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The Gunslinger by Stephen King

The Gunslinger (original 1982; edition 1989)

by Stephen King

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
14,209301143 (3.87)1 / 265
Title:The Gunslinger
Authors:Stephen King
Info:Signet (1989), Paperback, 315 pages
Collections:Ebook, Read and given away
Tags:King Stephen 01, SF - Dark fantasy / Horror, Dark Tower series

Work details

The Gunslinger by Stephen King (1982)

  1. 61
    The Dark Tower, Books 1-3: The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three, and The Waste Lands by Stephen King (Valjeanne)
    Valjeanne: While The Gunslinger Book 1 is not one of my favorite books by Stephen King, one should read it to provide the backdrop to the sequels. The Drawing of the Three (especially) and The Waste Lands are much more engaging and two of King's most brilliant novels.… (more)
  2. 41
    Insomnia by Stephen King (sturlington)
    sturlington: Insomnia introduces the Crimson King, the big baddie from The Dark Tower series.
  3. 20
    Wizard And Glass by Stephen King (Morteana)
  4. 20
    Wolf in Shadow by David Gemmell (qofd)
  5. 10
    A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files (Anonymous user)
  6. 10
    The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree (The Outlaw King) (Volume 1) by S. A. Hunt (emren)
    emren: Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree is a love letter to the Dark Tower series. Now read the original!
  7. 12
    Hyperion by Dan Simmons (Scottneumann)

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Showing 1-5 of 280 (next | show all)
Review Originally Posted At: FictionForesight

I'd like to start us off with a confession, just to level with you: before this week, I had never read anything by Stephen King. The closest I’d come was watching The Shining during a particularly bleak winter. So, come with me on this journey, erase all knowledge of the master of thrills from your memory, and imagine reading King for the first time. This may be easier for some of you.

So, fresh-faced and starry-eyed, we open The Gunslinger to read what is arguably one of the best opening sentences ever written:

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

In twelve words, King has given us our protagonist, his quest, the setting, and a whole slew of questions waiting to be answered. Immediately I knew why King is so well renowned for his thrillers – he builds mystery and suspense with just a few words. Each sentence leaves the reader with more questions than they started with. But at the same time, miraculously, he builds three-dimensional characters that are relatable while remaining mysterious. We don’t learn the titular Gunslinger’s name until page 80, but as we follow his gritty, purposeful plod through the desert, this detail seems unimportant.

The details of this world are revealed to us in pieces, through the Gunslinger’s interactions with it’s denizens. While not everything is revealed, we can piece together that the Gunslinger lives in a universe similar to ours, but occupies a potential future where the world is desiccated and dying. The human race is struggling, on the brink of extinction. There are remnants of the world we know, such as the song “Hey Jude” and the presence of a long-abandoned subway. But there are only these small pieces to link it to present-day Earth.

As the Gunslinger Roland travels across the desert in pursuit of the man in black, he recalls the days when he was young, when he lived someplace verdant and thriving. The Gunslingers were a longstanding profession, but as the world declined so did they – Roland is the last. His adversary, the man in black, is a remnant from this time as well. We don’t learn until the last pages why the Gunslinger is hell-bent on catching this man, but King metes out enough clues to keep us on the edge of our seats, wanting to find out.

I’ll mention at this point that reading the Foreword and Introduction by Stephen King added an interesting perspective – the Dark Tower series took more than 20 years to complete. This first novel was published as a whole in 1982, and the last in the series wan’t released until 2003. Upon publishing the last one, King went back and heavily edited and revised the earlier books to better reflect the series as a whole. This book was written by a young, ambitious author, and there’s still a bit of pretension hanging in the corners – but it comes across as concise, collected, and well-planned. I’m eager to see how the writing and the universe evolve over the series.

The ending of this first installment leaves much to be desired – there is the conclusion of a character arc but, like the rest of book, the dénouement raises more questions than it answers. I have to say it was extremely unsatisfying, but I also have faith that it sets up the rest of the novels spectacularly. I’d imagine that reading just the first book would be akin to assembling the ingredients to bake a cake, and then… just walking away.

King has assembled here all the ingredients for a masterful fantasy epic in a vivid, visceral world that hearkens not from European folklore but from Americana. It is an extremely refreshing and enjoyable read and I am eager to follow the eponymous Gunslinger to his demise.

Fun fact: Dogs enjoy this book too. Mine found it quite tasty.

(www.FictionForesight.com) ( )
  FictionForesight | Apr 26, 2016 |
Short book, strange also.
In the begining, it was difficult to guess that "the dark tower" would be so good! and different from the usual stories of S King.
I liked it a lot! ( )
  Gerardlionel | Apr 2, 2016 |
“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” That’s the story. King's powers of description are revelatory and apt and shockingly good. ( )
  evamat72 | Mar 31, 2016 |
I read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon a long time ago thinking it was a fluke. I gave King another chance when I picked up The Gunslinger, but to my surprise, this book had way too many adjectives, too. I found it really hard to get immersed in his world because he kept shoving it down my throat with his explanations of dry, gray, grass. I suppose I am not a Stephen King fan after all! ( )
  angarrc | Mar 14, 2016 |
It tells the story of the gunslinger, Roland of Gilead, and his quest to catch the man in black, the first of many steps towards his ultimate destination - the Dark Tower.

The main story takes place in a world that is somewhat recognizable as the Old West but exists in an alternate time frame or parallel universe to ours. Roland exists in a place where "the world has moved on." This world has a few things in common with our own, however, including memories of the song "Hey Jude" and the child's rhyme that begins "Beans, beans, the musical fruit." Vestiges of forgotten or skewed versions of real-world technology also appear, such as a reference to a gas pump in a tunnel under a mountain that is worshipped as a god named "Amoco", and an abandoned way station with a water pump which is powered by an "atomic slug".

