Monday, March 5, 2012
Constant reading project: Other worlds than these
First, I have to remind you that I read a pre-2000 version of The Gunslinger. We don't find out that the man in black is Walter (just Walter, not Walter O'Dim) until the end of the book. Three -- as in the drawing of -- is a more important number than 19. I am fine with all of this. It's like watching "Star Wars: A New Hope" on a VHS from the 1980s. No special edition false magic here.
What strikes me most is how well The Gunslinger stands on its own. We don't really know how big this thing is going to be until about halfway through this first book in the series. Then, of course, the scope of the epic begins to dawn on us. Like Roland traipsing through the desert, it doesn't seem so big to start with but once you're in the middle of it, it seems like it will never end.
Part of me wanted to call this post "The beginning is the end is the beginning," and play those subpar Smashing Pumpkins songs from the "Batman and Robin" soundtrack. But I don't want to be the spoiler. I may have said too much, already.
Roland the gunslinger and the boy Jake are the only characters that matter in this book. Jake isn't even in the first third of the book. The relationship between the two is one of the most powerful in all of Stephen King's works, although it doesn't become entirely clear until much later. Jake isn't a Harry Potter "The Boy Who Lived" character. I'll spoil it now: Roland lets him fall into the chasm, Jake telling him to go, there are other worlds than these. Jake had already died once. That's how he ended up in this tale to begin with. Jake, for me, remains a more compelling character than Roland. We'll talk more about that as the series progresses. You'll have to wait awhile. We won't get to The Drawing of the Three for another 10 books.
One thing I do miss about reading a paperback of any of the Dark Tower books is the artwork. The color illustrations add something to the books that separate them from King's other novels. Which is appropriate. The Dark Tower books stand apart as much as they encompass the rest of his career. It's a paradox, but if you read the books, you'll realize just how fitting that is.
The scorecard for the Constant Reading Project is now 4,718 pages. Up next is Different Seasons. It may take me most of the day to get ahold of a copy. But stick with me; this is happening.