man in black. The deadly desert dominates on them. Some meetings take place along the way, new characters come into play, while flashbacks clarify the gunslinger's past. In my opinion the most beautiful parts of the novel are precisely Roland's memories, which begin to roughly make us understand the meaning of "The Black Tower". King give us the only hint about the time of the facts practically at the end:

«Gunslinger, our fathers conquered the-disease-which-rots, which we call cancer, almost conquered aging, went to the moon...»,
indicating that we are in a vague future, far from our day. The air we breathe is suggestive and desolate. Making an example that only the fans of Garth Ennis will catch, the atmosphere resembles the one created by the British comic artist when describing the events of the Saint of Killers, one of the key characters of his famous graphic novel "Preacher".

Although some details escape me at the moment, I expect a lot from this saga. I think this novel is a kind of introduction that I will fully understand after the next volumes, and probably I will return to these reflections once again in the future to update my personal judgment of "The Gunslinger". For now, I trust the positive reviews of the next volumes. Overall I trust the positive reviews of "The Black Tower" series. But above all I trust the author who, more than anyone else, always stimulated my imagination. And that's not a small thing!

My journey just started.

Vote: 7


Quando lessi questo romanzo più di vent'anni fa, non ne fui entusiasta. Evidentemente la vicenda di Roland non aveva colpito abbastanza la mia mente distratta e adolescente. Decisi pertanto di non continuare la serie de "La Torre Nera". Qualche giorno fa mi sono imbattuto in libreria in una copia della nuova edizione de "L'Ultimo Cavaliere", e leggendone la prefazione vengo a conoscenza di un paio di cose. UNO: non solo il sottoscritto, ma anche il buon Stephen era giovane, molto giovane, quando scrisse l'edizione dell'ultimo cavaliere che lessi eoni fa. DUE: per ovviare alla non piena maturità letteraria posseduta all'epoca, il buon Stephen ha pensato bene di rivedere ed arricchire il romanzo originale, mandando alle stampe una nuova edizione che per semplicità definisco "più matura". Difatti nella suddetta prefazione King confessa che quando inizia a scrivere un romanzo, non sa con precisione dove vuole andare a parare. Figuriamoci quando inizia a scrivere una saga di più volumi! In quest'ottica, il rimaneggiamento de "L'ultimo cavaliere", fatto solo dopo aver completato l'ultimo episodio de "La Torre Nera", è stato necessario.

La trama è semplice. Roland è un pistolero ed insegue l'uomo in nero. Su di loro domina il deserto, torrido e letale. Lungo il cammino avvengono degli incontri, entrano in gioco nuovi personaggi, mentre flashback di ricordi chiariscono il passato del pistolero. Sono proprio i ricordi di Roland le parti più belle secondo me, sono brani che cominciano grossolanamente a farci capire il senso della Torre Nera. L'unico indizio sull'epoca in cui avvengono i fatti lo si ottiene praticamente alla fine:

«Pistolero, i nostri plurisnonni debellarono il morbo che fa marcire, quello che chiamavano cancro. Quasi debellarono la vecchiaia, camminarono sulla luna...»,
ad indicare che ci troviamo in un futuro vago, lontano dai giorni nostri. L'aria che si respira è suggestionante e desolata. Per fare un esempio che coglieranno solamente i fan di Garth Ennis, l'atmosfera somiglia molto a quella creata dal fumettista britannico quando descrive le vicende del "Santo degli Assassini", uno dei personaggi chiave della sua graphic novel "Preacher".

Nonostante ci sono alcuni dettagli che mi sfuggono, mi aspetto molto da questa saga. Credo che questo romanzo sia una sorta di introduzione che comprenderò appieno dopo i volumi successivi, ed immagino che tornerò in futuro su queste riflessioni per aggiornare il mio personale giudizio de "L'Ultimo Cavaliere". Per ora mi fido delle recensioni positive dei prossimi volumi. Mi fido delle recensioni positive della serie "La Torre Nera" nella sua interezza. Ma soprattutto mi fido dell'autore che più di tutti ha sempre stimolato la mia immaginazione. E scusate se è poco.

Il mio viaggio è appena iniziato.

Voto: 7

Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
3,005 reviews10.6k followers
December 20, 2014
The man in black fled across the desert and the Gunslinger followed.

Roland Deschain, the last of the Gunslingers, is on a quest for the Dark Tower, a mysterious edifice that is the axle of worlds and holds all existence together. In this, the first volume, Roland pursues his nemesis across the Mohaine Desert. He follows the man in black's trail to a little town called Tull, then through more desert, encountering a boy named Jake from our world, and then into the mountains. Will Roland finally catch his arch-nemesis after years of pursuing him? And what means will he go to to achieve his goal?

When I first picked up this book, I had no idea it would shoot to the top of my favorites list. I wolfed down the first four books in three weeks, then entered an agonizing period of waiting for the last three to be published. I think I've read the first four books five or six times each. The whole Dark Tower series, while on the surface a fantasy-western, is really the story of one man's obsession. In this volume, we get a hint of what Roland will do to get to the Dark Tower.

The writing is great and it warmed me up to Stephen King. Roland's world is unique. Part fantasy, part western, part post-apocalypse. While it's the first book in a series, it's quite satisfying to read on its own.

If your looking with fantasy with a different flavor, look no further.

Additional Thoughts from the April 2011 re-read:
Some of the additions in the revised edition of this book were much-needed and brought the first book into synch with the later ones. Others seemed a little ham-fisted and took away a bit of Roland's mystique.

Additional Thoughts from the 2014 reread:
In the forward, King mentioned he pushed everything else aside to finish the last three books because he felt like he had a sense of responsibility to his readers. If only George R.R. Martin felt that way...

It is mentioned that Roland is the kind of man who straightens pictures in strange hotel rooms. Is this a hint of his obsessiveness?

I notice something new every time I read this book. If I had to pick one book that made me want to write, it would be this one.

Profile Image for Nataliya.
785 reviews12.5k followers
October 1, 2021
The best opening line in literature? For me that’s simple. Repeat after me — “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

When it was first written by a very young Stephen King five decades ago (1970-1982), it was a niche story, a strange vision of harsh postapocalyptic spaghetti Western in the world that has “moved on”, the world that once upon a time was just like ours, but now sandalwood guns and echos of remnants of technology coexist in this world through which a steely-eyed enigmatic gunslinger Roland Deschain (inspired by young Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly in this case) is following his quest to reach the mythical Dark Tower.

