May 16 2011 11:30am

A Read of The Dark Tower: Constant Reader Tackles The Gunslinger, Chapter 1: “The Gunslinger,” Sections 1-5

The Dark Tower Read on

Welcome to A Read of the Dark Tower series. Join me each week as I, Constant Reader, tackle the magnum opus of Stephen King’s career for the first time. If you want to discuss in general terms or talk about these first sections, join me by commenting here. If you want to talk spoilers, please head over to the forums for the spoiler discussion so my Dark Tower-virgin ears won’t hear anything before I read it, because then I might sound more intelligent than I actually am.

In today’s entry, I’ll talk in detail about the opening to The Gunslinger, the first in the seven-volume series. The Gunslinger is divided into five books, with each book subdivided into sections. Today, we’ll look at the first five sections of book one, titled repetitively enough, “The Gunslinger.” Clear as mud? For each section, I’ll summarize what happens, then what I’ve learned so far.

It’s a wild ride already, with a lot of worldbuilding that’s left Constant Reader here trying to figure out what is fraught with meaning and what isn’t. Am I missing a Clue? An Important Thing that I’ll later kick myself over? It feels like freshman lit all over again, only with more interesting characters. So…let’s go!


Section I: The Gunslinger is following the Man in Black through a barren wasteland, for a reason we don’t know. He’s leading his mule, which is on its last legs, and he has a moment of dizziness where he remembers things and people he’s lost in his past. He finds the dizziness troubling, as well as the memories. He comes across the cold remains of the Man in Black’s fire and stops for the night. He feels he’s getting closer, but doesn’t know for sure.

What Constant Reader Learns: I feel bombarded with information already, which makes me wonder what things will look like in another thousand pages or so.  Best not to dwell on it. Gotta give Stephen King credit, however. There’s no infodump here—he weaves minute details in every loaded phrase until Constant Reader’s head feels in danger of exploding.

After this first section, I know the as-yet-unnamed Gunslinger considers himself an “ordinary pilgrim,” although I suspect it could be false modesty. He’s had a long life, although age could be a relative thing in this dystopian world, and he has been following the Man in Black for the past two months, always moving southeast. This implies the Man in Black is heading for a specific destination. The Gunslinger hasn’t seen a town for the past three weeks.

The Gunslinger’s physical description, beyond his clothing and his guns, is minimal. His face is “pitted and flaked,” and his grin is “gruesome.” (Actor Javier Bardem, who looks like a shoo-in to play this role in the upcoming films, is prettier but feels like a really good casting choice.) We learn the Gunslinger is heavier and taller than his father, from whom he inherited his guns. He’s the sort of man who “might straighten bad pictures in strange hotel rooms.” So, does that mean he’s anal-retentive, or just always compelled to set things to rights? Given that this is a story of a quest, I assume the latter.

His surroundings are bleak scrublands where the only thing growing is an addictive, possibly hallucinogenic “devil grass” he must use to make campfires. The trail he follows has all but disappeared because, we learn, the world has “moved on” and has “emptied.” The sun doesn’t quite set at due west, which the Gunslinger finds disturbing. Duh, yeah.

There are “border dwellers,” although it’s been a while since he’s seen one of their huts. The dwellers are described as being either “lepers or madmen,” which, along with the description of the Gunslinger’s skin, makes me wonder if there has been some sort of plague that wiped out most of the people a la The Stand.

We know little about the Man in Black at this stage. His humanity seems to be in doubt. He’s fleeing across the desert (whereas the Gunslinger is not fleeing in pursuit, but following steadily), which begs the question: What’s the bad dude running from—or toward? And why is the Gunslinger dawdling?


Section II: After camping for the night, the Gunslinger sets off again. Eventually he crests a dune and finds the hut of a border-dweller. A youngish man with waist-length red hair and a talking pet raven named Zoltan is working in a pathetic little cornfield, and introduces himself as Brown. The Gunslinger introduces himself, but we aren’t told his name. It’s assumed the Gunslinger will stay overnight. He is tired, and reflects that he’d been traveling from sixteen to eighteen hours a day since he’d been in the town of Tull three weeks earlier, where the Man in Black, who from now on will be known as the MiB because I’m tired of typing it, had healed an “old man” of thirty-five.

What Constant Reader Learns: Apparently, the physical world is not the only thing falling apart. One of the first questions the Gunslinger asks of Brown is if he’s alive or dead. They both assure each other they’re alive, which tells me that, at some point, there might be zombies or other animated dead things. Did I mention zombies scare the crap out of me?

