Jan 14, 2018

Cryptic, Ambiguous and Hypnotic - The Gunslinger

The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed. This is the first line of The Gunslinger and is an excellent summary of everything that happened in this book.


The book confused me at first, and continued to confuse well into the main section. I kept looking for a complex plot but the story kept wandering around, much like our protagonist, the Gunslinger.

I enjoyed reading this book, and what kept me reading was the prose, the way King put his words together was excellent. It placed me into a sort of trance, it gave me the same hypnotic feeling you get watching one of those old fashion Westerns, where the cowboy has lost his horse and is shown as silhouette again the sun, staggering in an empty, lifeless place, being forced to his knees by the visible heat waves as they try to push him into the sand. He is permanently dazed from lack of water.


I felt like the cowboy, making my way through the desert, there is a hypnotic sense of serenity, but in order to stay alive I needed water... I mean I needed a plot to hold on to!

This book was pleasant to read and very poetic in places, full of nice words but also crammed with ambiguity and mysterious information.

What genre does this story fit into? 

Is this a fantasy, is it science fiction or is it a western? When I started this book I was expecting a western, with a twist, what I got was a mixture of all the previously mentioned genres. The Gunslinger has travelled through many places. It is implied that the desert is one of many different realities he's been too, the desert and the other lands he travels through seems to be part of some post apocalyptic landscape where bird-headed men and mutants roam. There is evidence of super advanced technology, yet at the same time, the Man in Black is described as a sorcerer, a necromancer who can raise the dead. Someone who can implant deadly hypnotic commands and summon demons to fight the Gunslinger. Parallel universes, magic, futuristic technology, and post apocalyptic landscapes... so much ambiguity and competing ideas, yet it seems to work.


The ambiguity continues with the main characters. Here we have the Gunslinger, he is the 'hero'. As we progress through the book we get flashbacks of his past, his childhood and coming of age, and we find he's a knight on a quest but with a pair of six-shooters rather than a sword and shield. We're lead to believe he's the hero but he's like the 'heroes' of The Walking Dead, he leaves a trail of death and destruction in his path. His quest is to catch the Man in Black, another ambiguous character who we’re told is evil, yet when he speaks he seems more logical, more reasoned than our hero. He is the reason the Gunslinger wipes out entire townships as his mind tricks leave our hero with no choice except run a scorched earth policy, in order to protect himself, and to continue his quest. Are you still a hero if you end up being no different as the evil you're chasing?


I finishing the book but was left unsatisfied. It wasn't until I read a bit more about what the author Stephen King has to say about this book and writing in general that I had my 'aha' moment and the story made more sense.

In a foreword to this book, Stephen King wrote:
The younger man who dared to write this book had been exposed to far too many writing seminars, and had grown far too used to the ideas those seminars promulgate: that one is writing for other people rather than one’s self; that language is more important than story; that ambiguity is to be preferred over clarity and simplicity, which are usually signs of a thick and literal mind.

Ah, right, it's meant to be ambiguous and flowery in its prose, Okay so what about the meandering plot?

In his book, On Writing, Stephen King says:
Writers should not obsess over the movement of the plot. My books tend to be based on situation, rather than plot, I want to put a group of characters... in some sort of predicament and then watch them try to work themselves free.

Yes, I can see that now, this novel starts in the middle of the story with two characters and looks for a way out. Nice, I now have a better appreciation of the story and understand it even better.

What Do You Think?

I heard or read somewhere that this is a book more for writers or aspiring writers and I would tend to agree.

I've also heard this book is better read as part of The Dark Tower series, not as a stand alone. What do you think is it worth reading as a stand alone novel or as part of the entire series? Should I have started with Book 2 The Drawing of the Three?

The Gunslinger: (Volume 1)

(The Dark Tower) by Stephen King
The Dark Tower, introduces one of his most enigmatic and powerful heroes: Roland of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger.

Roland is a haunting figure, a loner, on a spellbinding journey toward the mysterious Dark Tower, in a desolate world which frighteningly echoes our own.

