The Gunslinger by Stephen King

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Author: King, Stephen

Title: Gunslinger

Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction/Western

Publication Date:  1982

Number of Pages:  315

Geographical Setting: All-World, a kind of dystopia similar to the Old West

Time Period: Undetermined future?

Series: The Dark Tower Series (Book 1 of 7)

Plot Summary: Roland Deschain is the last gunslinger in a parallel universe very similar to the Old West. He is on a quest to catch “the man in black,” the one who will lead him to the Dark Tower. Roland recounts, to a farmer, his visit to Tull, a town of people who didn’t trust him and Roland was forced to kill them all, including his love, Alice. Roland continues his journey in the desert and is helped at a station by a man named Jake. Roland finds out Jake’s past before he died in our universe. They travel together, and Roland rescues Jake from an oracle and then proceeds to bond with the oracle to find out more about the Dark Tower. Additionally, details about Roland’s past are revealed. Roland and Jake travel together, but Jake does not trust Roland. When Roland is faced with a decision to continue the pursuit of “the man in black” or let Jake die, Roland decides to pursue “the man in black,” letting Jake fall to his death. The action culminates when Roland and “the man and black” have a confrontation at “Golgotha” where “the man in black” tells Roland of his future, revealing snippets and events that will occur in subsequent books. Roland wakes up next to a pile of bones and a black cloak and continues his journey.

Subject Headings: Fantasy Fiction – American, Good and Evil – Fiction, Roland (Ficticious character – King), Adventure Stories

Appeal: Dark, Brooding, Suspenseful, Dystopic, Survival, Betrayal, Fast-paced, Multi-layered, Intricate setting, Horror, Bleak hero,  Tragic, Good versus Evil, Archetypal

3 Terms: Macabre, Survival, Betrayal

Relevant Fiction: Weaveworld by Clive Barker would be a good choice for fans of The Dark Tower, it combines adventure and fantasy with the same dark undertones used in The Gunslinger. Watchers by Dean Koontz also combines a suspenseful chase with supernatural elements. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, though intended for younger readers, would definitely satisfy a lover of The Gunslinger, with its supernatural, suspenseful, and horror themes.

Relevant Nonfiction: Tales of the Wild West by B. Byron Price is a collection of real stories of the old West.  The Road to the Dark Tower: Exploring Stephen King’s Magnum Opus by Bev Vincent is companion material to the Dark Tower series explain its origins and development

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: A Concordance by Robin Furth is another companion material explaining the words, terms, and phrases used in the the Dark Tower series.

Name: Stephen Koebel

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