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Author Topic: The Dark Tower - Gunslinger - Stephen King
Member # 8781

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Ok, just finished reading the first book of Stephen King's Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger.

I have to admit that this is my first time reading Stephen King. I've always stayed away from his books because horror just doesn't appeal to me, too many have been made into movies, and he just seems to crank out one after another.

But a friend who swears that King is an excellent writer convinced me to give him a try. I chose this series because I heard it was King with a SF/fantasy twist.

And...I really got into it! I almost couldn't put it down until I was done. In my opinion, excellent dialogue and some of the best action I've read. He made it seem effortless, the story just flowed. I have a new found respect for King's writing ability for sure.

So, anybody else read this book? Or this series? I'm planning on looking for the next book in the series, I really want to see how he continues the story. Is it worthwhile?

And, if you're a King fan, did you like this book? I've heard a lot of King fans didn't really like this book as it was too different from his other books.

This story has a lot of loose ends that are mentioned but not elaborated on, and I'm still trying to digest and comprehend exactly the place and setting of it all. Anybody else have some insight?

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I just finished book three in this series.

I came at it the other way around...sort of. I read a Stephen King book when I was a young teenager and enjoyed it. Picked up the Gunslinger (this was in 93 or 94, I'd guess) and got lost.

Gave up on King at that point, and only recently came back to his books, and I love every one so far, to varying degrees. (The Stand and It are masterpieces of fiction.)

Decided to give the Dark Tower series another go, and I see why I got bored with the first one, but I suppose I've matured as a reader, and it held me this time.

The subsequent books are even more interesting. I can say why, if you like, but I'll leave it at that for now.

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Robert Nowall
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I read the stories when they were published in F & SF, long ago, and wasn't particularly enchanted. Later, much more recently, I read Volume One again, in a much-more-recently revised edition...and still wasn't particularly enchanted. That's all I've read of the series.

I haven't read all of King's work, but I like a lot of it...but I also think he's gotten away with publishing a lot of bad stuff on the value of his name alone. Maybe the other Dark Tower books are better...but I'm not tempted to read them...

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I'm a big fan of the Dark Tower books, but I'd suggest that before you read too far into the series, you stop and read Salem's Lot. Salem's Lot is not my favorite King novel (my favorite is probably Misery), but at the risk of being spoilerish, Salem's Lot ties directly into the events of one of the later Dark Tower books and you'll appreciate it more if you have the "Hey! Wait! It's <insert name of character here>" moment that King intends the reader to experience.
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The best book he wrote is The Dead Zone. (And I even have a soft spot in my heart for Cujo, though I understand King doesn't really remember writing it since it was coke-fueled writing.)

But The Dead Zone is the one to read. Good stuff.

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Robert Nowall
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My favorites of his stuff (that I've read) are the four novellas (novellae?) in the collection Different Seasons (I think that was the title---it's been reprinted under so many others 'cause they made so many movies of the stuff in it). Y'know, "Apt Pupil," "The Body," "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption," and "The Breathing Method." Something about them being more grounded in the so-called "real world," I think, unlike most of his other work.
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Here was my reading experience with the Dark Tower series: The first three books were amazing and I couldn't put them down. The fourth one bored me, but I plowed through it. Five started to edge into weirdness, and the weirdness got weirder in books six and seven (trying not to spoil, so to explain in as vague a way as I can, King brought too much of the real world into the story). But I kept reading because I absolutely had to know what would happen at the end of the quest, and that did not disappoint.
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Well, there is a reason King sells a ton of books, and many get made into movies ...

The Dark Tower story is not my favorite work by King, but I liked it and would say if you enjoyed The Gunslinger there's a good chance you'll like the rest. Best thing to do is to read on and decide for yourself if you want to keep going. I am a long time King reader and am somewhat biased in his favor perhaps.

It would be difficult to describe the "world" it's set in without perhaps giving a low grade spoiler. Once you finish The Drawing of the Three you should have a pretty good handle on it.

And as someone mentioned there are some elements from 'Salem's Lot that work their way into this story, but for me it had been so long since I read 'Salems Lot I didn't immediately make the connection.

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thanks for all the insight everybody...

I think I will try to finish this series in the near future, sounds like I will like it...

After further reflection, what I really liked about this first book was the dialogue and the action. What I am struggling with the most in my writing right now is snappy dialouge and action, and King made this look too easy. I think he kind of skimped on the world building details and all the extra info that I am used to in the books I read, so I would normally not be attracted to this sort of book. but he gave just enough hints about the world its set in, that I am hopeful it will be fleshed out in the next books.

JFLewis: thanks for the tip on Salems lot....I will try to read first, just depends on if I can get to it...got such a long list of books I want to read already!

