The Dark Tower book series is the ultimate key to the collective works of Stephen King, for better or worse. The resulting seven-volume series spanned decades, and firmly concluded in 2003 (aside from that small campfire story-esque book from 2012.

In all, we have a series with a definitive beginning and a definitive end, for better or worse, and that can be both a blessing and a curse. The first novel began the descent into the unbridled insanity that ended up defining this voluptuous tail. The Gunslinger introduces us to our core hero in a series of pseudo-flashback morally ambiguous mini stories that amount to little within the confines of the book.

The Gunslinger has a very ethereal nature to it that I admire, but I did not particularly enjoy it upon reading. In simple straightforward terms, the book is utterly terrible in standing as its own “thing,” acting largely as an addition to the themes and the overall broad ideas of the full series. So it works better in reflection, but it’s almost like a thematic appendix or, more appropriately, a prelude.

As a narrative, its mostly a senseless hodge-podge of segregated chapters akin to a Western-style Twilight Zone with the second half of the episode cut off. Except subtly to an absurd degree in a book that does not kick off the series in any dramatic way, but introduces a seedy whimsy that plays somewhat well to the series greatest strengths.