We also learn that the Gunslinger came from a place called In-World very long ago, and he implies that nothing is left there. He’s heard of a green land called Mid-World but isn’t convinced it exists.

Brown realizes almost immediately that the Gunslinger is after “the other one,” and we learn the MiB spent the evening with Brown as well, though Brown isn’t sure of how long ago it was. He asks the Gunslinger if MiB is a sorcerer because he pulled a ready-to-cook rabbit out of his sleeve, and we learn that he is a sorcerer, “among other things.” So with the bunny trick, I’m already picturing the Man in Black as having that classic warped, Stephen King bad guy sense of humor—a sort of gleeful madness that runs through the truly evil beings throughout many of his books. Not only are they evil, damn it. They enjoy being evil. Evil is fun.

Roland experiences another moment of doubt as he’s refilling his water skins in Brown’s well, realizing it would be easy for Brown to kill him. I get the impression these episodes of self-doubt are alien to the Gunslinger but they seem to be happening with more frequency.

Religious references are piling up. The old folks talk about God’s will, and Brown uses the “thees” and “thous” of the Manni, a holy people looking for holes in the world much as today’s end-time Christians look for signs of the Second Coming. There is also a reference to “ka,” which seems to be sort of a ruling spirit or universal karma.

(Oh, and Dear Mr. King: Love ya, man. But a mule and a donkey are not the same thing, so when the Gunslinger is suddenly leading his donkey down to Brown’s hut, I’m like, where’s the mule, dude? A mule is the offspring of a donkey and a mare. I grew up in Alabama. I know mules. Yeah, I know. Blame the copy editor.)


Section III: The Gunslinger awakens from a short nap and finds Brown has cooked a dinner of beans and corn. Brown tells him the mule (which sometimes masquerades as a donkey) has died, and that Zoltan has eaten its eyes—news the Gunslinger seems to take with resigned indifference. The Gunslinger asks Brown if he believes in an afterlife, and Brown says he thinks this is the afterlife.

What Constant Reader Learns: Ravens eat the eyes of dead mules, and Gunslinger is concerned about the permanence of life and death. Religious references continue, as Brown utters a paganistic prayer before the meal in addition to the afterlife conversation. Good and evil, life and death and the hereafter: classic Stephen King concerns.


Section IV: Gunslinger and Brown share a meal and a smoke. Gunslinger is waiting for Brown to ask him questions about why he’s after MiB and what has happened on his journey. He’s disconcerted when Brown doesn’t ask. In another moment of self-doubt, he even wonders if Brown is real, or if he’s just an illusion left by the Man in Black to trap him. Brown says no, he is not an illusion, unless he’s unaware of it. Finally, because he knows Gunslinger wants him to, Brown asks about Tull.

What Constant Reader Learns: Gunslinger says he almost got killed in Tull, and that he killed a man who’d been touched by God—except it wasn’t God but the Man in Black—another thinly veiled reference to the MiB’s possible lack of humanity. Gunslinger seems to need to talk about what happened in Tull, and Brown’s seeming lack of curiosity bothers him. Finally, when Brown asks if Tull is growing, Gunslinger says the town is dead, and that he killed it.

So, besides the obvious wondering if Tull is named after the popular 1970s band Jethro Tull, because Stephen King knows his music, it’s clear that something big and bad happened in that little town when the Gunslinger passed through. The Gunslinger’s odd self-doubt continues as he wonders if perhaps he is going mad.


Section V: Gunslinger’s flashback about Tull begins. He rides into town an hour after sunset, following the lights and sound of a honky-tonk piano. The townspeople out on the streets are silent and watchful. Gunslinger comes across a trio of young boys playing marbles and asks where he can get food. One of the boys directs him to Sheb’s, the source of the music. He leaves his mule at the stable and goes into the saloon, which is full of locals. He orders three burgers and a beer, which riles up the poor and obviously hungry locals. As he eats, an old man who’d been sleeping at a table by the door, approaches Gunslinger and speaks to him in the High Speech of Gilead. It shocks Gunslinger to hear it, and he realizes the man is dead. Uncomfortable, the other bar patrons leave. The woman working behind the bar, who has cooked Gunslinger’s burgers, says the talking dead man is Nort. She offers to trade information to Gunslinger for sex, and he agrees.

