This isn’t going to be much of a review of the Stephen King fantasy/western/adventure/pulp hybrid, The Gunslinger, as much as it will just be some thoughts. To begin with, a confession. I hate reading series. This may mean that I am a lazy reader, or possibly a slow reader. I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s a combination of the two. But a series is a commitment. I think the last one that I read was Harry Potter and that was, well, probably mandatory to have any standing in my high school social circles. Also, they are excellent books. But they were coming out year-by-year as I went through middle and high school, so it wasn’t daunting to pick up the first one and just pick them off as they came out. The Dark Tower Series, however, has long been finished. King put the last of the proper series out when I was 14. That’s seven books of hard core fantasy that I honestly would have enjoyed more than Harry Potter at the time. They’re dirtier. That’s fun to a 14 year old boy.
Another confession. I think Stephen King is an American treasure. Save the, “but he’s lowbrow” bullshit. He’s amazing. I love his writing, all of it. The horror, the fantasy, the general fiction, it’s all good. So, despite the daunting task of possibly having to read seven books, some of them rather long, I trusted King to take me along for the ride of my life. To boot, I was spurred along by the movie adaptation trailer that came out a few weeks ago. Idris Elba? The new and improved Matthew McConaughey? A battle of Good Vs. Evil? Sign me up.
Being the literary snob that I am, the book had to be read first. HAD TO BE! To be perfectly transparent, as the trailer ended for the movie I was pulling up an Amazon Prime screen.
The book came in and I dug in. It’s actually a spectacular story! It’s a fresh spin on a genre that I feel has a tendency to settle into grooves of commonality. KNIGHTS ARE COWBOYS! How cool is that?! I’m also a sucker for westerns, so that helps. The lead character is complex. The Man in Black, the antagonist, is even more three dimensional.
Here’s why I didn’t like it. I hate series. And sadly, this was a setup to end all setups. The Gunslinger seems to serve little purpose other than to set up a world that I am expected to read six more books to explore further. Honestly, it just gives you enough of a taste to be hungry for more of King’s engaging, dark fantasy land. And I’m lazy. Also, King’s distinctive voice isn’t present, which is a real bummer. Instead, we have an unfortunate half-drunk Tolkien that likes the occasional flair of vulgarity. It hurts me to say this. Hurts me!
I guess though, the joke is on me. There were things that I didn’t like about The Gunslinger. It wasn’t enough to keep from going to a bookstore two days ago and purchasing The Drawing of the Three, part two of The Dark Tower Series. Make of that what you will.