Back then there was no sign that this will eventually lead to Dark Tower multiverse, with references to it going beyond the seven-book series, now found in majority of King’s stories. And King freely admits that even four books in, before his encounter with a van than almost ended his life, he had no idea where this quest will lead Roland and his ka-tet, let alone having any idea back when he himself was nineteen.

This was the first time I’ve read the “revised and updated” version, re-released after the final book in the series, with some subtle clues to the ending of the series, connections to King’s greater Dark Tower universe and overabundance of number “19” — and the first time I’ve read this story since my teens. (The differences between the original edition and this one are nicely summarized here - but spoiler alerts if you haven’t finished the series yet: https://web.archive.org/web/200710292...).
From King’s 2003 foreword to the revised and expanded version:

“When I looked back at the first volume, which you now hold in your hands, three obvious truths presented themselves. The first was that The Gunslinger had been written by a very young man, and had all the problems of a very young man’s book. The second was that it contained a great many errors and false starts, particularly in light of the volumes that followed. The third was that The Gunslinger did not even sound like the later books—it was, frankly, rather difficult to read. All too often I heard myself apologizing for it, and telling people that if they persevered, they would find the story really found its voice in The Drawing of the Three.”

So he revised it, and apparently removed quite a few of the adverbs that he detests.
“The world has moved on,' we say... we've always said. But it's moving on faster now. Something has happened to time. It’s softening.”

What I’ve always loved about this book is the unescapable feeling of how off this world is, how strangely wrong and hauntingly surreal it feels. And how atmospheric it is — soaked in grim fatalistic moodiness, barren and bleak, bafflingly confusing and intensely perplexing, with cruelty and brutality being the law of the land, with that “magnificent dislocation” that King refers to, with the strong feeling that being a bit buzzed may help to really appreciate it. It’s not easy to get through, really — but it’s worth it. And after you read the entire series, return here and reread The Gunslinger — and it’s much more impactful this way.
“Do you believe in an afterlife?” the gunslinger asked him as Brown dropped three ears of hot corn onto his plate.
Brown nodded. “I think this is it.”

And so much more is to come — the three are yet to be drawn from our world, the ka-tet is yet to form, the friends are yet to be found and lost, the Beams are yet to lead us to the Tower at the nexus of the worlds. The tone and the language will shift to that more reminiscent of King we know and love — all as soon as we meet Eddie in the next book, and everything will become just different enough for The Gunslinger to really feel like a febrile surreal uneasy prologue, a first chapter of the neverending story on the ever-revolving wheel of ka.
“Go then, there are other worlds than these.”

4.5 stars. I can’t wait to revisit The Drawing of the Three - where the story really begins, and my personal favorite The Waste Lands.
Profile Image for Johann (jobis89).
674 reviews4,306 followers
January 12, 2019
“I don’t like people. They fuck me up.”

Roland Deschain, the last of the Gunslingers, is after the Man in Black. Along the way he meets a young boy named Jake, who appears to be from a world that is different to Roland’s.

Ah, Roland. I had forgotten how difficult it was to like you in The Gunslinger. Some of your decisions are questionable, but that is the price of obsession.

The Gunslinger is so unlike King’s usual style of writing; the prose is beautifully poetic as we are introduced to a world that is starkly different to ours, yet some similarities remain. The differences in language and terms used, as well as the general workings of this world, are a bit jarring on the first read, but a reread is really so satisfying and rewarding!

The Gunslinger works perfectly as a prologue to the series itself. It’s an introduction to this other world, and Roland himself - we get glimpses into his past, his present, and even a few subtle hints into what his future may hold. Roland is initially portrayed as the strong silent Clint Eastwood type (thinking of Tony Soprano here LOL), but over the course of the series he becomes so much more than this, and evolves into one of the most complex characters I’ve ever encountered in literature. Thank you, King, for such a fantastic character.

I will never cease to be amazed and intrigued by the world that the Dark Tower series is set in. And although I feel like The Gunslinger works as a pretty great prologue and sets the scene for the series, there are still a huge number of parts that are iconic to the story itself. We have Roland's past in Gilead with his mother and friends, we also have an epic demonstration of his gunslinging abilities in Tull, and of course, our introduction to Jake Chambers and his journey with Roland through the mountains, which is eventful in itself! And then the book culminates with the Man in Black having a palaver with Roland, where he is told his future. This part in particular is so enjoyable on a reread, picking up on the different predictions mades and ALLLL the foreshadowing. It's fantastic.

On my first journey to the Dark Tower, and also on this one, I read the revised edition of The Gunslinger, as King went back to the original and made some some amendments to make it both an easier read and to fix some consistencies. I really want to get my hands on a copy of the original version so that I can compare!

Such incredible world-building and I feel like King intrigues you enough to make you want to pick up the next book right away. But I won’t be... as I am waiting until February - like the good readalong host that I am! *Yes I deserve some credit*

I’m giving this rating only because I know what is yet to come... can't wait to carry on with my reread of my most favourite book series. 4 stars.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,883 reviews16.6k followers
December 30, 2018
An intriguing book, it draws the reader in little by little.

It is fantastic, imaginative ... but inconsistent. Amid moments of brilliance there are also islands of abstraction so murky, almost Kafkaesque in absurdity, that I could not follow. But it is interesting enough that I will probably read the sequels.

Of course that is another detraction, this book does not stand alone but leaves the reader with many questions unanswered. Fun questions that lead the reader to seek further, but a work of literature should be able to be read alone (with obvious, but genius exceptions!). The ideas of alternate realities and worlds within worlds are very interesting and King may be uniquely qualified, as a literary descendant of Lovecraft, Matheson and Blackwood to pull it off.

****2015 amendment******

"The man in black fled across the desert and the Gunslinger followed." The iconic opening lines have stayed with me for a couple of years and I find myself thinking about this series, and more specifically, what have I missed? Hundreds of thousands of people love this series and I am left on the outside looking in. I think when I first read this I was put off by the purely fantastic setting, but now, maybe three years after I read the first, I am ready to return and give this another try.

** 2018 - This series brings out so many mixed emotions from me. When I first read this, I thought I'd missed the boat and was going to be on the outside looking in. Years later I started the rest of the series, but I take these books slow. I like / love / dislike his writing here, but keep coming back. I just started Wizard and Glass, the fourth in the series, almost nine years after reading this one. So I'm reading on the pace of how he published these!

Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews50 followers
December 10, 2021
The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, #1), Stephen King

The Gunslinger is a novel by American author Stephen King and is the first volume in the Dark Tower series.

As Roland travels across the desert in search of the man in black, whom he knows as Walter, he encounters a farmer named Brown and Zoltan, Brown's crow. Roland spends the night there and recalls his time spent in Tull, a small town Roland passed through not long before the start of the novel.