What Constant Reader Learns: We see a bit more of the world that’s left, and wonder what the hell happened here (wherever here is). There was once a forest but it’s been overtaken by prairie and desert. Deserted estates lie alongside the road, filled with scattered mansions where “demons” walk—is that literal demons or just the figurative demons of the past? More hints of decay and some plague-like disease can be found here as well. One of the boys playing marbles has a bloated eye bulging from its socket, and the woman behind the bar has a disfiguring scar across her forehead. The old man, Nort, has teeth stained green from eating the addictive devil grass.

Gunslinger has a stash of money—he uses a gold coin with the stable owner, gives another to the woman for his burgers, and hands a third to Nort. The people in the saloon are not used to riches—they seem angry and jealous at his ability to eat meat, and no one has change, which makes me wonder what viable currency they use in this world. Even though Gunslinger is the last of his kind, they know what he is and seem to fear him.

The woman behind the bar is a pathetic figure. She seems to be middle-aged and rode hard. She is clear about what she wants from Gunslinger, but ashamed of herself when he gives her a look-over before saying he’ll have sex with her. She has a sad, defeated acceptance of what her life is.

My favorite moment: It’s easy to read this and imagine it in the Old West (well, except for the promise of the walking, talking dead)—but when Gunslinger rides into Tull, the song Sheb is playing on the honky-tonk piano is The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” and the bar patrons are singing along with the chorus. Gives the whole scene a surreal feel that’s just mind-bogglingly fun.


That’s it for this week! Next week—same time, same place—we’ll pick up with the next five sections of The Gunslinger’s first chapter, also titled “The Gunslinger.”

Urban fantasy author Suzanne Johnson is annoyed that she’s far past 16 and still hasn’t discovered her secret powers. Her new urban fantasy series, scheduled to begin with the release of Royal Street in April 2012 by Tor Books, is set in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina. Find Suzanne on Twitter.

James Goetsch
1. Jedikalos
This is the only book in the series I have read. I found it so relentlessly bleak and depressing that I never wanted to read further. Your column will give me a nice way to decide if I want to read further. Just some glimmer of hope or light!
A.J. Bobo
2. Daedylus
Gives the whole scene a surreal feel that’s just mind-bogglingly fun

I've only read the first four books in the series, but this sums up why I like them. The Dark Tower is completely unlike anything else I've ever read (including King's other stuff). And that's a GOOD thing.
Sean Jones
3. PersonOfTheDragons
Yay! I love this series, I just finished the whole thing for the first time about 6 months ago.

While the story is amazing, my favorite part about it is seeing how King's writing has grown in the years between installments. This first one has a style that is nothing like any of the others. You'll see!
Kate Nepveu
4. katenepveu
Is Roland named in this section at all? (I infer not, but you do use his name once, so I wanted to be sure.) If not, I don't remember when that's revealed, so that'll be an interesting moment to look for.

The thing I remember about this book, the unrevised version, is that it was a very spare remote experience unlike the rest of King's writing. How does the revised version feel in this regard?
Chris Long
5. radynski
This is also the only one I've read too. I didn't mind the bleak so much, but I was really pissed off at the book for reasons I won't go into. I'm looking forward to your reactions, and maybe even hopeful that it will spur me to see the book in a different light.
6. SuzanneJohnson
@Jedikalos: Yes, it's VERY bleak. This is not a world...inworld...nonworld...plane of existence I'd want to visit, that's for sure. I find myself so intent on looking for Important Things I Should Probably Remember that it's helping me dig past the bleakness so far.

@DaedylusSL and @PersonoftheDragons--The difference in writing style from other King books has really struck me so far. The prose in The Gunslinger is much sparser, and the character development much slower, than in his other works. It will be very cool to see his writing develop as the series progresses.

@katenpveu. You caught me! I already knew Roland's name (and not much else) before starting to read and was trying not to use it until SK told us in the book but I goofed. No, at this point, we don't know him as anything other that the gunslinger. And it is VERY spare writing, with King sort of stepping in as an omniscient narrator at a few points, which kind of removes the reader from the immediacy of the story, and that's really different from the rest of his writing. I'll be curious to see if there's less of that "author intrusion" as the series progresses.

@radynski...Ooh. I'm intrigued. It's killing me not to read ahead. So I'll be interested in seeing what happens that pissed you off!
Marcus W
7. toryx
One of the particularly interesting things about this first book to the series is that even though it was published in the 80's, he'd been working on it for quite a long time before then. I can't remember when he'd started, but I thought it was in college, which would have been in the 60's.

