Gunslinger, The

by Stephen King (1982)


“Kill me Roland. . . I can’t bear it!”

The hands were trained to give her what she wanted. He was the last of his breed and it was not only his mouth that knew the High Speech. The guns beat their heavy, atonal music into the air. . . 60.

I just read this for the third time after more than a decade away, to see how well it held up. Surprisingly well is the answer. This series meant more for me growing up than even Lord of the Rings. I seriously entertained getting a tattoo of Roland Deschain at several points (standing between Frodo Baggins and Ender Wiggins, all of their respective weapons drawn — I still think this would have been one of the more badass tattoos in all of historic nerd-dom. . .). After reading it again I still think he’s one of the greatest epic heroes in literature.

What remains impressive even in my more mature years is the seemingly effortless mythology that King built here. King claims his greatest influence for this series was LOTR, but what really shines through here is Arthurian mythology in all its glory, and on a truly epic scale (while largely avoiding pretentiousness). Creating a unique world that is at once fresh and modern yet steeped in the most beloved lore of Western Civilization is a monumental task, and this work, especially the first three books, remains King’s magnum opus.

This one, while a terrific introduction to Roland and his weirdly deteriorating world, still feels slight, with not quite enough action. But I’m seriously excited to re-read the next two on my way to finishing the series for the first time (I’ve only ever made it through Book V, back before VI and VII had come out). I remember The Drawing of the Three being even better than this one, so we’ll see. . .

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