The man in black had also stayed in the town; he brought a dead man stricken by addiction to the opiate-like "devil grass" back to life and left a trap for Roland. Roland meets the leader of the local church, who reveals to him that the man in black has impregnated her with a demon. She turns the entire town against Roland, and Roland is forced to kill every resident of the town. When he awakens the next day, his mule is dead, forcing him to proceed on foot.

Roland arrives at an abandoned way station and first encounters Jake Chambers, a young boy. Roland collapses from dehydration, and Jake brings him water. Jake knows neither how long he has been at the way station nor exactly how he got there, and he hid when Walter passed through.

Roland hypnotizes Jake to determine the details of his death and discovers he died in a different universe that appears much closer in nature to our own. He was pushed in front of a car while walking to school in Manhattan. Before they leave, Roland and Jake search for food in a cellar and encounter a demon. Roland masters the demon and takes a jawbone from the hole from which it spoke to him. ...

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «تفنگدار»؛ «هفت تیر کش»؛ نویسنده: استیون کینگ؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه آوریل سال2009میلادی

عنوان: تفنگدار؛ اثر: استیون کینگ؛ برگردان کتایون نصیری مجد؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، نشر زهره، سال1387، در296ص، شابک9789642981052؛ کتاب نخست از هفتگانه برج تاریک؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده20م

عنوان: تفنگدار؛ اثر: استیون کینگ؛ برگردان: فاطمه علیپور؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، عقیل، سال1388، در230ص، شابک9786005050691؛

عنوان: هفت تیرکش؛ اثر: استیون کینگ؛ برگردان: ندا شادنظر؛ مشخصات نشر تهران، افراز، سال1389، در231ص، شابک9786005050691؛

رمان «هفت تیرکش»، جلد نخست از سری رمان‌های «برج تاریک »، نوشته «کینگ» است؛ «استیون (استیفن) کینگ» درباره ی این کتاب خویش می‌گویند: (این کتاب به نوبه ی خود، داستان کاملی دارد، اما در واقع کامل نیست! قسمت‌های بعدی این داستان طولانی‌تر از قسمت نخست هستند، و تعداد صفحاتشان به سه هزار یا حتی بیشتر می‌رسد؛ من برای آفرینش این داستان حتی به مرز جنون، و قدرت‌ طلبی هم رسیدم؛ کار با شتاب هرچه تمام‌تر پیش می‌رفت، و باید به اندازه سیصد سال زندگی می‌کردم، تا داستان برج را تکمیل کنم؛ نوشتن این بخش از داستان برج تاریک، با عنوان: «هفت تیرکش»، بیش از دوازده سال به درازا کشید؛ این طولانی‌ترین زمانی است، که تا به حال صرف نوشتن کتابی کرده‌ ام، و با آنکه نوشتن این بخش از داستان، طولانی شد، اما سوژه ی آن همواره در ذهنم زنده و پویا بود...)؛ پایان نقل

نقل از متن برگردان خانم «شادنظر»: (با قاطرش تا وسط خیابان آمد؛ خاک درون پوتین‌هایش را خالی کرد؛ مشک‌های آبش از رکاب قاطر آویزان بود؛ مقابل بار شب ایستاد؛ «آلیس» آنجا نبود؛ به دلیل طوفان، کسی به بار نیامده بود؛ ظرف‌های کثیف دیشب هنوز روی میزها بود؛ «آلیس» هنوز سالن بار را تمیز نکرده بود، و از آنجا بویی مانند بوی سگ خیس به مشام می‌رسید

خورجین قاطرش را از دانه‌ های خشک و برشته ‌ی ذرت پر کرد؛ چهار سکه ‌ی طلا بر پیشخوان بار گذاشت؛ «آلیس» پایین نیامد؛ صدای پیانوی شب به سکوت دعوتش کرد؛ به خیابان بازگشت و خورجین را محکم به پشت قاطر بست؛ احساس کرد چیزی راه گلویش را بسته است؛ هنوز هم می‌توانست از دامی که برایش گسترده بودند، بگریزد، اما شانس کمی داشت؛ به هر حال از نظر مردم شهر، او مداخله ‌گر بود

از کنار ساختمان‌های فرسوده و ساکت با پنجره‌ های بسته گذشت و احساس کرد از میان شکاف‌ها و درزها، چشم‌هایی به دقت او را می‌نگرند؛ در «تول»، مرد سیاه‌پوش در مقام خدا بود؛ آیا این فقط طنزی رایج یا نشانه‌ ی نومیدی بود؟ این سئوال اهمیت بسیاری داشت

از پشت سرش صدای فریادی بلند و عاجزانه را شنید، و ناگهان درها خود به خود باز شدند؛ پس دام را گسترده بودند؛ مردانی با شمشیر و لباس‌های کثیف، زنانی با لباس‌های گشاد و مندرس، بیرون آمدند؛ بچه‌ ها در پی والدینشان می‌دویدند؛ در دست هر یک چوب یا چاقو بود

او خود به خود واکنش نشان داد؛ در حالیکه هفت تیرهایش را از غلاف بیرون می‌آورد، بر پاشنه چرخید؛ این «آلیس» بود، که با چهره ‌ی ناخوشایند و کریه و زخم روی پیشانی‌ اش به سوی او می‌آمد؛ کسی او را گروگان گرفته بود؛ چهره ‌ی غیرعادی و نامانوس شب از بالای شانه‌ های او پیدا بود.)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 22/12/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 18/09/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Kevin Kelsey.
412 reviews2,219 followers
May 4, 2017
Great world building and atmosphere. Definitely different from anything I've read before. It felt very scattered, like King didn't really have any idea what the next paragraph would hold. I'm sure that probably made it a blast to write, but it could've been better if it wasn't quite so disjointed.

The dialogue between characters is Star Wars Episode II level bad, unfortunately. I really enjoyed the world building though, which makes me think that the series may be worth continuing.
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,978 followers
August 5, 2016
The Dark Tower series was one of the great joys of my reading life. However, it also frustrated me to the point where I often wanted to bludgeon Stephen King with a hardback copy of It.

I was baffled by The Gunslinger when I first read it way back in my high school days. It had been an unobtainable limited edition that had popped up in the title card of King’s other books, and when it finally went into wide release I couldn’t wait to snatch it up. But then I couldn’t make sense of it. There was a cowboy in an almost apocalyptic landscape where magic existed, but everyone knew the lyrics to Hey Jude. After scratching my head over it for a while, I decided that King must have hit the bottle a little extra hard that day, and then I forgot all about it.

