The Gunslinger: The Dark Tower Book 1

Stephen King’s magnum opus begins here. Kind of.

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” With those words, Stephen King started his magnum opus in 1978. The series would take decades to complete and, while Gunslinger was not the strongest of the books, it laid the foundation for what would be one of King’s greatest works.

Gunslinger is the shortest of the seven books and lays the basis of the world(s) it inhabits. Roland Deschain is the titular gunslinger, an old fashioned knight of a dying world, chasing who he thinks to be his nemesis, the man in black. Along the way the reader gets both backstory into Roland and his chase through a story told to a farmer, and introduced to another major character, Jake, who hails from New York (yes, that New York) and tags along as Roland continues his quest for the Dark Tower.


There is a surprising amount of information dumped in this opening book, but also a lot that is missing. When Roland finally converses with the man in black, his information is both useful and useless, giving tantalizing hints as to what is to come, but never really saying things that make much sense. And that might be one of the biggest hurdles to The Dark Tower series. Getting into it requires a large leap of faith that things will not only get easier to read, but more enjoyable as well. They do, but getting through Gunslinger is a slog of a read, even for the most die-hard King fans.

That’s not to say that there is not interesting scenes in the book; there are a fair few of them. But they are few and far between as Roland plods along the desert with few people to talk to and fewer to keep with him.

Overall, I would recommend The Gunslinger to anyone that likes Steven King and his work (by the end of the series, you’ll probably run into a few people you recognize from other books, too.) Gunslinger itself is harder to read, but once the series gets rolling, you will be hard pressed to put it away.

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