Confession: before last month, I’d never read a novel by Stephen King. I’d read his book On Writing some years ago (very good,) and I’d enjoyed his regular columns about pop culture in Entertainment Weekly when he was doing that. But the farthest I’d ever gotten with one of his novels was my attempt to read The Stand when I was about 14 years old. I’d seen the TV miniseries with Gary Sinise and Molly Ringwald and was totally taken by it (scared witless by it too – pandemic stuff always totally freaks me out.) But it was just too terrifying and gory for me to stomach.
Leave it to another movie adaptation to get me interested in reading King again. When I heard that Idris Elba and Matthew McConoughey were going to star in the upcoming Dark Tower movie, I knew I wanted to see it – but I wanted to read it first. I’ve always had a thing for Matthew McConoughey ever since I saw him in A Time To Kill back when I was in college. I now think he might not be that awesome IRL, but on screen he is magnetic and fascinating.
So last month I read the first book in the series, The Gunslinger. I didn’t review it because I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT THE HELL I READ. Honestly, I was as confused as I was entertained. If you’ve not read it, all I can tell you is that there’s this Gunslinger named Roland, and he’s SUPER talented with guns, and he’s on a quest to find The Man in Black. Finding The Man in Black is the first step towards getting to The Dark Tower, which is Roland’s obsession. He’s traveling through a desert area that resembles the American Old West, but it’s not our universe – it’s like a parallel universe with some echoes of things we’d recognize. His language is a weird mix of archaic English and modern-day English. He meets up with a boy named Jake, who is from our world and time, and we find out that in his world Jake was pushed into oncoming traffic and died crushed by a car. They go through these ridiculous mountains pursuing The Man in Black, and then bad stuff happens, and then Roland and The Man in Black have this weird, trippy talk where TMIB takes Roland on this tour of the universe and reads his tarot cards… yeah, it’s bizarre. But I had read and heard that the first book in the series is the weakest, and that the second book is much better and more compelling.
I liked The Gunslinger enough to continue with the second book, The Drawing of the Three. And people were right – the second book really delivers. It’s just as hard to describe as the first book, but not as confusing. Roland wakes up on a beach, and he immediately encounters these terrifying lobster-like creatures that are as big as dogs that he calls “lobstrosities.” One of them gets his hand and chops off two of his fingers. Infection ensues. Short plot summary: He sees these doors on the beach, totally unsupported by anything, which are portals into our universe at different times. Three doors. Each one leads him to a person who is vital to his quest for reaching The Dark Tower. We have Eddie, a young heroin addict in modern time; Odetta, an African American woman in a wheelchair in the 1950s; and Jack Mort, a psychopath sadist with a connection to Odetta. Roland can go through these doors and into the minds of the three while his physical body is left behind on the beach in his universe. It’s weird, I know.
But I couldn’t stop turning the pages. King has this way of leaving you wanting more with every chapter’s end. I was totally immersed in this strange tale – would Roland make it before the infection killed him? Would the three people he inhabited help him, or would they turn on him? Why does Odetta seem to be schizophrenic? Would they ever get off the damn beach?? If you couldn’t tell, I’m hooked. I have to continue with the next book, The Waste Lands. I’m really regretting not putting the rest of these on my #20BooksofSummer list. I may have to switch out one or two of the books for the third and fourth in the series! We’ll see. (Oh, and I just remembered that I have my book group books for June and July to consider and fit in as well. Ugh, I STINK at planning my reading!)
So have you read this series? Are you interested in the movie? Have you read any Stephen King before? What’s your favorite Matthew McConoughey role? I’d love to know your thoughts.