JenniferHicks: thanks, I had thought there were only 3 books in the series...Ill start with those then see about the rest

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Nope, seven books in the series. The list is here:

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Stephen King is working on another Dark Tower book. From what I understand, it isn't directly involved in the linear storyline of the first seven, but I really don't care. I've read, and reread this series many times. With Marvel's graphic novels there is a whole new awesome element to them along with more story. There is even a new online thing called Discordia which currently kind of sucks but it is just starting. The series does have a few pitfalls that could be argued are based on King's ego, but in the end I don't care. I still love them.

As for reading 'Salem's Lot, it isn't really necessary. It adds to the story, but so does It, the Stand, and a host of other novels. I'd say Hearts in Atlantis is much more influential or Black House and the Talisman. In my opinion, the Dark Tower series is really a hypertext.

When the man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed, I was hooked.

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mr. riggles
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I am a big fan of King, and have read the entire Dark Tower series. Once I started with The Gunslinger, I read the rest of them back to back. And no, you do not need to read other King novels to appreciate the Dark Tower series - but you may gain some insight into Roland's world if you read other novels, as many of his characters and locales are reoccuring in his books (like the man in black). I would highly recommend reading the second, Drawing of the Three. In this novel, you will be introduced to three other main characters, who all come from New York at different time intervals/dimensions of existence. The Drawing of the Three was my favorite in this series.
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I've enjoyed reading most of Steven King's works, though I've been daunted by the size of a number of them.
Then again, I was captivated by the voluminous The Stand when younger and couldn't put it down.
The same was true with IT, which was especially delightful for two reasons:
(1) he refrences actual places in southern Maine a mile from my family home. That gave me the shivers.
(2) he captured the angst and the glory of being a prepubescent boy. I can still recall how he described the feeling of riding a bike down a long hill, and the out-of-the way places in fields and woods that draw us to explore and fill out with our imagination.

I've also met the man, very gracious, and we happened to share a fiction writing mentor, Thomas Williams (of blessed memory). Tom shared a story about Mr. King with me once, when I was feeling down about the negative feedback from some of my fiction writing classmates for my writing "fantasy junk and not real literature." >chuckle<

Being a fantasy and a Spaghetti western buff, I loved The Gunslinger. I bought two copies from the original run from Donald M. Grant, and gave one to a friend. My friend still thanks me; not only for it being a great book, but this edition is now worth over $500 [the signed numbered edition lists for $7500 !].

I consider it one of the first Urban Fantasies, as the story travels from a version of our world [our level of the Tower with characters and/or events from other King works like Salem's Lot,From a Buick 8, Insomnia, The Stand, Black House, Hearts of Atlantis etc. and even the author himself] to Roland's world. The story varies in pace, admittedly, and demonstrates the struggles with plotting a story over two decades [he had to rewrite the 1st book to make it more faithful to the subsequent books], but he manages to keep Roland faithful to his quest and the themes of love, loss, sacrifice, and Will--true to the Robert Browning poem that originally inspired him.

I am pleased to discover (from this very thread!) that he is to write another tale of Roland's world, The Wind Through the Keyhole that takes place between the 4th and 5th novels. Thanks for this lead.


[This message has been edited by History (edited August 19, 2010).]

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The opening line to The Gunslinger is one of the great openings of all American fiction. The first three-quarters of the book is a manual of compelling fiction writing.

Sadly, it goes downhill from there. Very slowly at first, but the downhill slope accelerates until Book 5 (where I stopped) becomes trite and difficult to read, in my humble opinion.

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I am a huge fan of Stephen King, and probably one of the only horror writers on this Hatrack website (because I haven't seen many, if any), but I really couldn't get into The Dark Tower series. Well, maybe it's also because I didn't really give it a shot. I own The Gunslinger, but I only read a few pages of it and kind of didn't really want to read much more. I am a bigger fan of his other works, such as The Shining, Carrie, IT, Geralds Game (even though that one took forever to get into. I convinced myself it would get really really good, and it eventualy did. I'm usually not disappointed with Stephen King. But yea, The Gunslinger just didn't get me going. I plan on giving that book another shot in the near future. This post topic convinced me that it probably will be a good read.
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There are very, very few books that I've stopped reading and never picked up again.

King has written 2 of them... The Stand and The Gunslinger.

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May be worth another attempt, rcorporon.
Both are successful books.

However, I've learned through dispersing my novel among a group of test readers with divergent interests, that some will love a type of story or writing that another hates.

I could put down neither The Stand nor The Gunslinger, for example.

Then there were others I just was not yet ready for and had to go back and try again, such as LOTR, Dune, and Hyperion...all which then became personal favorites.

Dr. Bob

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I read about half the book, under strong recommendation. But I found it dissatisfying and boring.

Am I alone in the opinion that it was beautifully written but slow, uneventful, and dispersonal?

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I got the first three books for 75 cents at the library - I thought I had done pretty good. I had forgotten that I had version of "The Gunslinger" in an anthology but had a hard time getting into it. The books were slightly different, but i still couldn't get into it. However, I recently started listening to it on audiobook, and it has been an entirely different experience - now I can't stop listening to the story. I am on book 3. I feel it is one of those stories that benefits from being heard versus being read.
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