The Gunslinger by Stephen King

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Rate: 2/5

Medium: Audiobook

Overview (No Spoilers):

With the movie adaption of The Gunslinger being released I thought that it was the perfect timing to finally make my long delayed introduction to The Dark Tower series. Leading up to The Gunslinger, I had read many, many of King’s books and had yet encountered one that I did not thoroughly enjoy. With that being said, I hardly recognized King in this incredibly slow paced novel. Acknowledging the broad fan base for this series, I found myself full of self doubt that I must be missing something or perhaps daydreaming through dialogue that would have hooked me. The key aspects of this novel that drew forth my curiosity were the flashbacks by the Gunslinger, especially to his youth that served to partly draw back the veil of mystery surrounding our protagonist. As the Gunslinger continued on his pursuit, inch by ever crawling inch, the story would resume relatively normal paces in the aforementioned flashbacks. I would have to imagine the narrative of this story picks up the pace in subsequent installments of The Dark Towers series due to the following and hype surrounding this series. Additionally, the shallow depth of the world building in this novel left the reader feeling as though they were traveling through a foggy dream world where time is relative and different cities/places are hazily connected. Overall, the end of this novel piqued my curiosity as I have a hard time anticipating the direction this tale is headed and have to image the following novels would add a bit of concrete to this vague literary realm.

Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):

  • If Jake was indeed killed by the Man in Black, how does this man pass between worlds? Was Jake actually alive in the Gunslinger’s realm? Was the boy killed by the Man in Black in his own world specifically to tempt the Gunslinger? Did Jake actually die again?
  • What happened in the Gunslinger’s youth to cause his father’s realm to be overthrown? Why/How did the Gunslinger kill his Mother?
  • Where will the Gunslinger go next in his quest for the Tower? Why is he perusing the Tower?
  • It was stated several times that the ‘world has moved on’ however Jake came from a world that was comparable to ours. I thought it was an interesting note that people were worshiping an old gas station pump with the label ‘Amico’. There were also many mentions to mutations. What caused this world to ‘move on’? How did Jake get here?
  • What powers does the Man in Black have? What powers other than wielding guns and hypnosis does the Gunslinger have?
  • Was the Man in Black actually dead in the end of the book? What powers do the bones have?
  • What is going on regarding the two demons that the Gunslinger encounters? What are their powers?



  1. Oh Sarah, if you think The Gunslinger is slow-paced do not read on in the series. Many, many years ago, I read The Gunslinger and really enjoyed it. Why? It was a different kind of tale from what King usually writes and I thought it was very stripped down — not an 800 page monstrosity like many of his books. I was hooked and kept reading each book through to the bitter end, and … well, I won’t tell you anymore in case you decide to read (or listen to) the series. There is a simple answer to many of your questions, but I’d give away the entire story if I told you that answer — and it’s the reason I learned to hate the story and it also turned me against King as an author.

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  2. I read The Gunslinger last spring and spent much time trying to sort it myself. Stephen King never just writes horror. There’s always a deep psychological symbolic thing embedded. The Man in Black is some devilish character who seems to command Death like a Necromancer (like Beelzebul? Pig head on a stick).

    I loved the “Deadwood” feel, the desert, the creepy caverns, the language. Let’s palaver.

    The one thing that stuck with me is this: “I am the furthest minion of he who rules the dark tower, and Earth has been given into the King’s red hand.” The tower (it is the dark tower series) stands at a power nexus in time and time is softening. This is the seed of an epic.

    I want to know what “nineteen” means…

    Remember that King wrote the Gunslinger in 1982. I hope I don’t hate the story in the end like king midget.

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  3. Ugh. This book. I tried to give it the benefit of the doubt and try the second one, but couldn’t get past the first few chapters. I do not understand the popularity of it all. (Oh, right, people are crazy)

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  4. I’m reading this now and have mixed feelings. I know it’s only the first book, but I really expected more solid world building. I don’t know enough about King’s writing to trust there will be payoffs for all the questions/weirdness he sets up in Book 1.

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    • Please let me know what you think once you’ve finished it! Because of King’s other books I was so caught off guard with the lack of world building. I wonder if he kept this specific realm purposely fuzzy.


  5. While it took me a little while to get into The Gunslinger (first King book I read), I did eventually enjoy it. As I continued with the series they fast became some of my favourite books of all time. It’s a wonderful series, hugely in-depth with some truly amazing characters you don’t even get to meet in the movie or indeed in book one at all.

    If you feel you can read on, I’d recommend them highly. Answers all questions 🙂

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  6. I similarly found The Gunslinger slow paced. Everyone had raved about this series and here I was half-way through the first novel and wondering when things were going to start happening. It also made me think that there wasn’t an end in sight…. which is apparently a spoiler alert.

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  7. It’s been a number of years since I first read The Gunslinger, but I recall liking it quite a bit. The nature of traveling between worlds does get addressed more as you go, along with other things you’re curious about. The series is a tad messy in spots, especially the early books (by King’s own admission), but the overall journey and characters always overshadowed those things for me. I finished the latter half of the series over the past year and adored it, especially the final book.

    Regarding Jake being sent to Roland’s world I will say, which doesn’t really spoil anything, that there are numerous ways to travel between worlds in this narrative universe, one of which involves dying and going/ending up somewhere else. Walter uses alternative means to travel.

    Also, on your comment “this novel left the reader feeling as though they were traveling through a foggy dream world where time is relative and different cities/places are hazily connected,” that is precisely the state Roland’s world is currently in as a result of thing certain things happening with the Tower (though it is not a dream world). It’s something you’ll piece together slowly, as King saw this series as more of a gigantic novel or epic, rather than a series of novels. I understand how that can put other people off, but I love it.

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    • What wonderful insight! Thank you Ryan! I’m glad to hear the pieces of the puzzle slowly fall into place. I find it interesting that King views these as a large novel instead of separate pieces. I think that is an easier perspective for the reader.


  8. you’ll definitely get more answers as you read on. and one book is entirely dedicated to Roland’s early life. Song of Susannah, the sixth book in the series, is my favorite, but Wolves of the Calla is also excellent and shit gets REALLY weird in that one.

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  9. Definitely read on! I read the Gunslinger and thought exactly the same as you, I couldn’t believe how slow and boring it was. My friend convinced me to carry on with the series and I honestly got more from the one and a half page summary of book one than I did from reading the thing properly. I found that book two was immediately better – like a totally different series – and from then on I was hooked.

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  10. You have to read the whole 7 books so you can get it. It’s a super long saga (think like LOTR or the Hobbit style) but it’s worth it. The movie is not based on the 1st book. It actually follows AFTER the 7 books. It’s like this, SK wrote the 7 books and then produced the movie to give a conclusion to the series. I hope that helps. I truly loved the series so ask me any questions you like.

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