Stephen King’s writings have been a fixture in my reading list since I was a preteen however I have not read anywhere near all the books that he has released. The Dark Tower series has been near the top of my reading list for several years since I spoke about it with one of my colleagues. Recently I ordered the seven book series and decided, when having trouble reading Eldest, that I would start reading this series. I’m glad I did.
The version I read, like The Stand, was a revised edition of the novel with an introduction by King himself. I have to admit that I find his humor funny. It can be crass, to be sure, but the straightforward way he writes is amazing. I suppose one could say that he has a strong voice. In addition to that though, I think the allure of Stephen King is that he’s a great story teller. As I write this I am recalling the video I watched of An Evening with Harry, Carrie and Garp and the readings they each gave. Whatever can be said for the subject matter of the story I don’t think that there’s any arguing with the fact that he paid a vivid picture of his picnic. This post isn’t about that evening though.
From the moment I read the line: “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” I wanted to know more. Who was this man in black? Who was the gunslinger and why was he following the man in black? We have a better idea at the end of the book, but we still don’t have all the information – the beauty of a series I guess. The gunslinger is Roland Deschain and we hear that he has been pursuing the mysterious man in black for some untold number of years.
The gunslinger tracks the man in black across a desert during which we learn of how he divested the world of an entire town of people because they had been infected with a religious canker, planted there by the man in black. We meet a young boy: Jake, and learn of how he arrived at The Way Station. His explanation of how he lived in a world that sounded very like our own makes it appear that the world the gunslinger lives in some form of alternate reality.
Roland vows to look after Jake but his obsession with the man in black and thus the Dark Tower makes him sacrifice Jake’s life, something Jake had suspected he would do for some time. The result of this sacrifice is a meeting with the man in black and Roland learns that his pursuit is not really who he seeks, but rather Him and the Dark Tower.
My thoughts on this book:
Aside from the fact that I really love Stephen King’s writing style, I liked the description of Roland. I think that because I initially started listening to the audiobook I had an idea in my mind of what he sounded like and that aided the voice. Having an idea of what someone sounds like helps to characterize the individual, for me at least. Reading the introduction helped as well. To know in advance that it was a fantasy story that was inspired by The Good, The Bad and The Ugly leaves one predisposed to expect certain things about character, setting, and so forth, and we are not disappointed.
As i have also stated above I haven’t read the series before. The prophecies and Tarot card readings were most unexpected, but should not have been, given what I know of fantasy. I’ve yet to read a fantasy novel that does not contain a prophecy (perhaps the Lord Of The Rings is the exception, I cannot recall). I can’t wait to read the rest of the books and see how well those prophecies come to pass.
One other thing that I could not get over thinking of, given my want to be a published writer one day, is the comparison between the Dark Tower series and the Harry Potter series. Stephen King says in his introduction that he has never been one to plan his writing – he takes it as it comes. J.K. Rowling, by contrast, knew exactly where her series was going from very early on. I think I am a combination of both styles. Again, knowing something about his writing process makes me all the more keen to read the Dark Tower series.
I suppose I don’t have a lot to say about the book yet because I haven’t finished the series so I do not know how much importance to apply to the events of this first book. I’m sure I will have more contributions to make once I’ve finished the series which I hope to achieve before the end of November. Wish me luck.