I was so unimpressed that I didn’t even make an effort to get The Drawing of the Three when it first released. When I finally read it, I got an inkling of what King was doing, and it seemed cool as hell. And since I had delayed reading the second book for so long, I didn’t have a long wait for the third one. By the early ‘90s I had gone from Dark Tower skeptic to hardcore convert. (Little did I know the frustrations that awaited.)

The gunslinger is Roland Deschain, a kind of knight with two six guns instead of a sword and shield. Roland is chasing a mysterious ‘man in black’ across a seemingly endless desert. We don’t know exactly where they are, but the place seems to be in a state of decay. There are occasional remnants of very advanced technology, but things have devolved to the point where Roland’s revolvers are the most high tech thing around. Magic, demons and mutants are also common place in this world.

Over the course of the book, we learn that Roland has been chasing this man for years, and he’s never been closer. He eventually comes across Jake, a young boy whose last memory is of being pushed into the street and killed by the man in black in what seems to be our New York of the 1970s. Roland knows that Jake has been left as a trap to force him into a choice that will further damn his soul (Which is seeming kind of ragged around the edges anyhow.), but he is committed to catching the man in black so he can find the Dark Tower.

After the other books in the series had come out, I would occasionally go back through The Gunslinger and what came later completely changed my mind about this. It went from being a strange book that I didn’t understand or care about to the surreal prologue to a series I was more than a little obsessed with. I started to enjoy the cryptic vagueness and lack of information in the story. It was our introduction to the obsessed Roland, and once we got a bigger look at that world I came to love this book.

However, when King started the series, he had no idea what came next or how it would end, and he never felt obligated to stick strictly to the hints and clues that he littered in earlier books like this one or even his other books that contained bits of the Dark Tower. So there were continuity errors and predicted events that never came to pass. After finishing the series, King decided to update and revise The Gunslinger to get it in line with what he wrote later.

If he would have just stuck to cleaning up some of the continuity errors and revising the prophecy bits to match, I could have lived with that. Unfortunately, King couldn’t resist seeding the entire revised edition with more history and foreshadowing of coming events than in the original version. I liked it more when he stuck to just throwing us in the deep end with this strange world and morally compromised main character. I still prefer my original copy, flaws and all.

However, there’s another factor in play when it comes to this revised edition, but I can’t talk about it without spoiling the ending. My official recommendation for newbies is to read the original version first, then the series and then come back to this revised edition if you feel like it. Call me old school, but I think it plays better that way.

Here’s a bit more about why King gets a bit of a pass for essentially pulling a George Lucas and having Han not shoot first. Do NOT read this if you don’t want to know how the series ends.

Profile Image for Mohammed Arabey.
709 reviews5,739 followers
February 18, 2018
صدرت بالعربية اخيرا بعنوان الرجل المسلح
Beaware that the movie's following the Ending of the Last Book!!!

But in the first book, I suffered the Hard, Dry, Boring read of following a Man in Black you don't know, in a weird hot dry desert in hot August for one reason,

To reach a Dark Tower you don't know where..or why..detailed in too much adverbs and ambiguity.

That didn't help much to start the following 2 books I already bought...

Book one was a true disappointment for me, I never thought it'd be from you, Mr. King..

I believe in Old 'Gods' of King “‘Salem’s Lot” and the new “Under the Dome”..but this really I hated..
May be just me...but here's a confession that clear my doubts..
“Stephen King, on the foreword;
The younger man who dared to write this book had been exposed to far too many writing seminars, and had grown far too used to the ideas those seminars promulgate: that one is writing for other people rather than one’s self; that language is more important than story; that ambiguity is to be preferred over clarity and simplicity, which are usually signs of a thick and literal mind. As a result, I was not surprised to find a high degree of pretension in Roland’s debut appearance (not to mention what seemed like thousands of unnecessary adverbs). I removed as much of this hollow blather as I could,...
Yes, that's why I hate most new authors work, but really young King here followed the rules very hard..
And it doesn't seem as if he really removed much.

The ambiguity here was in the character of the Gunslinger, who by half of the book you'd get to know some glimpse of his childhood past and coming of age.
He kills, he travel for totally unknown reason till the end of this volume…
Following another ambiguous Man in Black who's ambiguity evil and the reason he killed a whole small town.

Meeting ambiguity Boy killed in our real world and somehow he's alive in this ambitious world...which is even not the Gunslinger’s original world.
A world with wired Mutants, men with birds heads, while the Gunslinger world is even weirder.

Do you have an even small explanation on anything?
“Stephen King, on the foreword;
Although I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time writing these books in the thirty-three years between 1970 and 2003, comparatively few people have read them.
No wonder, simply because this book defy the rules of First Book of a Series..
Too ambiguous...dry dry lines for a supposed epic fantasy..

I don't believe anyone felt liking “Ronald, The Gunslinger” nor being okay with travelling with a dead boy “Jack”, or would get tense that something bad may befall him...he's already dead for God's sakes..brutal death as it is.
It's hard to love the characters if you don't understand them well enough…

I'm not a fan of extreme fantasy, I love ASOIAF and Harry Pottet cause both more real than extreme fantasy, But till now I can't force myself reading Lord of the Rings..I loved the movies, And I loved the short “Hobbit” novel, it's short and the writing style is amazing but that's all.

Here's extreme strange ambiguous world and characters...in dry 19 years old writing by the rules of “how to be Shakespeare”, with all the strange old and weird language. and the 238 pages felt like 832 pages.

I find myself fast reading many lines, still I got it all..it's not too much stuff happening anyway. When now I have read the Wikipedia to write the review I find out the Summary ia totally enough, read it instead of this book and you're done with it.
“Stephen King, on the foreword;
The Gunslinger did not even sound like the later books—it was, frankly, rather difficult to read. All too often I heard myself apologizing for it, and telling people that if they persevered, they would find the story really found its voice in The Drawing of the Three.

Well, Only 4 pages by the last chapter can gives u a glimpse of this tower request… it evolves God, religion, technology, creation, since...etc.

That's what I most cared for...that's the best scene of all the book..
Alas, The Man in Black doesn't know much anyway, so is The Gunslinger..
So do I, so do you if you only get yourself finishing this book.

I believe this book could have been way better if was just half the pages, and included in book two as 2 parts in one book.
It was 5 short stories once published separated. .God that'd have been awful.. Only the last one though making a bit good promise to an interesting adventure to come.
If this last one "The Gunslinger and the Dark Man" came second in order of chapters that may have been at least better improvement.

