The Gunslinger

I have to admit that I was more than a little surprised when my readers selected this title for me to review next. And yet, since I've been waiting since the late 80s to read Stephen King's The Gunslinger, I was quite ahppy to do so.

Early on, I made a promise not to begin The Dark Tower until the entire series was finished. I know I said the same concerning Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire and Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen, but sometimes I actually manage to keep my word.

It is thus with trepidation that one sits down to read the opening chapter of one of the most beloved fantasy sagas ever written. All the more so since most of the fans seem to agree that The Gunslinger is by far the weakest volume in the series.

In the introduction, Stephen King explains how the original version needed to be revised and expanded for it to make more sense and be on par with the subsequent installments. I don't know if it's because I read the revised edition, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Gunslinger. Some people mentioned that the fact that the novel is in truth five short stories put together to be offputting, yet I found the narrative to be fluid throughout.


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

To be honest, Stephen King had me with the very first sentence. The revised edition doesn't seem to contain any of the shortcomings associated with the initial version, so readers might want to give this one another shot. You can get your hands on a used copy with the links below, or better yet, get it from your local library.

Though it's a very short work, I was impressed by how the author sets the mood. I have a feeling that the worldbuilding, even if this facet doesn't play a major role in this first volume, will be a very distinctive characteristic of this series. The barren desert landscape reminiscent of the Wild West was a great setting, and I relished the mix of the old and the modern.

In terms of characterization, Roland of Gilead turned out to be one of the most intriguing characters I've discovered in recent years. I particularly liked the aura, the mystique which surrounds him. I loved the flashback scenes, and I can't wait to find out more about him and his past. The mysterious man in black was also an intriguing fellow. His revelations at the end of the book made for some fascinating foreshadowing.

All in all, I found The Gunslinger to be something of a teaser. It introduces us to the series' main protagonist, offers us a few glimpses into his past as well as his future, and moves at a brisk pace which makes this novel hard to put down.

If, like me, you have yet to embark on the quest to find the Dark Tower, let yourself be tempted by Stephen King's The Gunslinger.

Can't wait to discover what happens next. . .

The final verdict: 7.5/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

17 commentaires:

.scott said...

It was the dialog in that book that put me right off. I don't know why, but it just rubbed me the wrong way. I gave up on Gunslinger after 30 pages. I've been told to give it another go, and I likely will, but as it stands I couldn't do it.

Anonymous said...

Pat, could you please give a specific example of a book you have given a 9 or 10 rating? I was surprised at the 7.5 out of 10 after reading your review. I would have expected the rating to be higher.

Anonymous said...

It does take some getting used to, but by halfway through the 2nd book in the series you shouldn't be able to put these down.

To anyone who reads the whole series: When you get to the ending, stop! There's a little "continued ending" section, which Stephen King says he only included for the people who would annoy him about it. And he's right, stop where he says to stop or you'll regret it.

Anonymous said...

Don't stop yourself from reading the bit at the end of the 7th book. It is what it is.

Patrick said...

10/10: GRRM's A Storm of Swords and Erikson's Memories of Ice.

9.5/10: Morgan's Black Man, R. Scott Bakker's The Thousandfold Thought, and Erikson's Deadhouse Gates.

9/10: Gaiman's American Gods, and McDonald's Brasyl.

7.5/10 is actually a good mark coming from me. That's what I gave books like Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind and Joe Abercrombie's The Blade Itself.

8/10 and up means that a book is really something...:-)

Anonymous said...

To follow on from the above...

"6.75/10 isn't a very good grade, especially since my "crap" tolerance threshold is about 6/10..."

... 6/10 means it's crap. Really now, how does that work? Wouldn't 0/10 or 1/10 be crap? Why does a book never get a rating below 6 from you? Is that to appease the people who send free books?

You'd do better to not include ratings that are capricious and simply let your review speak for itself. It's frustrating to read a glowing review of a book and see it get a 7 or 8, or a scathing review that grants a 6 or a 6.75. Does that mean the range for "good but not great" books is a mere .25 of a rating?

