I know, I should shut up already about how many times I’ve read this Stephen King book or that Stephen King book. But really, I’ve read this book a lot. I think even more than The Stand.
I read it when it was a standalone book (and I had to brave crossing the floor of the Newton Highlands public library — from the children’s section to the adult section), and this was before Uncle Stevie tinkered with it to make it fit better into the world of the Dark Tower. (NB: If I can remember correctly, that first book was a crazy, weird mess. This book is much better.)
I read it again when The Drawing of the Three came out. And then when The Wastelands came out, I read the first two again.
And so on. And so on.
And then I started a re-read of the whole damn Dark Tower universe (including It, The Eyes of the Dragon, Insomnia, The Talisman/Black House, and all of the weird comics). I’ve even reviewed this exact book before for an early (my first ever!) cannonball…**
**OK, this cracks me up. I was looking for a link of my old review and came across my review on a book review site, similar to Rotten Tomatoes, that provides “Book reviews from the world’s greatest critics!”. So there’s that.
Which brings me back to the beginning, with The Gunslinger. Again. I guess Ka really is like a wheel.
This time, I listened to it. And I found it was a completely different experience. Especially if you know where the story is going.
One of the first things I noticed this time around was that the name Roland is never even uttered or mentioned until about halfway through the story. He’s just the gunslinger. This fascinates me. In the later books, he’s pretty much only Roland, which I suppose means that his Ka-Tet (#teameddie) really does humanize him.
The other thing that really got me this time was Roland’s treatment of Jake, and how quickly he morphed from Roland, the father figure, back to the gunslinger when he knew he needed to choose between the boy and the quest. That pissed me off, and made me a little mad about how quickly these two reconcile in later books.
The narrator did a great job bringing this crazy world to life. I could imagine Roland and the weird farmer dude named Brown sitting around and talking while the weird bird Zoltan hovers about. I could see the desolation in the town of Tull and the beauty in the kingdom of Gilead-that-was.
And the narrator really holds your hand to help you notice important clues to the rest of the story.
SPOILERS FOR A BOOK THAT WAS FIRST WRITTEN IN 1978.
Here are a few things that the narrator helps to make abundantly clear when listening, that I might have missed while reading.
Roland has definitely met that piano player before. And that he is not forgiven for simply letting “the girl” burn.
Cuthbert died in battle on Jericho Hill while blowing that damned Horn of Eld that Roland forgot to pick up.
Walter is Marten is Flagg is Farson.
Ka is a wheel. Ka is a wheel. Ka is a wheel.
END OF 40 YEAR OLD SPOILERS.
I love these books and this Constant Reader will probably continue on this journey for the tower for a long time to come. And yes, even if the movie is a complete and total clusterfuck with little or nothing to do with the books, I’ll see it. I mean, look at this:
That’s worth my $12 right there.