I've read the preview of Book Two that included here..it was 12 pages of same prolonged one man tedious walk..till the mysterious door appears and that's when everything may change for way better adventure set in our real world..
I may love it I guess., may be when I read the next 2 books -but they're in detention till next February, the Movie release- may be then I'd appreciate this first book more.

So, till next February then.

Mohammed Arabey
From 5 Aug. 2016
To 8 Aug. 2016

Next King Stop, The Stand
Profile Image for Anne.
4,066 reviews69.5k followers
June 29, 2020
Not my cuppa.
Since the book is called Gunslinger I sort of thought there would be guns being slung, but I found that's not really the case. I mean..I wish, but no.


I was told this was the worst of the Dark Tower series, but that it was also the shortest, so that would help make up for it. But I've got to say that even though this was a relatively small book, there was just nothing in it to make me want to continue. I wasn't interested in anything that was happening.
He goes to a gross town, meets sad people, a showdown eventually happens. He meets a kid from our world. They go on a really dull adventure. In the meantime, there are flashbacks of his childhood. <--those are fairly uninteresting, as well.


The whole old west setting was boring. The people in the story were boring. And the plot was boring. What was even going on?
Yeah, I get what happened at the end, but I truly didn't care.
Bottm Line?
This one guy tracks this other guy to a tower. <--yes, it is a bit deeper than that, but it was such a long dry road to get there.


I have really enjoyed some of Stephen King's books but this isn't one of them. No offense to people who are megafans of this series but I won't be continuing.

George Guidall - Narrator
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Edition: Unabridged
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews9,007 followers
February 9, 2020
My third time reading! I have also read this same part of the story in graphic novels and remember references to it through the rest of the Dark Tower saga. I am definitely looking at this much differently knowing more about what happened before and after this book. I think back to the first time I read it and how I struggled some trying to imagine this fitting into a bigger mythology. Now it all flows much smoother.

This is also a part of my rereading all of King’s books in chronological order. So, did you know he released this originally the same year as Different Seasons, the Creepshow graphic novel, and the Bachman book The Running Man? Now you do! I think that also puts it into perspective where King was at during his career. He was in the midst of fighting a lot of inner demons and, as many of you probably know, one of the main themes of the Dark Tower series as a whole is doing battle with inner demons. Knowing that now, it feels like The Gunslinger must have been very cathartic for King at the time.

It is not my favorite of the series and I think the writing reflects the early stages of King’s vision. But, it is still a fantastic intro to the series and really creates the perfect atmosphere and mythology without giving too much away. In the end, the build up leaves you wanting to find out what is going to happen next.

For those of you who have not read this yet and may have been wondering about it there are a few things to remember:

• If you only have a slight interest in trying out King, this is probably not for you.

• If you have only seen the movie they released a few years ago, ignore that. And, by that I mean IGNORE THAT COMPLETELY! I am not even sure what they were thinking when they wrote that script, but it reflects nothing that you will find here. Not even close. They never should have called that movie The Dark Tower or tried to tie it to this. I was even annoyed that the cover of the audio version I listened to was from the movie. That is why I left it one for the original paperback cover version I read 30 years ago.

• If you like epic fantasy/sci-fi, world building, quests, and a bit of western flair this is the series for you! Give this first one a go, but don’t make any official decisions about whether you like it or not until you read the second book, too. That is the best of them (in my opinion).
Profile Image for Delee.
243 reviews1,137 followers
February 27, 2017
The man in black fled across the desert and the Gunslinger followed.

That is the line I remembered for years and years that made me think that someday I would revisit THE GUNSLINGER...As a young teenage girl I read THE GUNSLINGER and really didn't like it that much. I didn't hate it- it just confuuuuuused me. And to review this I will have to take you back to when I first read it as a teen...

Stephen King is special to me. Special because when I first discovered him- it was the first time I went out on my own and read something that wasn't influenced by anyone but me. Before then my books were all hand me downs. Books I borrowed from my brother- like John D MacDonald's Travis McGee series, or Nancy Drew from my sister, Agatha Christie from my mother- My dad loved the classics, my friends VC Andrews. I enjoyed them all, but something told me- there was going to be an author that set me apart from the rest of my friends and family- books that were going to be alllllllllll mine.

One night I watched the movie Dead Zone. In the credits it said written by Stephen King- and a whole new world opened up to me. I read Dead Zone, I read Salem's Lot. I read The Shining, The Stand...Firestarter...Carrie. I got used to his writing, and I was thrilled with it!!! Then I picked up THE GUNSLINGER and all hell broke loose. What the hell was this? It didn't fit. I didn't get it. It scared me that this was going to be what the rest of his books were going to be like. As a young girly girl I wanted nothing to do with westerns... I wanted nothing to do with Roland Deschain.

Thankfully more Stephen King came out that made me happy...Christine, Pet Sematary. The Talisman, Thinner, It...and so many others. I forgot about The Dark Tower and THE GUNSLINGER and went about my merry way. But that line always stayed with me...

The man in black fled across the desert and the Gunslinger followed. ...

 photo 7e996c09-d2f1-47af-a8b4-62234b594058_zps8eed14a1.jpg

Fast forward September 2014... two of my favorite Goodreads friends Stepheny and Jeff were reading about Roland- THE GUNSLINGER. I decided it was time I tried to get past my confusion and move forward. "Can I join in?" Of course you can...Let the buddy read begin.

 photo a5768d8b-462b-4375-8639-780aaa10a26a_zps08c55031.jpg

Roland Deschain travels across the desert with his mule in search of the man in black. There he comes across- Brown, a farmer, and Zoltan, his crow. Brown offers to put Roland up for the night...Roland's past becomes clearer as the story is told.

His past in Gilead...

 photo c97bbd7d-27d8-426f-aa10-bd02db52268a_zpseb3d86e9.jpg

In Tull...

 photo 40acf8df-172e-4789-a62c-0cdcea761603_zpsf79aea40.jpg

His meeting with Jake- a boy that Roland grows attached to- much to his dismay...

 photo 61b1b10b-5b40-4e64-b874-570b30ff1be6_zpsd2e09a70.jpg

...And his future told by the man in black...

 photo 7bb12215-e0db-45eb-b445-b748328f9dcf_zps97cf127f.jpg

Thank you Stepheny and Jeff for opening my eyes to a book I once dismissed. I look forward to the rest of the series. What a great new beginning. :D


Profile Image for Adina .
892 reviews3,559 followers
May 4, 2017
My father is currently reading 11/22/63 which I gifted to him on Christmas since he is an admirer of JFK and he once told me he wanted to try King. He is completely mesmerized by King’s writing (rightly so) and I thought it will be a nice idea to tell him about the King’s novel I’ve been reading in the same time. My tentative to explain the plot of Gunslinger went kinda like this: a guy, a Gunslinger, travels through a desolated desert to catch a Man in Black, who is a sort of a sorcerer. The followed had something to do with the World moving On and the destruction of the follower’s home. The Gunslinger reaches a house in the desert where he meets another guy and his talking crow. Over dinner he to that guy how he killed and entire town. Later, in some sort of a deserted building, he meets a child who is sent from the future/another world by the man in Black. Then…spoilers, spoilers, spoilers. Confused much? I was and still am.

