Oh hey there little friends, how are you guys doing?
Oh me? I’ve just been yukkin it up all summer long, doing nothing, reading books, and working. That’s me. Super boring, right? Anyways, if you’re anything like me (and I hope you are), you’ve spent a lot of your life with your nose buried in a good book or two at any given time. I love reading. I’ve always been one of those super nerdy kids who participated in shit like BATTLE OF THE BOOKS or the local library’s SUMMER READING CLUB. I always read things way ahead of my reading level as well, so it’s not really a surprise that I started reading Stephen King when I was like.. I dunno, twelve or thirteen or so? I read all his books and thought they were pretty damned radical at the time.
However, like with most things, I drifted away from Stephen King as I began to read more and more horror authors that existed on the fringes. I like the fact that Stephen King has always existed and has provided many readers with their first jumping off point into horror and horror fiction.
I’ve given him a lot of heck over the last few years, if only because, in many ways, his works of fiction have lost most of their lustre for me. I’ve tried recently to re-read a few of his books, and there’s just something missing. But I guess that’s what happens with most things in life. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I was offered the chance to have a peek through the movie tie in edition of “The Dark Tower” better collected as “The Gunslinger” by Stephen King. I’ve been excited about the upcoming release of the film and have found myself curious as to how the adaptation will be handled and whether it will be an honest reflection of the book or not.
Simon & Schuster Canada have been goodly enough to provide me with a copy of the movie tie in edition to have a re-read through, and re live some parts of my sordid and nerdy youth, and have also offered up a copy of the book to giveaway to a lucky reader, so keep reading to find out how you could win one.
But before that, let’s talk a little bit about Stephen King’s infamous Dark Tower series. Originally written as several short stories that were collected together, this book is titled “The Gunslinger” and follows the aforementioned Gunslinger in his pursuit across a desert for his quarry known only as “The Man In Black”.
One thing I’ve always admired King for was his ability to craft a hook sentence, an opener that makes the person reading want to read more. It’s a small move, but one that acknowledges his talent with rhetoric and literature.
In this case, I’m speaking of the line:
“The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed” – page 1
I like this line because so immediately does anyone reading want to know more – who is the man in black and who or what is a gunslinger. Keeping in mind of course that these were initially those serialized shorts, it can only be said that in this book at least, you don’t really find out, and that’s part of what drives the story is attempting to piece together and understand who these two actually are and what their purpose is.
This aspect makes the writing interesting. However, what tends to dampen down that interest for me, is excessive description. Now, I like to let my imagination wander when I’m reading, I want to imagine characters in my mind’s eyes and where I find a lot of issue with this book is that too often every tiny detail is sussed out for me and I’m not really able to do that. I acknowledge however, that for many people, especially George R. R. Martin fans, they WANT that intense attention to detail. So I get that many people would disgaree with me on this one.
I’m going to write an example from the book below:
“But the man in black went by without slowing the bay that pulled his rig, and the spinning wheels spumed up dust that the wind clutched eagerly. He might have been a priest or a monk; he wore a black robe that had been floured with dust and obscured his features, but not that horrid happy grin. The robe rippled and flapped. From beneath the garment’s hem there peeped heavy buckled boots with square toes” – page 32
Nevermind that this is all run on sentences and sentence fragments, this bit is one of the first times you get a description of the man in black and it’s so wordy that I find lost in it. Stephen King loves sentence fragments, short and choppy, and instead of being stylistic to me, it’s just jarring.
And yet, at other points in this novel, King is very able to craft beautifully hewn descriptions of individuals and even of scenery without it being so choppy, so I’m not sure what the issue was with that paragraph. Maybe I’m on my period or cranky about something but there’s something there that I just don’t get.
Now, again, I caution readers – this book is wordy. You will find yourself half way through going – okay, but what happened?
Keep in mind, there’s like EIGHT BOOKS in the completed series and King is very careful at his world building. If I’m honest with myself, I found myself half way through the book and was kinda like, okay, well what the fuck happened, and the truth is, not much, really. One of the better interactions is the telling of the gunslinger about the last time he encountered people in the town of Tull, and the resulting religious vigilantism that occurred.
I’m purposefully being a little vague here because I really want any of you even remotely interested in this series to buy a copy of this book and check it out. I’m trying really hard to describe and be critical of this particular piece of fiction, but it’s genuinely hard to do.
All this aside, King is also able to craft the unseen spectre of the man in black in many frustrating but yearning ways:
“And it seemed that he could almost feel the laughter from the man in black, someplace far above them.” – page 140
It is this yearning that I think so many people relate to.
The relationships in the book range from this intense yearning to sheerly dismissive and back to one of true and unconditional love. The relationship between the Gunslinger and Jake, is also an interesting one, because it’s one of real love and with it real sacrifice, like most good stories on the subject.
I’m really interested to see how this will be portrayed in the film. I’ve heard kind of mixed reviews in terms of the movie being alternately really good and alternately a jumbled mess, so I’m interested to judge for myself.
The aspects of the book that merge the worlds between “Mid-World” and the real world are interesting but yet can seem jarring – references to Beatles songs, LSD, television, etc. But again, I kinda look back to the fact that these were written in the late 1970s and I think it may have been a little bit different reading those types of references during that time.
“This is a drug,” the gunslinger said. “But not one that puts you to sleep. One that wakes you up all the way for a little while.”
“Like LSD,” the boy agreed instantly and then looked puzzled. – page 143
This book carefully blends science fiction, fantasy, and the wild west and blends it into the beginning of a great story (one that I look forward to re-reading). I forgot why I had enjoyed this story when I first read it, and upon reading it again, this became clear.
I’ve compared King to George R.R. Martin a couple of times in this article and will make the comparison again, they both know how to create characters that are neither perfectly good or perfectly evil, but rather, entirely human and I think this i why these two authors are so beloved in their respective genres.
As the gunslinger pursues his quarry, he learns more about the world in which he lives, and the one in which he does not, and in this learning he also discovers that there’s more to his perception of life and death.
When Jake is sacrificed for knowledge like Odhinn hung on the branches of the world tree, the gunslinger gains knowledge and continues his pursuit of the man in black into the pages of the next novel.
“Would you kill all your answers so easily, gunslinger?” – page 165
Beyond everything else, this book reminded me why authors like Stephen King are the icons they are. I look forward to watching the Dark Tower film, and to continuing this re-read. In the meanwhile, we are blessed to be hosting a giveaway with our friends at Simon & Schuster Canada for a copy of the Dark Tower movie tie in book “The Gunslinger” by Stephen King. Here’s how to enter:
Contest ends this Friday August 13th, 2017!
We wish to thank our friends at Simon & Schuster Canada for keeping us in quality books, and for being kind enough to offer a copy of the Dark Tower to one of our readers.
We love you guys!
Thanks also to Stephen King for writing words that gave me the creeps when I was a nerd eating my lunch alone in the library.
All photographs taken by the oldblackgoat.