I’ve written about this before. I’ll write about it again.
Decades ago, in one of his first collections of short stories, Stephen King published a story called The Gunslinger, or something like that. I think it was actually a bit of a variation on that. It turned out that story was a small piece of a larger piece that was released in book form as The Gunslinger. It turned out that larger piece was the first book in what turned out to be an eight book monstrosity.
I loved The Gunslinger. It was simple and brutal and intriguing. It took years for King to finish the entire epic and every time another book came out, I would go back and start from the beginning, reading The Gunslinger and then The Drawing of the Three and then The Waste Lands and on and on. Until The Dark Tower was released and the series was complete. So, somewhere in there I read The Gunslinger at least seven times, The Drewing of the Three at least six times. You get the idea. (And, yes, the math doesn’t quite add up. The seventh and “final” book, The Dark Tower, was released in 2004. Then suddenly, eight years later, King published an eighth book in the series which he described as being placed somewhere between the fourth and fifth book of the series. I never bothered with that book.)
I spent a lot of time reading these books. Devouring them. Years and years waiting for the conclusion and when I got there it was the single most disappointing moment in my reading life. The ending was a huge, lazy, cop-out. HUGE! It was the beginning of the end of my fandom of Mr. King. It is when he officially jumped the shark.
I’m starting to feel the pull again, however. There is a movie coming out based on the last book, which seems kind of odd to me given that it is the last book in an eight book story. How do you start at the end?
I was poking around Amazon today, looking at their new Top 20 list of the most read books this week. The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger is on it. The pull got a little stronger. Maybe I’ll find my copy and give it a go. I can stop there and not lose myself in the rest of the books. I know I don’t want to get to the seventh book and that horrid ending.
I started reading the Amazon review of the book and learned that King has revised the opening book in the series. According to the reviewer: “To King, The Gunslinger demanded revision because once the series was complete it became obvious that ‘the beginning was out of sync with the ending.'”
No frickin’ kidding!
The review goes on to explain that the revision only adds 35 pages to the original version of The Gunslinger and both old and new readers will just love the additional detail!!!
I get it. When dealing with a series that goes on as long as this one did — both in volume and in time — it is likely difficult to be entirely consistent from book to book. King likes to talk about his “constant reader” and how much he appreciates those who are. But to blow the ending so remarkably shows a complete disdain for storytelling and for the reader, particularly with something as epic as this series was. That’s just my humble opinion.
Here’s what I think I’m going to do. Dig out my copy of the original The Gunslinger. Read that and see if I want to continue. I really don’t want to see how he has revised the opening book more than 30 years later because he finally realized he had screwed the pooch. Maybe knowing how the entire thing ends will change my perspective as I read it again. I haven’t gone anywhere near these books since I first read the final book in the series.
(I’m pretty sure I still have all of the books in the series. I have been reluctant to throw out my King books. But I may have been so disgusted way back when that these went into the trash heap. We’ll see.)
Thank you for reading, my constant reader.