Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, March 31, 2017


The Dark Tower I:  The Gunslinger (revised and expanded edition) by Stephen King (2003)

The Dark Tower, Stephen King's epic fantasy series, was a long time a-coming.  Although it was born in 1970, it really began as a series of stories in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction from 1978 to 1981,  These five stories were collected as The Gunslinger in 1982.  The series then lay fallow until 1987, when the second book, The Drawing of the Three was released.  four years after that, the third volume, The Waste Lands, was released.  It then took another six years for the fourth volume, Wizard and Glass, to come out in 1997.  Seemingly the author was channeling his inner George R. R. Martin's writing pace.  The Dark Tower series was a labor of love for King and he approached it as such, taking his tine and working on it slowly, in between his other, more popular work. After all, King had all the time in the world...

Then came that day in June 1999 and a distracted driver and his pickup careening down a Maine road.  King's injuries were extensive; he was lucky to be alive.  It was a long recovery and King realized that he didn't have all the time in the world, after all.  He began work on the last three novels in the series.  While doing this, he realized that the first book was somewhat "out of sync" with the rest of the series, and so we have the revised and expanded edition of The Gunslinger.  When this edition was published, the fifth book in the series was due to be published and the remaining two books were completed and just needed revisions.  The final book in the series was published in 2004.  (Since then, King published and eighth book, The Wind Through the Keyhole, containing two novellas that take place chronologically between the fourth and fifth volumes.  There have also been a number of graphic novels by Peter David and Robin Furth that have helped flesh out the series.)

I read the original stories in The Gunsmith when they were first published in F&SF and again when the book originally came out.  I wasn't overly impress: the stories seemed too diffuse and it appeared to me that King was writing the tales with no definitive idea where the series was going.  The Drawing of the Three marked the point where the series really began; it was a well-written, imaginative, fully-formed novel that led, inexorably, to the rest of the series.  And the books kept getting better.  Roland's journey to stop the Walking Man and to save the Dark Tower which holds the universes together.

The revised version of The Gunslinger brings this early work into synergy with the remainder of the series.  Variants of fact and incident that did not agree with the overall opus were corrected and the book meshed much better into the series.  Although King completely rewrote the book from start to finish, there is really only about 35 pages of material that has been added, the inclusion of a few scenes.  It's a much better book.  The series itself has an epic sweep that I find astounding, and is an essential read that anchors much of King's other work.

After years of false starts, The Dark Tower is finally a movie, to be released this July.  Reportedly the movie is partially a sequel to the series.  The fate of Hollywood projects is always an iffy thing, but this movie may (or may not) be a huge blockbuster.  For anyone who wants to catch on the books before the movie is released, The Gunslinger is the place to start.


  1. I read THE GUNSLINGER and ended up reading the whole DARK TOWER series. Rumors swirl around saying there is another DARK TOWER book in the works.

  2. Much appreciate this, Jerry. I bought the book when it first came out, and never cracked the cover (not sure why, altho I've never been much for fantasy). It's packed in one of the boxes I've taken thru two moves, and now I'm tempted to either look for it or get the newer version. Maybe I'll even finally get bit by the fantasy bug!