What I am trying to say is that the Gunslinger is confusing and frustrating. If you like a straight, clear narrative where you understand whatever the hell is going on, this is not for you. The plot is strange, surreal, with some weird characters, some philosophy, blood, demons, witches and a very long tunnel.

Kings himself admits that the novel is hard to understand and he tried to re-write some parts to make it more readable. He started to compose this at 19 and it is obvious that he is trying to prove to himself that he can write and he is trying too hard to sound smart.

It might have been a strange read and at the end there were more questions than answers but I was hooked from the start by Kings writing and I can’t wait to read the sequels. I have until 3rd of August (when the movie comes out) to read the 3500 pages left in the series so wish me luck. 


The trailer is here! The trailer is here!
Profile Image for Lala BooksandLala.
500 reviews64k followers
September 17, 2017
I get the popularity, obviously I do. And as a massive King fan, I dish out this rating sadly, for I would have loved nothing more than to tell you this is my new favourite book. Alas, it was not my taste- and as is such with all my reviews, my rating must be based on my own personal enjoyment and less on a novel's possible literary merit. So I can't tell you if this book is objectively good, I just know that I did not find it to be so.
Profile Image for Markus.
476 reviews1,565 followers
May 2, 2016
This is the beginning of Stephen King's famous magnum opus, the Dark Tower. This is where the master of horror writes his great work of fantasy based on a combination of The Lord of the Rings and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."

This simple and beautiful sentence is the opening line, the trademark and even the summary of The Gunslinger. In most ways, this single sentence is what defines this book.

For that is how it all begins. The man in black flees across the desert, and the gunslinger follows. In the beginning, the reader has no idea who the man in black is, or even who the gunslinger is. You don't know where this desert is. You don't know why the gunslinger is following the man in black. And you don't know to what end they go. All you know when you start reading this book, is that he does follow him.

This is one of those books where you don't get to know anything about anything when you start reading. The characters go by illusive names like 'the man in black' and 'the gunslinger'. The setting is... a desert. Nothing more. This had both a positive and a negative effect on my experience with the book. The negative thing is the fact that in the beginning, I understood absolutely nothing of what was going on, and didn't care at all about what happened to the characters. Why should I, when there was no way to tell who was the good guy, and who was the bad guy (except maybe the title of the book), and no characters had any relations to any other characters or places? The positive thing is that the book gets better and better the more you actually get to know. Eventually, you learn who the characters are, what secrets are hidden in their past, and where this dramatic chase is actually taking place.

Thus arises one of the saving graces of this book: its main character. Roland Deschain, Roland of Gilead. Roland is one of those determined and silent protagonists allowing his guns to speak for him instead of his mouth. In most ways, he is reminiscent of Clint Eastwoods character in the famous Dollars trilogy, the Man With No Name (which is actually the author's intention).

The writing is... strange. Yes, I think that would be the best way of describing it. King seems to switch constantly between simplicity and complexity when constructing his sentences, making some strange combinatory lines of long and impressive words and then irritating sounds like "Yar". That does not mean that the writing is bad, only perhaps that the style does not suit my tastes completely.

Despite all that, I would say that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading this book. The story of the Dark Tower series definitely appears to be quite interesting. It is hard to say anything more about it without including spoilers, but once I got to know a bit of what was happening, I was hooked. Also, since what irritated me the most was that I was thrown into the book without any kind of background knowledge (and didn't start to get it until I was halfway through), I think I might enjoy the the rest of the series more, when I've gotten to know the world in which the story takes place, and the characters featured in it.

I will definitely continue reading this series. Whether or not I would recommend either the book or the series is too early to say. This book does absolutely not do as a standalone, and so I must take the next few books into account before I might say anything about that. But since I've repeatedly heard that this book is a lot weaker than its sequels, I'm obviously excited and quite optimistic about reading them.

In the end, The Gunslinger unfortunately did not meet my expectations. That might say something about the book, or it might say something about my expectations. Both options are possible. It's certainly not a bad book, but there's no possibility of it becoming a favourite of mine either. I only hope that the Dark Tower series as a whole is as good as the legend says.


Dark Tower reviews:
#1 The Gunslinger
#2 The Drawing of the Three
#3 The Waste Lands
#4 Wizard and Glass
#5 Wolves of the Calla
#6 Song of Susannah
#7 The Dark Tower
Profile Image for Jonathan O'Neill.
174 reviews352 followers
June 20, 2021
5 ⭐

”The universe is the Great All, and offers a paradox too great for the finite mind to grasp. As the living brain cannot conceive of a nonliving brain – although it may think it can – the finite mind cannot grasp the infinite.”

Stephen King’s The Gunslinger, the first in the ‘Dark Tower’ series, published in 1982, is a dark, gritty mescaline-trip through a Dream Fantasy/Horror mashup in which an Old-Western Style Pistolero, Clint Eastwood (Roland), pursues an enigma known as Will Smith (The Man in Black), through the harsh landscape of a desolate world which one could be forgiven for believing was the decaying husk of our own planet. At first, hyper-focused on the Gunslinger’s quest, King exposes the reader to this strange setting, in which time seems to have lost its meaning, once familiar language is forgotten, and the inhabitants have become deranged and warped due to a strange, uneasy force pushing and pulling on their emotions, encouraging them to indulge their most carnal impulses. During his pursuit, Roland meets a young New-Yorker by the name of Jake and the majority of the book is focused on their journey, the fluctuating dynamic between the two in relation to the Man in Black and some light fleshing-out of the Gunslinger’s past. This is all great, but where the book transcends your average run-of-the-mill Fantasy is a point in which, without saying too much, the narrow scope of the tale explodes into something far greater. Seemingly out of nowhere, the gritty, gun totin’, dreamy dystopian tale is flipped on its head, breaking the chains of its simple, meandering narrative and revealing King’s ‘astronomical’ ambition for what I hope will be a remarkable and wholly original series.

