By Jarred Collins
As I was going through school, I never enjoyed reading. Sometimes I thought it was boring, or just never considered myself the reading type, I guessed the reading type was the people in the advanced classes. Or it could have been the fact that I had trouble focusing and may have had an undiagnosed case of ADD (Which I do believe I grew out of by my junior or senior year.)
After high school, my wife now, girlfriend at the time, wanted to start reading the Harry Potter books. So being the great boyfriend I was, I bought her a set which contained the first four, and then the hardback of the fifth one which had just been released. Immediately after buying them, while in the car, I started to read the first one. And to my surprise, it seemed as if I was watching a movie. The images were now so clear in my head. It had opened up a new world to me. I then began reading everything I could get my hands on. That is when I came across Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series.
I first found out about The Dark Tower series while I was reading an article on IGN. The article was about the possibility of a series of films since the Lord of the Rings had been so successful with that method. They also mentioned that Bruce Campbell would be a good fit for Roland, the series lead character. Being the huge Bruce Campbell fan that I am, I decided that I should start reading the series. I went to Barns & Nobel and picked up the first book The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger.
Before I go any further, here is a short description of the book. Roland of Gilead, the last gunslinger, is chasing the Man in Black across the desert. This pursuit is the beginning of Roland’s purpose to go the Dark Tower. If you have not read to book or think you might want to, you can stop here. There will be plenty of spoilers ahead. So you can’t say I didn’t warn you.
[Editor’s Note: We take SPOILERS very serious here at Monsters of Geek. Turn back now as SPOILERS begin here. You have been warned.]
I found the first 50 to 100 pages of the book hard to get through. So hard that I started the book in 2003 and did not pick it up again until 2009 or 2010, when I decided to give it one more shot. The story takes place in a western setting that would fit in with your grandfather’s spaghetti westerns, but very much in the future when this parallel universe of ours has burnt it’s self out and reverted to the past. We first find Roland hot on the heels of the Man in Black. Roland comes to a farmer named Brown, and he puts him up for the night. Then we go to a flashback of Roland in the town of Tull. In Tull, the Man in Black has set a trap and Roland goes head first into it. At the end of the flashback he awakens to find his mule dead and he must now carry out his journey on foot.
The first act of the story was slow, and I had trouble following the flashback. There were parts that kept me interested, but not enough to keep me coming back for more. The second act of the story was what drew me in, and kept me going.
The second act begins with Roland coming to a way station. There he finds Jake Chambers, who was killed on out Earth and woke up in Roland’s. Jake is now Roland’s sidekick, and they continue their chase. Along their way you learn some of Roland’s past, and they travel through an underground mine, where they run into a group of “slow mutants.” They catch up to the Man in Black, and Roland is put in a precarious situation. He can go after the Man in Black, or he can save Jake. Roland’s decision ends act two.
In the third act, Roland catches up to the Man in Black and they have a long conversation. He reads Roland’s fate, how the Dark Tower is at the center of all things, and tells of three people Roland will encounter along the way. The Man in Black puts Roland to sleep, for what is supposed to be ten years. When he awakes there is nothing but a skeleton left of the Man in Black. Roland sits on the edge of the Western Sea contemplating what he is to do.
The second and third acts, are filled with more suspense and action than the first. There are several encounters and oddities that I left out, hoping to peak some curiosity.
One thing that I do love about the book is the cover art for the 2004 revised paperback. It has Roland standing in the middle of a vast desert, with the Dark Tower looming in the distance. That is the image that intrigued me about the book and made me want to pick it up.
If I were to rank the books in order, I would put The Gunslinger 5th or 6th out of the seven books. If you can get to the end, the next couple books really begin to take off.
For the past 10 years or so, there has been increased interest to bring the series to life. I thought that it was a done deal when HBO was going to do the miniseries accompanied by 3 or 4 movies in between. I think a series would be an awesome idea, and would love to see someone put the money behind it that is deserves. With the renewed interest in drama series, I think Netflix would be a great fit, and it would do it justice.