Given all that, it makes a lot of sense that it's a very different feel for King and yet is so reminiscent of him as well.

I really love the term, "The world has moved on." It fits the surroundings that he paints here and has always kind of made me shiver to think about.
Herb Schaltegger
8. LameLefty
The entire series is a LONG read but ultimately very well worth it. The attempts so many spec-fic authors make to wrap all their work into one semi-consistent mythos is often either tiresome and unsatisfying (see, e.g., Asimov's later works) or silly/slapsticky bordering on farce (see, e.g., Heinlein's "Number of the Beast"). King pulls it off much better than most, but there are some bumps along the way - when the Roland runs into the author as a character in his own work, well, it leans over into self-indulgence. But I guess having survived a legitimate out-of-the-blue near-death experience, King can be forgiven.

The end of the whole thing isn't unicorns and rainbows but it is thematically, stylistically and, dare I say it, karmically perfect.
Sean Jones
9. PersonOfTheDragons
@SuzanneJohnson I think the big difference in style here is due to the fact that it is one of the first stories he wrote. If you look at some of the original novels like Carrie, the flavor is similar.
10. Adrianne Brennan
Just finished reading the series on my Kindle recently, and it's now secured a spot in my favorites. It's a REALLY fascinating, slightly dystopian steampunk Western which features a few of my favorite plot themes, and without getting too spoilery I'll name them: alternate realities, time travel, and meta. I won't say anything more except that this truly is an amazing series. It's dark and gritty, but it's also fascinating and even inspirational. A fantastic read.
11. iamnot spam
"The world has moved on." reminded me of the world of the "Langoliers". Already used up and waiting on the end.
12. SuzanneJohnson
@iamnotspam and @toryx...I love "the world has moved on" as well because it can be take so many different ways. LOL. I even used it in conversation this weekend, talking about natural disasters and how the world moves on while the people in the midst of them remain behind, dealing with the horrific minutiae. Such a simple yet elegantly complex phrase.

@LameLefty...Yes, it's going to take a VERY long time to get through it, but Tor is in for the long haul, as am I. I'm excited about seeing what I can spot from other books as I go along. I'm sure I'll miss much more than I catch.

@Adrianne. Hope you stay along for the ride--it will all be fresh for you since you just finished it!
Thomas Jeffries
13. thomstel
I'll be curious to see if there's less of that "author intrusion" as the series progresses.

That's quite the turn-of-phrase you chose there. File it away for later.

And HOORAY and CURSES! Another re-read! will be the productivity-death of me yet! Four exclamation points! Five!
14. Kadere
You should read the short prequel story from Legends called "The Little Sisters of Eluria." It takes place before the beginning of The Gunslinger and is refrenced throughout the series. Plus it's got zombies and vampires. ;)
Tricia Irish
15. Tektonica
This is wonderful! I can now spend every day checking Tor for Read or Reread updates! Forget Real Life!

Monday: Gunslinger
Tuesday: Wheel of Time
Wednesday: Malazan Book of the Fallen
Thursday: Game of Thrones
Friday: Malazan Book of the Fallen

Some of my very favorite reads!

I read this series a few years ago, and then felt compelled to go out and buy it all in hard back because it is iconic. I am generally not a SK fan, but these, oh these are Epic.

King did start the Gunslinger in college, I believe. It is the shortest of all the books, and obviously an early work. His writing matures with Book 2 and continues. It is bleak and dark and gritty, but very cerebral and philosophical. His characters are very well realized. (Even the mysterious ones.) His use of flashback in the narrative to fill in details is brilliant.

Thank you Tor, and Suzanne! I hope you like it. I'm happy to go along for the ride!

Edit: To consolidate two posts.
16. SuzanneJohnson
@thomstel...Uh-oh. Why do I think that "author intrusion" comment is going to come back and bite me in the butt at some point? Not that I'm getting paranoid or anything :-)
Andrew Foss
17. alfoss1540
Wow. Great series to read. Gunslinger is BLEAK to say the least. I started it twice before getting through it. Only thinkg keping me going was that it was Book 1 in explaining WTF was going on in a lot of other Stephen King Books (Talisman, Black House, Hearts in Atlantis specifically and a lot of others in General). Once I finished this, I could not stop with the rest. I was about 3 books in what SK was hit by the car. I FREAKED.

