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The Gunslinger (1982)

by Stephen King

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Dark Tower (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
19,570438165 (3.8)1 / 388
The first book of Stephen King's series introduces the haunting figure, Roland of Gilead, the last gunslinger.
  1. 71
    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. 10
    The Probability Broach by L. Neil Smith (fulner)
    fulner: The gun slignger starts an adventure where or protagonist must find where he is. The probability broach is based on a 20th century PI who accidentally stumbles into another demention after trying to find a usually murder with unusual weaponry.
  5. 10
    The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree by Samara Abigail Hunt (emren)
    emren: Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree is a love letter to the Dark Tower series. Now read the original!
  6. 10
    A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files (Anonymous user)
  7. 01
    The Waste Lands by Stephen King (Afalstein)
    Afalstein: Book in the same series, with many of the same characters and a very similar tone.
  8. 12
    Hyperion by Dan Simmons (Scottneumann)

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» See also 388 mentions

English (416)  Dutch (5)  Spanish (3)  French (2)  Italian (2)  Danish (2)  Swedish (2)  German (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (436)
Showing 1-5 of 416 (next | show all)
Upon the reflection of a few years, I don't particularly love the Dark Tower series as a whole. I think it has some significant problems. But as a standalone work, The Gunslinger has been important to me since I first read it at age 17 and probably will continue to be. The combination of the desolate landscape it describes, the sparse writing style that leaves the reader with many unanswered questions, and the sad, grave, nostalgic tone throughout the book is really amazing. ( )
  LimeadeIsLife | Sep 25, 2021 |
A character with a Once and Future King backstory does a Lord of the Rings plot but it ends up getting a little Annihilation-y. And it’s all a western.

Okay, admittedly that description makes this book seem really amazing and right up my alley, and in some ways, it was pretty cool. I loved a lot about the premise. There’s some great imagery. I didn’t mind that it was slow and sometimes confusing and didn’t explain a lot about itself-- in fact, I’d say those were mostly positives for me. But in general, the execution left a lot to be desired.

Here’s some thoughts, in no particular order:

Women. We have the following female characters in the book: 1) Allie, who immediately wants to have sex with the Roland, then gets clingy, and then later Roland shoots her in the head (to save her, guys, don’t worry). 2) The preacher, who Roland immediately wants to have sex with, and who has her demon pregnancy aborted with Roland’s gun (?? not really what was going on there), and who later Roland shoots four times in the head (it was in self-defense!). 3) Roland’s mother, who’s infidelity and sexual activity fascinates Roland, and who Roland mentions offhand that he killed (“by then I was a matricide”, no other context). 4) An oracle demon thing, who is absolutely completely wild for sex with men in general, and Roland in specific, and is trapped in a magical prison forever. 5) A prostitute who never speaks, and is also killed by Roland.

Like, what! is! going! on!!?!

Linguistics. I thought the Lord of the Rings comparison, which King himself brings up specifically in his introduction, is especially interesting to consider. Certainly there are some superficial similarities-- a journey-quest populated by archetypes, a supernatural world, a meditation on the decay of a great(?) civilization.

However, starting the book with this comparison in mind also left me disappointed with some things about The Gunslinger… most noticeably, King’s experimentation with linguistics. Like, great, you have a “high speech” that has T-V distinction, cool that’s interesting… but then why are your verb forms the same for both? Is that on purpose, because the T-V distinction has been reintroduced to your language artificially or something? OR are you just kind of throwing “thee”s around because you want to do some cool linguistics stuff like JRR Tolkien? My guess is the latter, since the extent of the difference between the three dialects present (Jake, high speech, everyone else) is mostly a few vocab words. Actually, in retrospect, there may not even be T-V distinction, High Speech might only use “thee” exclusively just to sound formal and it isn’t a familiar form at all? I don’t know, I don’t have the book with me.

Okay, so maybe we find out in a later book that the whole High Speech thing is just something a group of people totally made up in a kind of scattershot way to make themselves seem more important, in which case, complaints totally rescinded, that’s great. But right now, saying “will thee” instead of “wilt thou” is just going to annoy me.

Structure. I’ve already said that I don’t mind the slowness of parts of the book. I’m all for an atmospheric journey. But at one point near the beginning when he’s in the desert, I believe there’s a flashback (Allie says what happened with the Man in Black) within a flashback (Roland talks about what happened in Tull) within a flashback (Roland remembers spending the night at Brown’s at the edge of the desert). That’s a bit much.

The Continuing Series. Okay, I’ve heard this book is a bit of a slog, and really you need to read the whole series before you can come back and appreciate it. This may be true. I’m still torn about whether I want to keep reading the series. On the one hand, there is a lot of unexplained stuff that I’d be interested to find out more about, and I am interested to know what happens to Roland. On the other hand, was this book annoying enough to me that I’ll just look up the series summary on Wikipedia? We’ll see. Ultimately, I’m a big believer that the first book in a series should be able to stand mostly on its own, and this one did not

Tell you what, if any of you tell me that in the next book there is a single female character who 1) talks AND 2) does not want to have sex with Roland AND 3) doesn’t die, I will go ahead and read it.

Okay, that’s enough thoughts. Three stars is maybe a little generous, but hey, it’s better than anything I would have been able to write at nineteen. ( )
  misslevel | Sep 22, 2021 |
My dad loves Stephen King and especially The Dark Tower series, but horror is not my bag so I've read very little King myself. I finally decided to give this first volume from Dark Tower a go, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It was a little too light on character development and interaction to really be a favorite, but the imagery! And the contemplation of evil and darkness! I'll probably pick up the next one sometime and see what's what there too. ( )
  lycomayflower | Sep 21, 2021 |
This review has been a LONG time coming. The book was really hard to peg correctly. On one hand, it reads like an American Western … on the other hand, it makes a REALLY bad Western. On one hand it reads like an epic fantasy … a really BAD epic fantasy. On one hand it is a post-apocalyptic story … one that remains mysterious and unexplained. There are also some minor elements from Mr. Kings side of the tracks (horror) … and of course, I have seen better from him on that score as well (and I am not exactly a King fan). You get the picture. What it does is set up the world in which the remaining novels are set … and it presents enough of an interesting story to draw you into the sequels, which are reportedly a little better.

The book comes across more like a series of short stories (which count against it in my book as I don’t typically like short stories). Not surprisingly, I discovered after the fact that was actually what it was originally published as (so the feel bleeds through). Basically we follow the gunslinger who pursues the man in black through a wasted land. Along the way, we have several different encounters that fill-in a little more about what the world was like in the past and why the man in black is the bad guy (although I believe more needs to be said as even in the end, I couldn’t be sure who really was the bad guy … so harsh was the world from which the gunslinger comes). Finally at the end, we have what appears to be some resolution between the two antagonists, but the outcome doesn’t really make any sense and leaves the ending more undefined then anything else.

I will give the next story a try … but if they story doesn’t improve from here, I am done with the series.
( )
  Kris.Larson | Sep 13, 2021 |
Really made no sense I felt like I was on drugs the whole time I was reading this ( )
  jooniper | Sep 10, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 416 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (26 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
King, Stephenprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Körber, JoachimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rostant, LarryCover artistsecondary 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.
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 first book of Stephen King's series introduces the haunting figure, Roland of Gilead, the last gunslinger.

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Book description
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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Average: (3.8)
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