I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
In The Gunslinger (originally published in 1982), King introduces his most enigmatic hero, Roland Deschain of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting, solitary figure at first, on a mysterious quest through a desolate world that eerily mirrors our own. Pursuing the man in black, an evil being who can bring the dead back to life, Roland is a good man who seems to leave nothing but death in his wake.
That was an odd read—not bad, just odd. Like King just threw in any old idea he came up with and didn’t bother editing later. I could appreciate that he chose the Western form to jolt readers away from comparisons with Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant or Brooks’ Shannara series. But make no mistake, this is a quest-tale, not searching for the Holy Grail, but seeking the Black Tower.
The symbolism is all over the place—lots of Biblical references, Tarot, a few to King Arthur, probably some that went right by me without being recognized. I’m unsure whether it takes place in a future post-apocalyptic Earth or in an alternate time line? There is plenty left unexplained which has a tendency to draw me along to the next book.
So, will I continue with the series? I think the correct answer is Yar.
This is book 171 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.