Anyways, I concur about the minutia. After completing it, I went back to it at least 4 times to reference scenes and details of the fight scenes. Roland's character is vague in print, but frightenly consistent through the series.
Marcus W
18. toryx
I have to admit, after my "Ohmigod, Stephen King's in the hospital!" first thought, my second, far more selfish response was, "But what about the Dark Tower series?"

I've felt terrible about that ever since. On the other hand, it seems that the accident had a lot to do with his drive in finishing the series, so perhaps it's not all that bad.

Anyway, like A Wheel of Time, A Song of Ice and Fire and the Harry Potter series, I was one of those who had to wait for almost every one of the Dark Tower series books to be published. I think I read The Gunslinger for the first time in '87.

Tektonica @ 15: Welcome to the re-read! Glad to see you here. But I'm compelled to point out that the Game of Thrones Read is actually on Fridays, alongside the second Malazahn posts.

Aren't Thursdays The Name of the Wind days? Sadly, I can't take part in that because I haven't read it or its sequel yet.
Kristoff Bergenholm
19. Magentawolf
As I remember the series...

Books 1 - 4 = Excellent
Book 5 - All aboard, destination Crazytown.
Book 6 - I think I missed my stop back there...
Book 7 - WTF? I came all that way, for this?
20. Improbable Joe
This should be interesting.

As dark and brutal as these books are (and they get more so as it goes on), there are moments of such intense beauty and light that it makes the whole thing worthwhile. It is like King metaphorically puts you in a darkened room, and occasionally shines a floodlight in your eyes. The reason that this series has inspired so much passion from fans, myself included, is that as bleak as things get it doesn't compare to the rare moments of joy, love, and victory that are scattered through the books.
Steven Halter
21. stevenhalter
These first sections do a good job at setting the tone and environment. We see the big "western" picture of the desert. We start getting the hints of mutants and magic. I liked these sections.

I just reread this first volume late last year after having read the initial serial in F&SF. I read the second volume at the beginning of the year and haven't yet read the rest, so this is good timing.
22. ksh1elds555
Wow- my 3 favorite series of all time are all on Tor!

Game of Thrones
Dark Tower

I will get nothing done at work! :-)

I did read The Gunslinger when it was first published back in high school, and since there was not yet a follow up book, I lost interest in the series. Then about 5 years ago, my hubby encouraged me to start the series over as he is a huge Stephen King fan. I'm not much into horror, more into SFF. I read the whole thing from book 1-7 and was really hooked. I wish it was a little fresher in my mind for this read, but just finishing Malazan now so I won't have a chance to read along. I will read your weekly updates though, and maybe I can read along in a few months. Thanks for bringing back such good memories though.
23. Gentleman Farmer
I was quite interested to see this post. I read vol. 1 when it first came out, and each subsequent volume when and as it was released.

Upon the release of Drawing of the Three, I re-read vol. 1, but otherwise did not re-read any books in the series at any time. As time went on, I got further and further removed from my early recollections of style, theme, characters and plot, and (whether as a result of that or not) I found to my surprise that I was not enjoying the series at all by Book 6, and was reading solely out of a sense of obligation. (While I otherwise remain a big Stephen King fan, get all of his books immediately upon release and have never stopped reading him).

I stopped in on this re-read, partly to refresh my memory of what book 1 was about, and how it fit into my recollection of the series, as well as to understand whether the reason so many people seem to really enjoy this series is because they read it all at once and didn't have such long and disjointed wait times between books.

Anyway, excellent summary and review of the first book, reminding me of things I liked about it and themes reflected in the series that I hadn't recalled while reading it (and which give it more of a depth than I appreciated on my original read). I think I'm going to enjoy following your read and may decide to read along too. Thanks!
Thomas Jeffries
24. thomstel

Here's my (flawed) recollection...

Book 1: Epic western magic awesomesauce
Book 2: Story overlaps our reality - blech, but still pretty great
Book 3: Timeline crazy ahoy, plus little RL overlap - aces!
*interminable wait to find out what happens with Blaine!!*
Book 4: Oh yeah, bout time...wait, how much of this is a flashback?!
*another long wait, but without the Blaine cliffhanger*
Book 5: The Dark Tower, Backwater Bumpkin Edition...with all-new Meta-sauce
Book 6: Or, I Wish I Could Remember What Happened In This Book
Book 7: Yay! The Finale! Wait...umm...but...ARGH...cmon...WHAT?!...
*love the world and the mythos, but glad that's over...*
25. SuzanneJohnson
OMG @Magentawolf and @Thomstel "Timeline Crazy Ahoy"..."Destination Crazytown." I can't wait. This is going to be mind-boggling. I can already tell. Thanks for joining in!
craig thrift
26. gagecreedlives
YES!!!! A Dark Tower re-read. None of my friends have read this series and I am really looking forward to hearing other peoples thoughts on it.

