Plume Revised Edition, 2003
Plot Summary: Stephen King's magnum opus starts, "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." The gunslinger is a Clint Eastwood-type rough and tough cowboy named Roland whose motives for following the man in black are unknown. The man in black seems to be a sorcerer of sorts who holds the key to Roland's fate. Roland comes to a small town, finds that the Man in Black has poisoned the minds of a select few and is forced to gun most of the town down. Later, Roland meets Jake, a young boy who is destined to be a part of Roland's journey. The two of them journey through some abandoned mines when certain tragedy befalls the boy. Will Roland carry on without him to meet with the mysterious sorcerer?
Critical Analysis: The Dark Tower series is vastly different than the rest of King's work. As opposed to the bleak horror elements that resonate in most of his other novels, The Dark Tower series has more of a western fantasy feel. This starts in the first book The Gunslinger in the form of mutants in abandoned mines and the aforementioned old fashioned shootout. Stephen King provides clues as to what this mysterious fantasy world could possibly be. Sometimes it seems much like our own, "Hey Jude" plays on the jukebox.
The best part of the series and this novel is the element of mystery that King dangles over his readers. Reading through, you desperately want to know who Roland is and why this sorcerer has a seemingly obsessive hold over him. King's use of language also immerses the reader into the world. He makes up accents and colloquialisms that the residents of Roland's mystery world use.
The Gunslinger does suffer from being the first entry in an epic series, though. It feels like an overly long prologue to a more engaging story. And indeed it is. In the following books The Drawing of the Three and The Waste Lands, the action truly starts and the series becomes an engaging story that most fans can't get enough of. Before this edition was written, The Gunslinger was not cohesive with the rest of the series and contained plot threads that did not make sense. Thankfully, King released this edition that clears up most of the problems.
Reader's Annotation: The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.
Author Information: Stephen King is a prolific author, the prolific author from Maine. He has written dozens of bestsellers, many of which have been adapted to film. The Dark Tower is in the works to become a TV/film series directed by Ron Howard.
Genre: horror/fantasy epic, teen crossover
Curriculum Ties: N/A
Booktalking Ideas: How does King combine multiple genres into this book? What other books can you think of that are a genre hybrid?
Reading Level/Interest Age: 14 to adult
Challenge Issues: sex, violence
Challenge Defense Ideas: Become familiar with the book, keeping the challenge issues in mind. Refer to the library's collection development policy here. If possible, find other opinions from reviews, recommendations, or others who have read the book.
Why I included this title: Stephen King is often one of the first adult authors that many teens and young adults start with, including myself. This is one of the faster paced and easier to understand books in King's extensive catalog, not to mention the beginning of a fantastic series, so what better place to start?