The Gunslinger is the first of seven Dark Tower novels written by Stephen King. Along with the 7 books, there are also countless SK short stories and novels that either tie directly (The Stand, Salem's Lot, Hearts in Atlantis, Eye of the Dragon) or indirectly (The Mist, It, The Talisman, Rose Madder) to the plot of this massive tale. And yet, when I talk to most people who enjoy reading King's novels, I only know one other person who has read all 7 of these. Too bad. This is a great, epic story (say what you will about the final reveal of book 7...many were disappointed, or even angry about it, but I thought it was the right ending).
The Gunslinger sets the basics for the massive story to come. It tells the tale of Roland Deschain, last of the gunslingers from the Kingdom of Gilead (akin to a knight of the round table), and his quest for the "man in black," the one person who can tell him what he needs to know in order to continue his journey to find the Dark Tower -- which holds the key to all the questions/answers of the universe.
While Roland chases the man in black, we learn a bit about his past (how he grew up, how he "came into manhood", what happened to his home, etc.) and about his world in general. While similarities to our world exist (the song Hey Jude, Amoco gas pumps, subways), there are enough differences that we aren't sure if this is the future or an alternate world.
Along the way, Roland encounters a boy named Jake Chambers, from New York City. Jake tells Roland that he died by being pushed into the road (by a man in a black cloak) and run over by a big Cadillac, and then suddenly found himself alone in this strange land. The two become traveling partners and Roland comes to love the boy as his own.
And then Roland finds out that in order to find the man in black he'll have to choose between the boy and the Tower.
This book is mostly a set up for the second in the series (the excellent Drawing of the Three), but sets a good pace and draws a detailed picture of our hero (or I guess, anti-hero).
I've read this book at least three or four times, but this is the first time I've read it since finishing the entire series. I was surprised at how many "clues" there were to the ultimate reveal of the story (note, this is the updated version, not the original version published in the 1980s).
Looking forward to getting through the rest of the books before seeing The Dark Tower movie that's been talked about so much recently. Right now I'm trying to see Javier Bardem as Roland...not quite working for me yet, but we'll see...