Yeah I had just about the same reaction to the news of his accident. And boy did I feel guilty about it too. M-O-O-N that spells guilty.

Guilty feelings aside I do still wonder if he didnt have that accident how much different the story would of ended up being.


Just out of curiosity have you read Eyes of the Dragon?
27. SuzanneJohnson
@gagecreedlives...I have read "Eyes of the Dragon," but it has been forever and the main thing I remember is Randall Flagg. I was tempted to re-read it before starting The Gunslinger but I wanted this Dark Tower read to be as "cold" as I could make it. (In other words, to go in as ignorant as I could possibly be--LOL.)
craig thrift
28. gagecreedlives
Well keep your eyes peeled and you may spot a very brief cameo.
Joris Meijer
29. jtmeijer
Magentawolf, Thomstel. Thanks now I know there was a reason I lost track in book six, only to put it away and never finish book and series.
Thomas Jeffries
30. thomstel
To be honest, I really don't remember much of what goes on in Book 6. I think they look for Susannah, they come face to face with some meta, and there's the cliffhanger to the Dixie Pig scene. Other than that...I guess I'll have to hit the Wiki at some point to refresh my memory.
Marcus W
31. toryx
Just a kind reminder: Not everyone reading these posts have read all the books and some of your discussions regarding the later books would be more appropriate for the spoiler thread in the forum than here.

Personally, I enjoyed the entire series and even if I liked some books better than others, I'm glad I've read them. Aside from the final book, I've read the entire series more than once and when Suzanne gets to that last I may read it again.
Tricia Irish
32. Tektonica
So nice to see so many friend/posters coming out of the wood work for The Gunslinger! And, Hi Gage! Nice to see you on the threads again!

I loved this whole series, some books more than others, but I loved the last book/ending. Can't say more here, but I had to throw that out, since so many have been dissing it. It's been a long time since I read the GS, and there's been much Fantasy under the bridge since then, so I'm really looking forward to this, Suzanne!
craig thrift
33. gagecreedlives
Hi Tek

Ive been around lurking but I figured with my username if I didnt post something here I would be breaking some sort of internet fanboy rule.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
34. tnh
Thomstel @30: Someone flagged your comment. I haven't read this series so I can't tell, but I suspect you were flagged for spoilers; thus the whiteout. If you think something else is going on, let me know.
Thomas Jeffries
35. thomstel
No worries Teresa. I didn't think I crossed any lines with it, but to each his own. I'll try and throttle back to avoid complicating an already-oft-argued topic. Thanks for the heads-up though!
Evan Braun
36. gilbetron
I have to say, the timing of this re-read is positively uncanny.

Randomly, I downloaded the first book over the weekend to read for the first time... and I devoured it in two sittings. So this is all very fresh to me as well.

My approach was very much to sit back and let the world -- and almost beat-poetry-like prose -- wash over me like the high tide rushing up a beach. As gritty, dark, and bleak as the book is, I found it so pleasurable.

Now I have something to look forward to on Mondays. :)
Suzanne Johnson
37. SuzanneJohnson
@gilbetron--yay! Glad I'm not the only newbie reader. I started trying to remember everything "important" and finally decided to just let it wash over me as well and see what sticks. I'm loving it so far, bleak or not. And, honestly, with all the dystopian fiction floating around these days, it isn't bleaker than the newer views of a world that's "moved on."
38. charlotanne
I have the first book but have not read it though I love Stephen King. A friend has been bugging me to read these for awhile and I thank you for posting - your posting is an incentive for me to actually READ the books.
39. LadyAtarah
My husband and I both read this series and still find ourselves randomly discussing things about it.
How fun to read along as you experience it for the first time!

