Coincidentally, I started reading this book the day the movie trailer dropped. I first read The Gunslinger as a twelve year old who was blazing my way through Stephen King’s works. Like many preteens, I was overly fascinated with sex and violence but had no real appreciation of the consequences of either. I did not care for this book at the time. It was too abstract and had the feel of the old westerns that my dad and grandpa favored, which I studiously avoided as “old guy stuff.” As an adult, I recognize that The Gunslinger is a cut above Mr. King’s already excellent body of work.
The book’s universe seems to take place in a parallel or alternate timeline. Characters make reference to historical and pop cultural items that mirror our own but this world is an unforgiving wasteland in which, as the protagonist says “the world has moved on.” Roland of Gilead, the titular gunslinger trails a mysterious man in black across a barren landscape. Along the way he encounters a town that has been tainted by the man in black and later picks up a companion in the form a of a young boy named Jake Chambers. Along the way, we learn a little about both Jake and Roland as they travel together toward a fate of which they are both increasingly fearful.
This book was hard to put down. Like many of Stephen King’s best works, you know something horrible is going to happen but you can’t stop reading. I have already added the next two books in the series to my TBR pile. and made The Gunslinger part of my permanent book shelf rather than passing it on like I typically do with books I’ve finished. I’m glad I finally started filling in this gap in my Stephen King library.