On his quest, Roland begins a friendship with a kid from New York named Jake, encounters an alluring woman and faces an agonising choice between damnation and salvation as he pursues the Man in Black.

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Jan 12, 2018

Weekend Reads - 180112

Welcome to the weekend! This edition of Weekend Reads is a bit of a mixed bag, an article to help you read more books this year, the things we trade off to reach our ambitions, and a philosophical look at the new season of Black Mirror, plus more.

So find a comfy chair, grab your favourite beverage and have a read through these articles.

How to Make Reading Central to Your Personal Growth in the Coming Year.

At the end of the day, we all still trade connection for ambition, vulnerability for control, grace for law. I know this because I do, too, in a million different ways.

The new Black Mirror (season four), has the second movement of its final episode, "Black Museum," as its highest conceptual achievement (the second is the whole of the first episode "USS Callister") is aggressively (even obsessively) Cartesian. This is so disappointing. (What do you think? -Wolf)

Kepler-90 is the first star with as many planets as our own sun, though its solar system is a strange and squished up place.

Teruaki Enoto, a physicist at Kyoto University in Japan, proved for the first time, in a paper published Nov. 23, that lightning bolts work as natural particle accelerators.

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Jan 5, 2018

Weekend Reads - Science Fiction Special Edition 1801

Welcome to 2018! Let's kick off a new year with a Weekend Reads: Science Fiction Special Edition. 

This edition look at all things science fiction, from an article starting that Arthur C Clarke is still the king of science fiction even after turning 100 year old (?) to an interesting article on reading biases. The latter outlines a study which showed that if people were asked to read a story couched in science fiction terminology then they scored lower in comprehension skills.

Is this study saying people who read science fiction are stupid? Well, no, my favourite quote is where the author writes "Science fiction doesn’t really make you stupid. It’s more that if you’re stupid enough to be biased against science fiction you will read science fiction stupidly.’

There's also a look at the history and impact of science fiction on our culture and another stating that from the study of space perspective, we need science fiction or at least can use it because it allows us to expand our minds and imaginations to capture the enormity of Space.

Some good reads here that you can enjoy with your favourite beverage over the weekend.

Dec 22, 2017

Weekend Reads - 171222

It's that time of the year again, where we're scurrying around making sure we have a gift for everyone, but are you doing this because you fear disappointing or offending others? The first article on the list today looks at the origin of why we give gifts at Christmas. I'll give you a spoiler, it's because we were given the best gift of all. Read on to find out more.

There's also a some articles about reading and a few more about the use of laptops and when not to use them. Something to consider with your favourite beverage this long weekend, maybe when you're trying to get some alone time.

Let me take this time to say thank you for visiting my blog this year and to wish you a happy Christmas. See you again in the new year.

Dec 17, 2017

Who Is Big Brother in 2017? The Year That Was.

We are certainly living in the future, and this fact hits me at very hard at times I least expect.  This week I received an email from Amazon titled 2017 This Year in Books.  As I scrolled though the article I was struck by the amount of information that is being collected from Amazon customers.

Dec 15, 2017

Weekend Reads - 171215

Iceland has a wonderful holiday tradition called Jólabókaflóð or the Yule Book Flood, which I want to incorporate into my family's Christmas tradition. I think this will be a great influence on my children in the long run but it could also be that I want to get Saga Land as soon as possible. The article is well worth the read. There is more Christmas stuff with The Witches of Winter... wow the middle ages was harsh. Also I'm quite excited to see John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War  being adapted as a movie. I loved this series and would highly recommend that you read it, especially if you like old school space operas.

Kick off your weekend by grabbing your favourite beverage, finding a comfy spot, and reading of the following articles.

Nov 10, 2017

Weekend Reads - 171110

This week we look at the classic Trolley Problem and why it turns us into sociopaths rather than proving any useful information about morality. Also NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month is in full swing, have you started on your novel yet?

When it's time to relax this weekend, grab your favourite beverage and relax by reading the following articles.