I got into Stephen King a few years back with a memoir of his, On Writing, and a collection of short stories called Bazaar of Bad Dreams. King is one of the most successful authors of all time, and as a still-forming horror writer myself, I figured I really needed to study his works.
The Dark Tower was my first full-length novel of his (ironically, it too was originally several disparate short stories King merged into a book) and oh boy am I glad I picked it up. Over the course of just a couple hundred pages, King crafts a beautiful and intricate world, ripe with mystery and danger. He packs the pages with action and allure, at times reducing the reader to a page-turning machine. If you’re a fan of the fantasy genre, I can’t recommend The Gunslinger enough. The story focuses on the Gunslinger, a sort of knight in a dystopian future world, as he hunts down the Man in Black. The Gunslinger treks through a world steeped in a rich mythos, along the way encountering lonely settlers, unknown creatures, and a boy who is curiously out of place, all on a ceaseless quest for revenge.
As for the mechanics of the novel, I’m most impressed with the minimal narration that still manages to craft the surrounding world without wanting for detail, and with the consistency of tone throughout the novel. It’s not easy to create a whole new world, and then build characters who actually sound like that world is where they belong, but King pulls it off without a hitch here. So, if you’re looking for a fun read, or your niche genre happens to be fantasy westerns, The Gunslinger is the book for you.
As a quick aside, a movie based on this book and a couple of the sequels came out not too long ago, called The Dark Tower. I haven’t seen it myself, but it’s gotten truly terrible reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and friends who have seen it assure me it is indeed awful. I want to draw a distinction from the movie and the novel here: from what I can gather, the movie seems to tell a completely different story from the book, and does so less skillfully. For those of you who may have seen the film and been turned off to the story, I urge you to give it another shot. You’ll be very glad you did.