Patrick said...

I simply stop reading anything that is below, in my opinion, 6/10. I made an exception with Bilsborough's The Wanderer's Tale last year, but that's it.

My time is too precious to waste on such inferior works. I have a lot of admiration for reviewers who can make themselves read utter crap and then give it a 1/10. They're better troopers than I am!

If you've been reading reviews around here for a while, then you should know that anything 7.5 or higher is a quality novel. While not perfect (no system ever is), it permits people to differentiate between "levels" of quality. For instance, if you read reviews of Abercrombie's Before They Are Hanged, Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora, Kay's Ysabel, McDonald's River of God, Erikson's Reaper's Gale, and Martin's A Storm of Swords, you'd realize that I enjoyed each and everyone of them. But only their respective score allows you to see which one comes out on top, even though each book got a positive review.

Hence, the rating system is important, at least in my eyes. It would be much more difficult to "rate" books without it, for you'd only get the notion that the book was good, bad, or so-so...

Noe said...

Hey Pat, its cool to see that you've started the long trek to the Dark Tower
Its a fun walk
Trust me

ThRiNiDiR said...

I have a similar rating system to yours Pat - only that I use mark 5 as the highest. 2,5/5 is good on average, 3/5 (6/10) is therefore above average and the mark you gave gunslinger would translate to 3,5 or 4,0 (depending on several factors, since I decided not give +/-0,25 marks). The perfect score is unachievable, since nothing can ever be perfect. Enjoyed your review though.

xs said...

Ok... 10 minutes have passed after reading your review and I think I can manage a response now.

7.5?????? Really?????

I mean, you are talking about an all time favorite of mine! You obviously liked it and have a good opinion about it so why a 7.5?!?!?! I even got a couple of irritated looks here in the office after my ill controlled shout of frustration!

I agree that 10s are for perfection, and 9.5 for something close to it... I was expecting AT LEAST an 8.5...

I am depressed... even more so because I have a great respect for your reviewes...


The D

Anthony Drake Mocony said...

I actually think that this is the best book and the series, and the rest of the books were really off. Book 2 had its moments, no doubt, and the ending to book 3 is great, but it becomes obvious at books 4 and up that a) King doesn't know where the series is going, and b) he doesn't read much fantasy, besides Tolkien and Rowling.

Sorry to lower your expectations for the next volumes, if I did so.

Maurice said...

@ Anthony

Well the fact of the matter is, King had no great scope for what would happen next as he wrote *any* of the first four books. It's only after his near death experience that he wrote the last three and then revised all the books so that they would fit in with what he had later written.

@ Pat

Even though the rating system doesn't bother me personally, I do notice alot of criticism for it. Have u considered switching to an A B C system? Personally I don't nitpick if one book gets a point more than another, but EGM (a gaming magazine) had the same problem, and recently switched to letters, which in turn, i hope, helped to relieve them of a bit of stress.

Jebus said...

Ignore these people who complain about ratings Pat, I like 'em and I mostly agree with your scores.

I tried the original version years ago and didn't really like it at all but this makes me curious to pick up the revised copy. I guess your job is done!

Anonymous said...

Pat, this is your own spot, you don't have to justify your ratings to anyone. Keep up the good work.

kazul said...

You better at waiting than I was! I used pray that he finished the story before I died or wondering about Roland would be my last thoughts.
I read the original Gunslinger and although it probably wasn't as lucid as the revised edition, it was still enough to make me need more.That first sentence either scared people off or like me, it grabbed me by the scruff and set me on my heels - ready to walk the Tower road with Roland.

Chris said...

How can you bear to stop and not just keep reading, reading, reading to find out what happens with Roland and the man in black? It just gets better and better from here...

Joshua said...

There's merit to both sides of the argument, stopping at the end, and reading the 'extended' end.

Both ways are correct. I read the extended, personally, I couldn't stop myself.

Pat, your ratings are fine, and completely agree with you on the below 6/10 argument. Keep up the good work.