10 February 2014

Review: The Gunslinger

The Gunslinger is a lot like what you'd expect Stephen King writing fantasy to read like.

This seems pretty obvious to say in many regards, but it's almost jarring to have King working in this realm. As I'm still somewhat new to the King library, and my first exposure being On Writing, his voice is very distinctive to me for whatever reason, and this has been the case for everything of his I've read.

This is not typically a bad thing, but it did really make me question The Gunslinger quite a bit. On one hand, it's a well-written book with some really good worldbuilding and a good balance of exposition and action. The book feels almost pulpy at times, being equal parts western and more traditional fantasy. All these things come together for a solid, coherent narrative that reminded me very quickly why King is so popular and held in such high regard.

The issue with The Gunslinger, I suppose, is just that, at least in this volume, it's a standard story that has a pretty straightforward trajectory and doesn't take a lot of chances. Granted, part of it is due to the serialized nature of its initial publication, which required a different type of storytelling, but when I think of a more grandiose epic that spans seven books and thousands of pages, this is not it. The story is almost so tight that there's little reason to get invested in the characters or the world or the story itself, which I didn't expect. That so many think so highly of this book (and The Dark Tower in full) is an indication that I may need to plow ahead a bit with it, but for now, my expectations and the reality didn't match up.

Overall, a disappointing read for me. Hopefully the next volume, whenever I get to it, will perhaps bring me around.

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