This book is not all that popular with those in my friends list and going through their reviews there are a number of justifiable reasons why, but I think the number one reason is this. People generally like their books, even those within a series, to be self-contained. That is, to have a story that, while potentially leaving some questions unanswered, still has a satisfying conclusion in its own right. ‘The Gunslinger’ doesn’t have that in the typical sense. The Final Act really elevated this story, don’t get me wrong, but almost nothing comes full circle. You are given critical information, but it only leads to more questions.

”Few if any seemed to have grasped the truest principle of reality: new knowledge leads always to yet more awesome mysteries.”

I don’t think this can be fully enjoyed without the predetermined intention of continuing on with the series, as a large part of the excitement that comes with finishing this instalment is the wonder of what is to come. This is, essentially, a 238 page prologue in which you can dip your toes and get a feel for the World. It is in no way a stand-alone.

Furthermore, quite a few people mentioned that the story was strange (it 100% is) and they had no idea what was going on half the time. This is valid, in the sense that for the entire length of the novel you have far too few puzzle pieces to even begin attempting to put together but, on the other hand, I thought the plot was pretty straightforward. If you can manage to let go of the need for something tangible and concrete to anchor to within the narrative and just allow yourself to drift tranquilly , observing the interactions, moment to moment, poco a poco, you’ll have a much better time with this. Of course, individual tolerance for this will vary.

”The greatest mystery the universe offers is not life but size. Size encompasses life, and the Tower encompasses size.”

‘The Shining’ is the only other book by Stephen King that I had read prior to this one and, while I enjoyed both, the writing style of the two couldn’t be less alike. One thing they do have in common is fantastic characterisation. It’s not just the main protag and antag that burst forth from the page but many of the non-essential “NPCs” too. There are so many memorable and disturbing characters, it’s almost a shame that you pass by some of them so briskly. Alice and her insatiably “restless groin”, Kennerly the toothless, “scrawny rooster” of a man who lay with his own daughters, Nort the undead-like behemoth, resurrected through the infectiously joyous act of salivary spit-roast/phlegm facial. Vulgar? Yes. Memorable? Absolutely! The dialogue between Roland and these characters can be, at any given time, hilarious, grotesque, tense or emotional, but always of a high quality and captivating to read.

Fate, Time, Language, Love and Sexual Desire are all recurring themes that lend the story a bizarre and mysterious foreboding along with the niggling feeling that you’re always just slightly out of the loop with what’s going on. This mystery is crafted with the subtlety of a master author and is largely responsible for the palpable atmosphere felt throughout the novel. A strange, uneasy and unnatural sensuality permeates the world as can be observed through the knee-buckling, bottom-lip-biting, eyes-roll-to-the-back-of-the-head intense desire that Alice has for Roland, Roland for Sylvia and later the Oracle/Succubus for Roland. The source of this is alluded to but never made entirely clear. Love, without going into specifics, can be viewed in the same manner. You’re never quite sure if it’s natural or a result of some outside force acting on the characters.

”I have not forgotten my father’s face; it has been with me through all.”

In describing more about the atmosphere of the novel, my fellow video-gamers are going to be at an advantage here. As I was reading, I couldn’t help but take note of, what I believe to be, the heavy inspiration that ‘From Software’ have drawn from King’s ‘Dark Tower’ in the creation of their infamously difficult, but highly addicting video game, ‘Bloodborne’. The Hunters are very much akin to Gunslingers and the landscape is, in both cases, one in which the “world has moved on”, leaving the inhabitants warped, deranged, and under the influence of a corrupt, cult-like religion. Add to this a dash of The Last of Us, a sprinkle of The Witcher, season with Red Dead Redemption and garnish with your preferred choice of textbooks on Astrophysics and Quantum Mechanics and you’ve got… Well, an awfully inaccurate description of what this novel is about. Helpful? I presume not.

I’ve been advised to go straight into ‘The Drawing of the Three’ without delay, so I will be doing so. If it’s half as good as this one, I’ll be a happy reader! Thanks to Kevin for inspiring me to drop everything and pick this one up!

”… three is mystic. Three stands at the heart of your quest. Another number comes later. Now the number is three.”
Profile Image for Jessica ❁ ➳ Silverbow ➳ ❁ .
1,261 reviews8,754 followers
March 31, 2018
Reviewed by: Rabid Reads

So here's the deal . . . THE DARK TOWER obliterated my long-running book funk. I read all ten of the original series graphic novels, then I read the five from the spinoff.

FIFTEEN graphic novels. In three days.

Then I had to read the real thing. #cantstopwontstop

You: Why?

B/c after reading all FIFTEEN of the graphic novels, Roland still hadn't made it to the tower. *bangs head against wall*

And after reading THE DARK TOWER (the novel), I discovered that with the addition of a few flashbacks, probably from later installments, all TEN of the original series of graphic novels were based on this first installment of the books.

They were pretty much the same story. Verbatim. Maybe that's common in this scenario. I don't know. I don't think I've read a graphic novelization of an existing book before.

But here's the thing: whether it was the additional background or the gut-wrenching illustrations that accompanied Roland's trials and tribulations (of which there are many), he's a much more likable character in the graphic novels.

In THE DARK TOWER (the novel) . . . Roland is kind of an ass.

Not kind of. Really, really an ass.

Which is a symptom of the bigger problem: there is a severe lack of character development.

There was insta-love.

You: In a Stephen King novel?

Me: Not in the traditional sense, but YES. There was.

You: O.o

Me: I know, right?

And that was after he went back and edited it for rerelease. B/c apparently if you're Stephen-effing-King, you can do that. #itsgoodtobeking


I'm still hooked. I'd bought and downloaded #2 somewhere around 75% into #1, b/c I gots to know, I gots to. *shakes fist at curiosity gods*

Do I recommend it to anyone else? Not yet. We'll see. I hear it gets better, but for now I'm shelving it as what-the-hype.

Jessica Signature
Profile Image for Darth J .
417 reviews1,265 followers
January 7, 2016

Well, I'm trying this thing where I don't DNF books. Let's face it, I'll probably mess up that resolution though. On a similar note, who here is still hitting the gym? Ha! Thought so. Don't judge me then. Anyway, I know this was a short read but it took me forever to finish it. I think that the idea is fine but it's the writing that is putting me off. I feel the same way about Neil Gaiman, in that I really like the premise and want to read their works but I'm just not feeling their style.

