From the Beginning to The Gunslinger and the Man in Black
This review could easily bump up to 5 stars once I understand the full story, but to reach that point would require a massive undertaking--seven more novels
follow this one. King is, in my mind, not a writer who creates the kind of book one can digest in just a few days. Granted, I've never read anything else by King, but I've seen his works bending the shelves at bookstores and libraries with their bulk. This work, too, by King's own admission, is essentially a chapter in a massive magnum opus that stretches over several books, making it considerably longer than anything else he's written, which is saying something.
Based on this book alone, I'd have to say that King is pretty good at spinning an ominous yarn, withholding information to compel the reader to continue, maintaining tension (even if it's the sort that makes me uncomfortable), and convincing enough with turn of phrase. I liked the story and it made for a fast read, despite some curious techniques that would make Andy Farmer
proud. On more than one occasion we are presented with a flashback inside
a flashback, and at least once we're given a flashback inside a memory inside a flashback.
Still, despite these acrobatics, I never lost the thread of the story. All due credit to King for pulling it off.
There's also the plot of the story itself: Roland, the last Gunslinger, searching for the Tower. Do I know what the tower is? No. Do I know why he's looking for it? No. Do I know where he is? No. Do I know what happened to all the other gunslingers? No. The better part of the story is like this: posing questions that are not answered. Yet.
Throughout the work King drops crumbs indicating the world might be a future version of our own, an afterlife, or some surreal composition of those who occupy it. It's impossible (for me, anyway) to guess what all this portends any better than reading the first volume of an encyclopedia would tell me what is in the last. These tidbits are tantalizing and frustrating in their isolation. Without reading further they appear arbitrary and without meaning. One is left with the hope that the author knows that meaning and will eventually explain. With a writer as lauded and successful as King, I have to believe that is the case here.
However, having so many times in the recent past been led upon a meandering and complex path in the hope of reaching some profound revelation, I've been disappointed that the purpose of so many wrinkles is to engage the reader/viewer brain, and the ultimate effort to tie these threads into a satisfying cord instead disintegrates into a half-baked conclusion that exposes the story as little more than disparate permutations meant to capture people's desire to find patterns where they ultimately, and disappointingly, do not exist.
Still trying to figure this one out. The Last Supper? Why? Also, Baltar and 6 are... what? Ignorant?
In the end, in spite of so much, I enjoyed this book. I'm not about to rush out and buy part II of CXV
, but I can acknowledge this sets up some framework around which I can envision King putting up walls and ending up with a serviceable house. To be perfectly honest, he gets half his stars based upon potential alone.
Perhaps in some far off future I will finish this voluminous series and have a fuller understanding of what King intended for it. At that time I will fill in any missing stars, should I deem it worthy.
On the other hand, maybe King went this route
. In which case I'll take all of the stars, crumble them into dust, and blow them in his eyes. It's the least I can do for wasting so much of my time.
Post the Final Chapter: The Gunslinger and the Man in Black
There's also the plot of the story itself: Roland the last Gunslinger, searching for the Tower. Do I know what the tower is? Sort of. Do I know why he's looking for it? No. Do I know where he is? Maybe. Do I know what happened to all the other gunslingers? No. The better part of the story is like this: posing questions that are not answered. Yet.