As Roland travels across the desert with his mule in search of the man in black, he encounters Brown, a farmer and Zoltan, his crow, who graciously offers to put him up for the night. While he is there, we learn of his time spent in Tull through a flashback. Tull is a small town which Roland came to during his travels. The man in black had passed through the town previously. After spending some time there, the leader of the local church becomes wary of Roland, and the town turns on him. In order to escape with his life, Roland is forced to kill every resident of the town, including his lover, Alice. Telling this story seems cathartic for Roland. When he is ready to leave the farm, his mule is dead, so he proceeds on foot. The farmer tells him that he is going to eat the mule.

At the way station Roland first encounters Jake Chambers, who died in our universe when he was pushed in front of a car while walking to school. Roland is nearly dead when he makes it to the way station, and Jake brings him water and jerky while he is recovering. Jake does not know how long he has been at the way station, nor does he know exactly how he got there. He hid when the man in black passed by the way station. Roland hypnotizes him to determine the details of his death, but then makes him forget before he awakes. Before they leave the way station they encounter a speaking demon in the cellar while looking for food. Roland snatches a jawbone from a skeleton in the cellar, and carries it with him.

After leaving the way station, Jake and Roland eventually make their way out of the desert into more welcoming lands. Roland rescues Jake from an encounter with an oracle, and then couples with the oracle himself in order to learn more about his fate and path to the Dark Tower. Roland gives Jake the jawbone from the way station to focus on while he is gone. After Roland returns, Jake discards the jawbone. As Jake and Roland make their way closer to the mountain, Jake begins to fear what will become of him.

During their travels to the mountain, some of Roland's childhood is developed, both through flashbacks and conversations with Jake. In a flashback, we learn about Roland and Cuthbert Allgood's chance encounter in a kitchen which leads to the hanging of Hax, the cook. The apprentice gunslingers are allowed to witness the hanging with their fathers' permission. Later, Jake asks Roland about his coming of age. Roland reveals how he was tricked into calling on his teacher Cort early, through the treachery of Marten. He succeeded in defeating Cort in battle through his ingenious weapon selection - his hawk, David.

Once they reach the mountain, and begin to travel through it, Jake's trepidation is even more clear. Even after the encounter with the slow mutants where Roland protects him, Jake does not fully trust Roland. When they are nearing the exit from the mountain, they must cross a fragile train trestle. When they are almost across, the man in black appears at the exit. Jake slips, and Roland must choose between saving Jake and following the man in black. Jake knows what his decision is: "Go then, there are other worlds than these." Jake falls to his death, and Roland chases the man in black.

Roland and the man in black hold palaver in a Golgotha. Using Tarot cards, the man in black tells Roland his future. Walter tells Roland that he will meet three persons in his quest: The Prisoner, a man possessed by a demon named "HEROIN"[citation needed], The Dark Lady, who is two people, and Death. "But not for you, Gunslinger." After his encounter with the man in black, Roland sleeps for an impossible length of time, approximately ten years. When he awakes, all that is left beside him is a pile of bones wrapped in the shreds of a black cloak and hood. Before proceeding further on his quest, Roland takes the jawbone of the skeleton to replace the one Jake had earlier discarded.

( )
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stephen Kingprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stone, SteveCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whelan, MichaelIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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...a stone, a leaf, an unfound door; of a leaf, a stone, a door. And of all the forgotten faces.
Naked and alone we came into exile. In her dark womb, we did not know our mother's face; from the prison of her flesh have we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth.
Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into his father's heart? Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?

...O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.
--Thomas Wolfe Look Homeward, Angel
To Ed Ferman, who took a chance on these stories, one by one.
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The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The story centers upon Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger who has been chasing after his adversary, "the man in black", for many years. The novel follows Roland's trek through a vast desert and beyond in search of the man in black. Roland meets several people along his journey, including a boy named Jake Chambers who travels with him part of the way.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0452284694, Paperback)

Thirty-three years, a horrific and life-altering accident, and thousands of desperately rabid fans in the making, Stephen King's quest to complete his magnum opus rivals the quest of Roland and his band of gunslingers who inhabit the Dark Tower series. Loyal DT fans and new readers alike will appreciate this revised edition of The Gunslinger, which breathes new life into Roland of Gilead, and offers readers a "clearer start and slightly easier entry into Roland's world."

King writes both a new introduction and foreword to this revised edition, and the ever-patient, ever-loyal "constant reader" is rewarded with secrets to the series's inception. That a "magic" ream of green paper and a Robert Browning poem, came together to reveal to King his "ka" is no real surprise (this is King after all), but who would have thought that the squinty-eyed trio of Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach would set the author on his true path to the Tower? While King credits Tolkien for inspiring the "quest and magic" that pervades the series, it was Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly that helped create the epic proportions and "almost absurdly majestic western backdrop" of Roland's world.

To King, The Gunslinger demanded revision because once the series was complete it became obvious that "the beginning was out of sync with the ending." While the revision adds only 35 pages, Dark Tower purists will notice the changes to Allie's fate and Roland's interaction with Cort, Jake, and the Man in Black--all stellar scenes that will reignite the hunger for the rest of the series. Newcomers will appreciate the details and insight into Roland's life. The revised Roland of Gilead (nee Deschain) is embodied with more humanity--he loves, he pities, he regrets. What DT fans might miss is the same ambiguity and mystery of the original that gave the original its pulpy underground feel (back when King himself awaited word from Roland's world). --Daphne Durham

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:42 -0400)

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First portion of an epic story of a fantastic world of good versus evil in which the hero, The Gunslinger, pursues The Man in Black.

(summary from another edition)

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