I don't like to start a series until the author has finished
writing the entire set of books. I don't want to read halfway through the volumes, and
then find myself stranded, waiting for the next book. I usually forget all the plotlines
and characters by the time the next installment is published. Thank goodness I never started the
Wheel of Time! I have wanted to read George R.R. Martin's Fire and Ice series, but that
is advancing a glacial pace: book 3 (A Storm of Swords) was published in October 2000,
while book 4 (A Feast for Crows) is due in December 2004 - a 4 year gap between books in
a series projected to run 7 volumes. Stephen King's Dark Tower book 1: The Gunslinger started
as a short story in 1978, and was first published as a novel in 1982 - but now at last all 7 volumes are here. (Stephen King was nearly
killed by a truck as he walked along a country road - after this brush with death, he sat
down a wrote books 5, 6 and 7 of the Dark Tower. If not for that accident, the series might
still not be complete.) Do I dare read all 3000+ pages, all seven volumes? I have decided
yes, I will read the Dark Tower. Stephen King is a terrific story teller, and I trust that
I will enjoy the series. So on to book 1: The Gunslinger. Here we go: "The man in black fled across
the desert, and the gunslinger followed."
The Roland the Gunslinger is chasing the man in black across a
desert landscape. The desert is vast and empty - King does a great job of describing the
bleak terrain and the shambling souls who still inhabit it. He conveys a sense of a world
that is ending, all life sucked out of it. The man in black is a sorcerer, and he sets traps
a few traps for Roland. It becomes clear that this story is not set on our world, there a
demons, devil grass and the other usual suspects from a Stephen King story. (I don't mean to
imply that the story seems like a King retread, instead, it seems epic.) A gunslinger in this
world is more than a gunslinger in ours - Roland's shooting skills are magical. A series of
flashbacks give us some of Roland's history - (it is in one of these flashbacks, well into
the story before we are told that the gunslinger has a name at all.) but of course, the flashbacks
raise new questions - did Roland really kill his mother? What was the treachery of Marten, the
wizard who betrays Roland's father? Why is Roland the last of the gunslingers - where has
their civilization gone?
There really aren't too many characters in the main thread of the gunslinger,
it is just Roland and Jake and the desolate terrain that they face: desert, mountains, lightless
endless underground tunnel. (There are more characters in the flashbacks to Roland's youth.) This
means that the characters are some what remote.
When I think back to the book, I realize King didn't answer any questions.
But this isn't maddening, only intriguing - lots more to come! The man in black may have answers, but Roland and the reader only get hints. I presume all of the questions will be answered in
the future volumes (which get a whole lot thicker - this paperback was just over 300 pages, but
I see that the just released volume 7 = 864 pages, while volume 6 checked in at 432, and volume
5 at over 700. This is a great start to the series, I'm looking forward to the Drawing of the Three.