Apparently, Idris Elba is supposed to play the lead character (that is, if it doesn't go into production Hell like the other attempts to make this). He's another terrific actor who can play anything. *crosses fingers that he's the next James Bond*
Profile Image for Sr3yas.
223 reviews1,003 followers
November 6, 2017
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

And our BR gang followed the gunslinger as he tracked the devil, and when he paused to relax and make camp, he told stories of his latest gunfight, his old world, his childhood training and the tests he went through to become a gunslinger... and we just followed him, you know, like these flamingos!

King has masterfully created a unique world that integrates fantasy genre with American old west: A mysterious world that poses layers of questions like: Is it a world decedent from our own world? Or is it a post-apocalyptic western wasteland? Or is it a new world altogether? And moreover, Where did the burgers come from? Do they also serve French fries? What is the tax situation over there?

Ummm, Sreyas, you are not making any sense.

I am not making any sense?

Have you read this book?

For example, My man Roland the gunslinger walks into a township straight out of 19th century, steps into a bar with no electricity nor any modern amenities and asks for a..... wait for it..... burger. There are machines that can talk, there are sex deprived oracles and ghosts the haunt basements, and there are dialogues that made me question myself: Am I too sober to read this story? Should I eat a large quantity of sugar before reading this?

I have to admit that this is a peculiar book. This is very different from the usual King stories and writing styles. The prose are unique (Read: Odd) and the slang is weird at times. I had fun while reading this book, but when I did pause to take a breath, the only thought I had was "What the hell am I reading?!" . And the moment I resumed reading the story, those thoughts simply faded away.

That, my friend, must be magic!

On the top of that, I am not sure what's more intriguing: The world of gunslinger or gunslinger himself!

When I finished the book, I found that there was no mention of Crimson King, the primary antagonist of the series! That was when I found out that my edition is old! King revised the book in 2003 and added around 35 pages of new content to the story.

So I borrowed my friend's Kindle and read the 2003 version too. I'm not sure which one is weirder! The revised Roland is less cold-blooded, I think.

In the end, It all reminded me of the new Mad Max movie for some reason. You know, Apocalyptic wasteland, unreal locations, mad people, weird slang. To be exact, take Clint Eastwood and place him in Mad Max world (Minus the automobiles), then pick some supernatural elements and cook it up in a cauldron full of LSD, You get Gunslinger.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. This installment acts as an introduction to characters and their world(s) but preserves most of the answers for later installments.

One of the coolest lines from the book is

“Go then, there are other worlds than these.”

And Y'all remember how critics slammed the new Dark Tower movie adaptation? This was the official critic's consensus published in Rotten Tomatoes website.

Well played, RT, well played.
Bonus: BR Report

Shout out to Anish, Avinash, and Izzy for a rather turbulent Buddy Read. My fellow gunslingers were united in confusion, but divided by our ratings.

As you can see, I gave the book Four stars.

Anish AKA Kraken gave Three stars ------> You can read his review here. Dean from supernatural makes a cameo apperence in his review!

Avinash (AKA uh... wait... still working on an AKA for him) gave Two stars -------> You can find his review here. Also, Avinash has abandoned the series after this traumatizing read :p

Izzy AKA Ninja AKA little Dragon AKA Piggyback rider pulled a DNF on us after reading three dozen pages and gave a One star rating. There was a cat involved. It's a long story. :p

As you can see, Gunslinger is a gamble. You might like it, you might hate it, but you will be confused for sure!
Profile Image for Michael || TheNeverendingTBR.
479 reviews188 followers
November 27, 2021
I've never done a review on The Dark Tower books before, but this will be my fifth time reading the series and I'm going to take my time and give each book the review I think it deserves.

The Gunslinger, the first book in the series is a delightful read which reminds me of The Hobbit; in terms of simplicity and comfort.

A lot of people dislike the first book, but me personally - I love it. Like I said, it's simple and I consider it one of my comfort reads.

It's split into sections, which I'll lay out below.

"The Man in Black Fled Across The Desert, And The Gunslinger Followed."

The first line of the book just sets the tone, beautifully and throws you into a barren desert - trying to catch up with the illusive Man in Black.

Roland, the protagonist of the story is the last Gunslinger who is in search of the Tower but first he needs to catch the Man in Black to get information on how to get there.

On his way through the desert, he comes a town called Tull and things get a little crazy; I won't go into detail of course because I don't want to spoil it for anyone who's never read it.

He also comes across a man called Brown and his talking raven Zoltan.

"Screw you and the horse you rode in on."

Then he reaches The Way Station, which is where he'll meet an important character.

The Oracle And The Mountains, where he'll take mescaline and try get some answers from the Oracle/Succabus.

The Slow Mutants, which are like human 'muties' (basically humans who've been exposed to radiation and have evolved into almost amphibian type creatures who live in the dark and eat whatever they can find.

Then the last part -

The Gunslinger And The Man In Black

Here he catches up with Him and gets some answers and more..

Go read it and find out, I can almost guarantee you'll want to get straight onto that second book.

This is such an atmospheric read, the descriptions of the surroundings just puts you right there with Roland and the characters are unbeatable.

Straight onto The Drawing of the Three, because it's impossible to not continue. 😁
Profile Image for Chris  Haught.
580 reviews218 followers
September 23, 2017
This book is something of an oddity. That being, the first time I read it, I would probably have given it 3-stars, and felt quite generous doing so. It was really "meh" and though I was a King fan, I wasn't pleased with it after the hype. I even delayed reading Book 2 for awhile because I was somewhat turned off. I didn't hate it, but it left me ambivalent for the most part.

But this is definitely a book that gets better with time, with re-readings, and with the rest of the series. The second time I read it, I probably would have rated it 4-stars, and this was after reading Books 2 and 3 and preparing for the release of Book 4. By this time, I was in love with the series.

I read it again just before Books 5-7 came out in fairly quick succession. And yes, by then it had earned the 5-star rating you see here. For this fourth read of The Gunslinger, I'm enchanted with it even more than before.

On it's own, the book doesn't do much for me. But when you combine it with the entire series, wow! It's the essential beginning to the essential fantasy series of my generation. The Dark Tower is truly better than the sum of its parts. And as the first part, this thing is the motor that keeps the car running.

"The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed."
Profile Image for Blake Crouch.
Author 83 books47.2k followers
September 10, 2016
At a loss for words when it comes to this book. There is something that feels so new and fresh in terms of genre. Western. Fantasy. Coming-of-age. And possibly sci-fi. All things I love. And having now read this, and knowing it was first published in 1982, I'm pretty sure one of my other favorite writers, the great Cormac McCarthy, drew inspiration from The Gunslinger in both Blood Meridian and The Road. One of the most original stories I've ever read. Cannot wait to continue this series!
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