In anticipation of the film coming out, here – week by week – are my reviews of THE DARK TOWER novels.
I like to tell myself I’m open to new things, and back in 2013, one of the new things I took a leap into was reading fantasy.
For a span of decades I’d refused to read either science fiction or fantasy, as I didn’t see them as “my kind of thing”.
(Whatever that means, as if you’re reading this blog you know that, clearly, I have a great love for genre fiction.)
In 2013 though, I decided it was time to broaden my horizons.
So, I read Peter Hamilton’s VOID trilogy as an introduction to sci-fi (quick review: held the attention, but had a rushed ending) and then I tackled that big part of Stephen King I’ve always avoided – THE DARK TOWER series.
Why was I, as a Stephen King fan, hitherto so adamant and actually vocal in avoiding THE DARK TOWER?
Let me tell you a story.
When I was eight or nine years old, I had a teacher named Mr Rees. Mr Rees was an alcoholic who didn’t see it as his role to follow the curriculum, all he wanted to teach was J.R.R. Tolkein’s THE HOBBIT. He would, in the morning, teach Bilbo Baggins in a somewhat hung-over way; before departing to the pub for a couple of swift ones lunchtime and then teaching Middle Earth in a more drunken way in the afternoon.
As you can imagine, my parents were delighted by my academic progress that year.
For me, the whole experience left me with a phobia of fantasy – and of bloody hobbits in particular.
But in 2013, it seemed like if I was going to finally tackle fantasy, then THE GUNSLINGER was the best way to ease myself into it. If I’d encountered an elf on the first page I may have run to the hills, but instead there is an intriguing Man with no Name character chasing his nemesis across the desert.
King freely admits borrowing the character from Clint Eastwood in the Sergio Leone films, but the Spaghetti Western influence is also there in the desert and the bleakness between towns and the suspicious faces of the locals. This gunslinger’s quest is to find The Man in Black, but what will happen when he tracks him down isn’t clear to the reader and – if we’re honest – probably to the author either at this point
However, it’s undoubtedly an intriguing and gripping read, even if some chapters are better than others. (‘The Slow Mutants’ was somewhat, well, slow). But the whole does have the air of a prologue, a chamber-piece set in the desert. A small story, so much so that it’s hard to imagine that this is the rock on which a whole book series and now a blockbuster movie are built. But sometimes you never know what lies through even the most unassuming gateways.