Off the Shelf
The Dark Tower I - "The Gunslinger"
By Marcus Pan
Sounds cheezy as hell, doesn't it? "The
Gunslinger." Here's a subject that has been tarnished, stomped on, replayed,
re-scripted and redone so many times in the past thirty years that even The
Duke's tired of hearing about it. Therefore I started Stephen King's new
fantasy series, The Dark Tower, with much trepidation. I was never into
I found them to be, well, boring. "Look, injuns! Everyone into a
circle!" Again and again. Why did I pick it up? Two reasons
I'm a pretty
darn hardcore fan of Stephen King and the black bird that sits on Roland's
shoulder on the book's cover resembles a crow. You figure it out.
Roland is the namesake of the story; the last gunslinger in
a world that has "passed on." Whether this world is one that was once the one
we live in now or whether it is a parallel or different one all together you
never do find out. We do know that there are left overs from a world that once
was similar to ours
the man who achieved high priest status by worshipping
an old metal box with the letters A-M-A-C-O on it for example. Then there's
Jake, the boy Roland meets at the way station who accompanies him across the
desert. He came from a world very similar to ours, spirited away to the
Gunslinger's world by the Man In Black. Was this from another time or another
place? By the end of this novel that's a major point to wonder about, and you
never do find out in the first story of the Dark Tower series.
Roland is after two things; first there is the elusive Man
In Black. He is a wizard with the power to raise the dead, as he did in the
small town of Tull to Nort the grass eater. It seems the plant life of this
world, or at least the one they call "devil-grass," has addictive and life
ruining properties. The heroin of the gunslinger's world. Tull, unfortunately
enough, gets wiped out by the bullets Roland loads with such precision and ease
you wouldn't know he reloaded in the first place. Strangely enough the Man In
Black that Roland has been after for over a decade turns out to be more of a
friend than a foe
or at least an ally that imparts visions to Roland that
nearly breaks his mind.
The other item Roland is after is the Dark Tower. The Dark
Tower is unknown to him except in myths and legends. The Man In Black claims to
know of it as a true and existing entity. A nexus of sorts. And it is during
the description and visions of the Dark Tower that the Man In Black gives to
the gunslinger where the book becomes intriguing to the point of forcing me to
immediately begin the second book in this series immediately. Even before I
wrote this review.
By the end of "The Gunslinger," Roland catches up to the Man
In Black. In a field that is filled with the crushed bones, skulls and other
clichés of fantasy (every good fantasy series needs a fabled battlefield
of times past, you see), they discuss what's to lie ahead in Roland's life.
With the cards of the Tarot the gunslinger is read his future. And more
importantly he is told of the Dark Tower. There are many fantasy and science
fiction novels and stories that tackle the question of time and the relevance
of it on thinking man. There are others that tackle the theories and
theological ramifications of infinite size, both bigness and smallness. But few
combine them. After his vision of The Dark Tower, and only a small part of it,
he speaks of what he saw. "One single blade of grass that filled everything.
And I was tiny. Infinitesimal." Then it is the Man In Black's turn to speak:
"If you fell outward to the limit of the universe, would you find a board fence
and signs reading DEAD END? No. You might find something hard and rounded, as
the chick must see the egg from the inside." Think about that a bit
really that big? Maybe here
but who's to say that our entire universe
isn't just a tiny part of something larger
something so big that we can't
even comprehend it? It's not something we can answer
but it is something
that we can think about.
I wouldn't suggest reading this series to anyone with self
esteem or faith issues. As the Man In Black says further, "If a God watches
over it all, does He actually mete out justice for a race of gnats among an
infinitude of races of gnats?" And the crux of it all. The very thing the
gunslinger has sworn to find in order to save his world that has "passed on"
and continues to rot further every day. "Suppose that all worlds, all
universes, met in a single nexus, a single pylon, a Tower." The Dark Tower sits
as the nexus of time
and of size. Somehow it is the connection point for
all universes big and small, and the justice bringer to all gnat-races of an
infinite number. "Could it be that somewhere above all of endless reality,
there exists a Room
?" he asks the gunslinger solemnly.
Would you dare find that room? Take the stairway that leads
to the Godhead itself? Will you visit the nexus? Will Roland? I guess we're
going to have to find out as the tale of the Dark Tower continues in "The
Drawing of Three."
"The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger" by Stephen King
Published by the Penguin Group
Copyright © 1982 by Stephen King
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