Top positive review
Fascinating Book Starts King's Epic Series
Reviewed in the United States on February 3, 2019
Stephen King says he started his epic series, THE DARK TOWER, when he was a very young man. Perhaps with the arrogance and/or enthusiasm of youth this series is a mash-up of any number of literary traditions. In most hands it could have wound up a mess.
THE GUNSLINGER, the first in the series, opens, appropriately enough, with “the gunslinger” chasing an unidentified man across a nameless desert:
“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”
The scene has the look and feel of an old spaghetti western, which King freely admits:
“… I realized that what I wanted to write was a novel that contained Tolkien’s sense of quest and magic but set against Leone’s almost absurdly majestic Western backdrop.”
I think he succeeded:
“The desert was the apotheosis of all deserts, huge, standing to the sky for what looked like eternity in all directions. It was white and blinding and waterless and without feature save for the faint, cloudy haze of the mountains which sketched themselves on the horizon and the devil-grass which brought sweet dreams, nightmares, death. An occasional tombstone sign pointed the way…”
The Gunslinger (eventually we learn is name is Roland – an epic/mythic/heroic name) comes across a mysterious young man who has somehow been transported from (our) contemporary New York to this strange land. No attempt is made at explanation.
When Roland comes to a town, we learn that this is post-apocalyptic time in which the world as we know it has been destroyed, possibly though nuclear war. It is a dystopian vision that predates the current popularity of such stories.
As the journey continues, old-fashioned magic becomes part of the mix. Also a bit of derring do in the style of Indiana Jones. Also some fantasy in the vein of George R. R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” (“Winter is coming.”)
And, of course, questions of good versus evil are explored.
Any type of cross-genre mixing is difficult to do well, much less on an epic scale. I have not even looked at subsequent books in the series in the hopes of being continually surprised when I do read them. I expect this volume is a good launch. If anybody could make it a success it would in the hands of Stephen King.