So maybe you’ve heard this old story about how to boil a frog. You dump a frog in boiling water, he’s going to jump right out. You put cool water in the pot with lil froggie and slowly heat it up while he’s inside? Maybe he won’t sit there and boil to death. He’ll jump out eventually if things get too hot. But he’s gonna stay in there a good long while if you play your cards right.
It’s a useful little anecdote; can be used for all sorts of fun metaphorical purposes. For instance, I believe I once heard someone say George R.R. Martin boils a good frog in A Song of Ice and Fire. How else you think he got all these normals to read his long-ass books about dragons and ice vampires, huh? You lure ’em in with some cute wolf puppies and fancy people doing violent fancy people things, and then sloooowly you add in the weird stuff.
Which brings us to The Gunslinger, the first chapter in Stephen King’s twenty-five-plus years in the making western fantasy horror epic. We’re dropped right into it with that famous opening line, and shit gets weird straight away. Uncle Stevie ain’t gonna waste time boiling no frog. He dumps us straight into the nearly boiling water and hopes we don’t jump straight out. Luckily I’m an idiot with terrible survival instincts. And well, it helps that I trust in the storytelling powers of Stephen King, that even if I’m confused as hell right now, it’ll all work out in the end.
I’m not even mad I’m going to have to re-read this after I finish all seven books. It’s just a straight up fact. I got the basic gist of the plot, but I’m 1000% sure I missed most of the significance of nearly everything that happened. (Though I do have a guess that came with that feeling you only get every once in a while that means your guess is going to be right, and you’re really not going to be happy about it.)
I kind of can’t get over how different this was than King’s normal stuff. Much more experimental and weird. It’s like a fever dream full of all this unconnected imagery, only when you’re done reading it, unlike with a dream, the images don’t fade into oblivion.
I didn’t really like it, but I find it interesting, and I’m willing to lend the rest of the series my trust. For now. (Also, worth noting I read it in less than a day.)
[3.5 stars, rounding up for optimism]