Apparently lots of people who like The Dark Tower series don’t like this book, and I really don’t understand that. I love the whole series enough to have a tattoo from it, Song of Susannah is clearly the weakest of the books, and The Gunslinger is some of King’s best writing, ever. The exact criticism I hear of it, that it’s a western and not a horror, is what I think allows it to be so great, because it allows King to break from his own conventions and focus on prose instead of story. Thing about it: King writes great stories: even when the plotting can sometimes get a little silly, even when the way he writes women and people of color can be extremely cringe-worthy, the stories themselves are propulsive and make his books hard to put down. But I don’t think most King fans would say his actual prose is his strongest point.
Yet the prose in The Gunslinger is just plain beautiful. Lyrical, melancholy, and deeply sad. You can tell every part of this book was constructed with love, and you can specifically feel the deep love King holds for both Roland and Jake (oh, poor Jake) in this first book in a long, looooooooooooooong series. This is my third re-read and I was struck by how much I cared about Jake immediately, again, when he shows up in this book. Part of that, of course, is knowing everything that happens in the following books, but it is also a tribute to King’s writing here, because I think I recall caring about the boy that much that quickly upon my first read, too. And Roland, too, though that’s a harder character to root for.
Anyway, this is a great start to a great series and I remain baffled at the people who think otherwise!