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Review of Gunslinger by Stephen King

Review of Gunslinger by Stephen KingThe Gunslinger by Stephen King

Rating: I'M (sadly) INDIFFERENT
Series: The Dark Tower #1
Genres: Epic, Fantasy, Horror
Pages: 336
Published by: Penguin
Publication Date: July 1st 2003
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Book Blurb: In 1978 Stephen King introduced the world to the last Gunslinger, Roland of Gilead.  Nothing has been the same since. Over twenty years later the quest for the Dark Tower continues to take readers on a wildly epic ride. Through parallel worlds and across time, Roland must brave desolate wastelands and endless deserts, drifting into the unimaginable and the familiar as the road to the Dark Tower extends beyond its own pages. A classic tale of colossal scope—crossing over terrain from The Stand, The Eyes of the Dragon, Insomnia, The Talisman, Black House, Hearts in Atlantis, ‘Salem’s Lot and other familiar King haunts—the adventure takes hold with the turn of each page.And the tower awaits…  The First Volume in the Epic DARK TOWER Series…The GunslingerThis heroic fantasy is set in a world of ominous landscape and macabre menace that is a dark mirror of our own. A spellbinding tale of good versus evil, it features one of Stephen King’s most powerful creations—The Gunslinger, a haunting figure who embodies the qualities of the lone hero through the ages, from ancient myth to frontier western legend.The Gunslinger’s quest involves the pursuit of The Man in Black, a liaison with the sexually ravenous Alice, and a friendship with the kid from Earth called Jake. Both grippingly realistic and eerily dreamlike, here is stunning proof of Stephen King’s storytelling sorcery.

Sigh … I tried, I really did.

So I’m going to openly say that I’ve tried Stephen King on numerous occasions and I just can’t get into his books. I can’t really say why. He reminds me of Tad Williams, or vice versa. It seems long-winded. I can’t connect with the characters. I’m at a distance from the story. In no way am I saying he’s a poor author. His style just isn’t to my personal taste.

So Gunslinger has a key element I look for in a book: A brooding character. I love me a nice brooder. Gunslinger is a brooding guy in search of the man in black. His journey takes him across a desert-like setting where he takes time to reflect on what makes him a brooder and why he’s doing what he’s doing. We also get some peeks at a larger storyline out there. When I boil it down, I really should have enjoyed this book.

I will say that King can weave a sentence. He’s got some great lines in there and I can fully admire his skill. I understand why he’s so popular and I can appreciate his storytelling. But oddly enough, with all that mad talent, I don’t feel anything when I read his works. I’m completely indifferent. Why? I wish I knew. I guess it seems like he’s telling me a story in a very descriptive manner, yet he’s not placing me completely in the mind of his character. There are times I am, but for me, I mostly feel like an outsider listening to a campfire tale. It might be a case of too little too late. I admit, I was skimming quite a bit there toward the end.

Then again, my indifference could have had something to do with the setting. I liked the grittiness of the towns and the hopeless feel of the world. It reminded me of scenes from the video game Fallout. Not when you’re exploring demolished cities, but more of wandering the wasteland and coming across a few crazies and scary towns. It’s not my standard love, and I did struggle sometimes with getting my bearings in the world. That might have kept me at a distance.

Of course this could all be a mental thing. I went in to the book thinking I wouldn’t like it, and perhaps I didn’t want to disappoint myself. I’m fully open to that possibility. Even if this were the case, I don’t think I’ll be picking up a King book again. There are so many books I want to read that I don’t feel the need to keep trying to fall in love with an author because he/she is popular. I’ve already found that I’m not a fan of certain beloved authors, and that’s nothing against the author’s skill. It’s just my finicky taste.

So overall, if you like King, I recommend this book.

About Stephen King

Stephen Edwin King was born the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. After his father left them when Stephen was two, he and his older brother, David, were raised by his mother. Parts of his childhood were spent in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his father’s family was at the time, and in Stratford, Connecticut. When Stephen was eleven, his mother brought her children back to Durham, Maine, for good. Her parents, Guy and Nellie Pillsbury, had become incapacitated with old age, and Ruth King was persuaded by her sisters to take over the physical care of them. Other family members provided a small house in Durham and financial support. After Stephen’s grandparents passed away, Mrs. King found work in the kitchens of Pineland, a nearby residential facility for the mentally challenged.

Stephen attended the grammar school in Durham and Lisbon Falls High School, graduating in 1966. From his sophomore year at the University of Maine at Orono, he wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper, THE MAINE CAMPUS. He was also active in student politics, serving as a member of the Student Senate. He came to support the anti-war movement on the Orono campus, arriving at his stance from a conservative view that the war in Vietnam was unconstitutional. He graduated in 1970, with a B.A. in English and qualified to teach on the high school level. A draft board examination immediately post-graduation found him 4-F on grounds of high blood pressure, limited vision, flat feet, and punctured eardrums.

He met Tabitha Spruce in the stacks of the Fogler Library at the University, where they both worked as students; they married in January of 1971. As Stephen was unable to find placement as a teacher immediately, the Kings lived on his earnings as a laborer at an industrial laundry, and her student loan and savings, with an occasional boost from a short story sale to men’s magazines.

Stephen made his first professional short story sale (“The Glass Floor”) to Startling Mystery Stories in 1967. Throughout the early years of his marriage, he continued to sell stories to men’s magazines. Many were gathered into the Night Shift collection or appeared in other anthologies.

In the fall of 1971, Stephen began teaching English at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels.

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