How I found the series:
I like to listen to audibooks while I do projects around the house.
Several years ago I went looking for a fiction fix at the library, and needed an audiobook to listen to, and found The Gunslinger on audiobook. To my surprise, it was read by Stephen King!
Needless to say, after listening to him tell the story himself, I was definitely hooked.
I couldn't stop talking about it, so hubby had to read it, too.
I think the library got the seventh book in just as we reached the end of book six.
SK does such a wonderful job with the characters that I cried at certain points.
Another fun thing about reading this series in hardback: the artwork. Michael Whelan's was my favorite.
I hope you enjoy the series, Suzanne!
Suzanne Johnson
40. SuzanneJohnson
@LadyAtarah...Oh no, he's going to make me cry? I know he's going to gross me out at some point--probably at several points--so I might as well cry too :-)
41. hwhosh
This is such a good idea!! I have only read the introduction so far and I enjoyed it immensely!!
42. Jenny C.
Re. the bleakness: Improbable Joe has it right. Just wait until the roses show up. Remember the rose petals in Hearts in Atlantis? It's like all the goodness in all the world has been concentrated into a few tiny objects. And King has a way to make you feel the emotional weight carried by these highly magical objects, in the scenes where they appear.

Objects, places and occasionally people, I suppose. But it's particularly the roses that make me tear up just remembering them.
43. Van Plexico
I will enjoy reading your reactions to the book as you go through it.
Here is my own review, published by, from a few years back, when I finished the series:

I'm curious what part of Alabama you grew up in. I'm from Sylacauga.
44. SuzanneJohnson
@Van...Glad you're joining us! I'm going to hold off reading your review till I'm farther along..don't want to see any spoilers! I'm in Auburn, and go through Sylacauga on 280 when I go back and forth to B'ham. Small world!
45. Katiya
I was so in love with DT in high school and the early part of most people, I found the latter books a bit of let down, with the exception of the overall feeling of the last, which I thought was almost perfect.

Suzanne, thanks bunches for doing this read...along with Game of Thrones, I love seeing how people respond the first time, without a clue about what could be coming. It helps me catch nuances that I missed WAAYYY back when, which is awesome. :)

Just out of curiosity, did you choose to read the revised and re-released version on purpose, or is that simply the only one you can find now? Would you ever consider the un-revised original?
Suzanne Johnson
46. SuzanneJohnson
@Katiya ... I pondered long and hard as to which version of The Gunslinger I would read. I finally decided on the revised version because I figured that's the one Stephen King wants people to read. It was his chance at a do-over. I know the folks who loved the original tend to hate the revised version, but honestly, I don't know the difference :-)
Thomas Voldset
47. Insvims
Great thing I found this blog before ou have read to far. That makes it easier to catch up on your interesting thoughts on the series. I have read all seven books once, and have read the five first books a second time. First I read the books in it's original language. Then they got translated into my native language, and I thought I would read those as well. Mostly because the series is so complex that during the last few books I had a little trouble following all that was going on. Still I have enjoyed the series immensely, and King is definitely my favourite author.
It will be interesting to see more of your thoughts on the series as you continue your reading.

PS. Jethro Tull is not only a 70's band. They're still out there, and they're still great! ;-)
Debbi Chambers
48. dchambers59
@alfoss1540 (#17) - you might want to add to your "Specifically" list: Insomnia...
49. LLC16
The first book Gunslinger, is a difficult, but necessary read. It sets the entire series up. I read the first 4 books and I will tell you....this series is mindblowing. I just read the Hunger Games series, and was obsessed...but I love this series far more. It's brilliant. It's so good...I'm reading the series all over again. I promise...get through the first book and you'll love it. The second book is the Drawing of Roland's posse. It's really good and deep and necessary character development. The 3rd book....boy does this story take off. Brilliant is all I can say. The only reason I read up to the 4th book originally, was because the other books weren't out yet.
50. trillian6
I grew up in Alabama. I know mules. even to me ( adied in the organic cotton San Francisco liberal this is an extraordinarily brave thing to admit!
51. Gemstone
I read the Gunslinger when it came out. I am a big Kind fan, I loved it. I anxiously awaited book 2, and HATED it. I hated one of the characters so much I did not finish it. Fast forward to last year, a neighbor read all the books and raved about them, so I picked up book 2 again and read them every night right through to the end. Loved the books and I just reread the expanded version of the Gunslinger. I am going to follow you as you read them. Stick with them!
mark tranter
52. antiloquax
Great blog post Suzanne. "The Gunslinger" has always been my favourite of SK's books. I haven't actually read the whole series - I gave up after "Wizard and Glass". I didn't know there was a revised version of "The Gunslinger". I'll hve to read it!

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