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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger

Reviewed: November 14, 2005
By: Stephen King
Publisher: Signet Books
300 pages, $10.99

I’ll make just a brief mention of this book, which is revised and expanded (though 15 pages shorter) than the 1989 original edition. This is the beginning of King’s take on epic fantasy, which he himself describes as a head-on collision between hobbits and the Man With No Name. Now that all seven volumes are complete I’m working my way through the earlier ones to get to the last three.

Roland, the gunslinger of the title, lives in a post apocalyptic world which has “moved on” from a previous age of prosperity, envisioned as a kind of Camelot for cowboys. That’s gone, and Roland is in search of the Man in Black, the wizard who helped destroy it.

The first book is as spare as the spaghetti westerns which triggered the imagery in the 19 year old King when he began to write the saga while he was a university student. The revised edition is probably even leaner than the original, and the revisions have been made largely to retrofit the beginning of the tale so that it matches the later books better.

After 16 years I didn’t remember a lot of the details and found this an enjoyable revisitation. Buyers may want to wait though. There’s an 85 page short story from this part of Roland’s quest in the collection Everything’s Eventual (Pocket Books, 2002), and I’ve read that the next edition of The Gunslinger will have this inserted into it. The story actually seems to come before chapter one of the book, but I’ll leave it to King to figure that out.

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