Backlist Burndown: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) by Stephen King

Backlist Burndown is a monthly meme hosted by Lisa from Tenacious Reader where you put aside at least one book from your blacklist every month to read, and then post a review of it on the last Friday of that month.

The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) by Stephen King

Publisher: Plume

Publication Date: June 24, 2003 (first published June 10, 1982)

Edition: Paperback, 312 pages

Genre: Horror, Western, Dark Fantasy

Rating: 3.5/5 Rating

That was confusing… but I think I liked it…


Beginning with a short story appearing in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1978, the publication of Stephen King’s epic work of fantasy — what he considers to be a single long novel and his magnum opus — has spanned a quarter of a century.

Set in a world of extraordinary circumstances, filled with stunning visual imagery and unforgettable characters, The Dark Tower series is King’s most visionary feat of storytelling, a magical mix of science fiction, fantasy, and horror that may well be his crowning achievement.

Book I
In The Gunslinger (originally published in 1982), King introduces his most enigmatic hero, Roland Deschain of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting, solitary figure at first, on a mysterious quest through a desolate world that eerily mirrors our own. Pursuing the man in black, an evil being who can bring the dead back to life, Roland is a good man who seems to leave nothing but death in his wake.

This new edition of The Gunslinger has been revised and expanded throughout by King, with new story material, in addition to a new introduction and foreword. It also includes four full-color illustrations in the hardcover and trade paperback formats.

So yeah… that was a tad bit confusing…

The story starts with the gunslinger wandering alone in the desert for the man in black. Who the gunslinger is? We don’t know. Where this desert is? We don’t know. Who the man is black is? We don’t know.

Traveling across the desert he meets a dweller with a pet raven and inquires if he has seen the man in black – which he has. While talking and eating with the dweller, the gunslinger tell hims of the town of Tull; the girl by name of Allie that he met there, the dead-man by the name of Norm, and the horrors and the incident that happened there before he came here.

After his brief time with the dweller, the gunslinger sets off again in search of the man in black. This time he meets a young boy. Why the boy is here? We don’t really know. How the boy got here? We don’t really know. Where/When the boy is from? It is not really clear.

As the gunslinger takes the boy with him in his travels, he tells the boy stories of life and comings of age. (Which really raises oh so many more questions). Together they close the gap on the man in black, encountering demons and monsters. At the end, the gunslinger will face a major decision if wants to finally kill the man in black.

After finishing the book: who the gunslinger is? I’m still not one hundred percent sure. Who the man is black is? I think I have a rough idea. Where we are? It’s some type of post-apocalyptic settings (that’s the best I can do). When we are? I haven’t a clue. How the gunslinger get here? Haven’t a clue. And what the Dark Tower is? Apparently it’s a tower that something (for lack of spoilers), but really… I still haven’t a clue.

In summary, you can say that I have almost no idea what is going on! XD BUT! I am very comfortable with where we are after the first book.

I heard that this novel could be very confusing to follow along. I completely agree. Not confusing with concepts presented (except for maybe the end), but where we are in context to the rest of the story. You ever sit down to watch a movie, and miss the first 30 minutes where it does all the character and plot introductions? You can still follow along with what is happening now, but there are names, places, and events that are brought up from earlier that you feel you should know. And while you do understand what is happening right here, right now, because you missed the intro you don’t really have an idea of where everything is headed until you reach the end of movie.

Despite all this, I really did enjoy the novel. Yes there are questions and confusion here, but for me personally, the amount questions excites me to think that series will have so much to say! And that confusion did not frustrate, but created a yearning (I like that word. I need to use it more) in me, to find out why.

Wherever we are, I found it fascinating. It’s a very dark, bleak, depressing, set in this post-apocalyptic setting. Add that together with the gunslinger and boy traveling together, it has a real The Road feel to it.

The gunslinger himself I found to be a mysterious character. After learning more about him in the story, I have even more questions about his origins and feel I know even less about him. The one big question I had been struggling with from start was if he was a good guy or bad guy? Are we looking at a story of the hero or anti-hero? To me, it feels kind of like a “hero” that has fallen and is now on a quest for vengeance. Whatever it is though, I’m intrigued.

The ending was my favorite part. Even though it was probably the weirdest thing ever, what it was talking about and saying that the Dark Tower was, I though it was the coolest thing, and cannot wait to keep reading this series. I also felt the most comfortable there. The explanation was definitely way out there, and raised even more question, but the fact that something was actually being explained for once, was an incredible comfort.

Other readers, and even King himself, have said that you need to trust him about this first book, and that things will make sense and get good in The Drawing of the Three. Regardless of who the author was, I would still continue reading to the next book, but knowing that this series is by King, it is a great to relief to know that all these questions will be explained in time.

3.5/5 Rating


Date Read: 6/13/15 - 6/16/15
Review Written: 6/16/15
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8 thoughts on “Backlist Burndown: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1) by Stephen King

  1. S. C. Flynn says:

    I went on to try the next book but then gave up


  2. Tammy says:

    This is an amazing series, but you do have to read all seven books to really understand it. I binge read the whole thing once all the books were out and loved it. King took 30 years to write the whole thing, so the first book does feel disjointed, but it does all come together eventually.


    • I’ve read the first 4 book now. None of them have been as… different… as Gunslinger, but they have been getting even more strange. I’m really like that though! The end of Wizard and Glass had me scratching my head and laughing wondering what was going to happen next XD I would have been so mad if I read this series along when it first came out and had to was 15 years for book 5.

      And didn’t he write the first book as a writing experiment too? Not even the subject matter, but the writing style was unlike anything I’d ever read of King before.


  3. This is actually the first book I purchased with the intention of a backlist burndown post. Honestly, it wasn’t working for me but admittedly I didn’t get very far in to give it much of a chance. I should really give it another try one of these days.


    • The biggest difficulty I had with the book wasn’t how vague everything was in the story, but that King wrote it such a weird style and prose too. There was nothing really easy or comforting here. Now that I’ve read more of the books in the series, I’ve begun to appreciate this one a lot more.

      If you can get past the first book, I though the next book was amazing. The writing style isn’t weird like this one, and while the story is still very strange, it’s not nearly as vague or confusing; I didn’t fell lost like I did here.


  4. I’m a big Stephen King fan but I could not for the life of me get into this one. Despite the whole western fantasy setting, it just didn’t work for me and I had no desire to continue with the next book, to the dismay of my husband who adores The Dark Tower series. I read this a long time ago though, I’m curious if I would have a different opinion if I read this again today.


    • I’ve actually read through the first 4 books now, and I have to agree with your husband: I think this series is amazing! The second book is a lot different that this one. King doesn’t do that weird prose/writing style experiment anymore. Still very strange plot, but I was fascinated by what was going on. And the doors in the second book are so cool! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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