‘The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger’ by Stephen King – Book review

  • Odds are, if you’re around my grandmother, you’ll find a Stephen King book within arm’s reach. One of her favorite series that King wrote was the Dark Tower novels. Being that I looked up to her so much, you could say that the franchise became my white whale… a goal that seemed so elusive to complete that I put it off for 27 years. This series of articles will be the documentation of my journey as I follow Roland’s trials and tribulations as he chases the Man in Black and tries to save The Dark Tower. Shall I take my first step? That is how every epic journey begins, right? Keep reading to find out what I thought about the first book, The Gunslinger.

The Gunslinger reads like an invitation to a lavish soiree. That is, if the lavish soiree is set in a desolate wasteland where the main character is a deep, brooding loner who has a knack for killing people. Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger, is on the hunt for the Man in Black. That is where I began my journey… or did I? I’m not going to get into spoilers because that’s no fun. What I will do is document facts about the book. The first novel in the Dark Tower series is a compelling and thought-provoking ride that is dripping with violence, intrigue, and sexual tension. Why don’t we look at the violence first?

While The Gunslinger is not action packed, it does have its moments. The Man in Black is a magical fellow who is as tricky as he is deadly. Being hot on the trail of a man like this is incredibly dangerous. Roland stops in a town to collect information and I was let in on his paranoia.

At first, I began judging Roland and damning him as a man who had become obsessed and suffered from clouded judgement. Then, as the events played out, I realized he was right in his thinking. King did an amazing job filling me with dread. He didn’t let me in on everything at once, but instead spoon fed me a little morsel, here and there, building up the tension until I was so anxious that the terror flowed through my veins. It is here in this town where there will be an epic confrontation that really showed me what the Man in Black could do and what Roland was capable of. This was just a taste of the action in The Gunslinger. Let’s move on to the intrigue.

Much like in film, I enjoy jumping into a story that is already in motion. The Gunslinger is exactly that. I was able to join Roland in his quest for the Man in Black far down its road. I could see him getting incredibly close to his target and the anticipation is felt from the very beginning. I read this entire book within a 24 hour period. I have never done that with any novel and I am an absolute bookworm when I cater to that fancy of mine. Much like in the town section of the novel, I was fed little bits of info on this journey that left me famished for more. There was a feeling of mistrust of any and every character throughout the read due to what I picked up on, and it is absolutely delicious.

King has a way with his reader that is similar to a hypnotist with a patient. His words are his metronome and their narrative are your instructions. You are powerless to feel anything but what he wants you to feel and it is glorious. That is what makes this book so intriguing.

One of the aspects that might go unnoticed in The Gunslinger is the sexual undertone that is present throughout the story. Roland comes across a woman who has been cursed by the Man in Black. She craved sex like a drug addict craved crack and Roland was the man to give it to her. He also came into contact with a succubus. Succubi by nature are sexual and dangerous and, in order to get information out of her, he had to promise to scratch an itch that she had had for quite some time. Basically, it seems like no one can get enough of Roland. Can you blame them? He does have that whole dark and mysterious thing going for him. Anyway, he used this to his advantage numerous times to gain the information he sought. Hey, if you got it, why not use it?


I recently watched the director’s cut of Aliens. Precluding the film, James Cameron stated that this version of the movie is 40 miles of bad road. That is what this novel is. It is dark, brooding, and lonely but completely intriguing and worth the ride. By the time I reached the end of The Gunslinger, I quickly realized I had only arrived at the beginning. Everything I had read was a mere taste of what was to come. Hence, this is the reason I described this novel as an invitation. Well, Mr. King, invitation accepted! I cannot wait to start the next entry which is currently in the mail and should be arriving in a couple days. Until then, I will crack open my copy of Stephen King’s It and patiently wait.

Remember when I said this series is my white whale when it comes to his novels? Well, I have thrown my first spear by finishing The Gunslinger. I must cross plenty of bridges before I will put it down. You, my loyal readers, will hopefully be there for my entire journey and may even choose to read along with me. Since we will be seeing a theatrical release for the series coming soon, it is the perfect time to brush up on your reading. Who else has read this series? What did you think? Does the movie adaptation excite you? Let us know in the comments and make sure to stay tuned. Our journey has just begun…

About Preston Holt

At 5 years old i was catapulted in to the horror genre and have had no desire to ever leave it. I'm 26 years old with a great sense of humor and a thirst for the horror industry that just will never be quenched. I have a horror review site of my own called cabinintheweb reviews and when I'm not writing about, or watching, horror films, I am spending time with my spouse and my animals.

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