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Reviewed by: Rick Hibbets (email@example.com) (??)
When Anthony (THE Antman!) asked if I would write a review on The Gunslinger: Revised and Expanded, as well as note some of the changes between it and the Original Edition, it got me thinking about when I first picked up the book. When I first came upon The Gunslinger I had read a couple of Stephen Kingís books, although I was not yet a full-fledged "fan". I was eager to tackle another King book, and while perusing the shelves I was drawn (pun intended) to The Gunslinger by one look at the cover. After reading the synopsis I thought, ďThis is definitely the next King book Iím going to read." And I wasnít disappointed. I loved the dark, mysterious tone of the book; the obsessed, complicated character of Roland; and the rising feeling of epiphany that progresses through the book as we reach the culmination of what has been a very long, rough journey for Roland. Even better was the ending, which clearly set the stage for a much bigger adventure (this was before Drawing of the Three came out). The narrative is powerful and colorful. King peppers the overall story with tantalizing glimpses into Rolandís past that help us understand the man, yet leaves us wanting for more information. We feel Rolandís torment as he questions what he has become, and we recoil as we watch him make morally problematic sacrifices with utter detachment for a quest of supposedly cosmic importance. The experience leaves one full of questions; is this our world? A similar world? What will happen now? What happened to Rolandís fellow gunslingers?
Despite all this praise, I acknowledge the book has itís flaws, and the style of writing may seem incongruous with other King novels. But despite its problems it was full of possibilities, and provided a distinctly different reading experience from Kingís other books. The following books in the series turned me into a Dark Tower junkie, and a fan of Kingís works in general.
Fast-forward to 2003 and the Revised Edition. If youíre like me, youíve already picked up every DT related piece of fiction King has put out, and you ran (or drove fast) to get home to read The Gunslinger: Revised and Expanded because of the promise of new material. Hopefully, though, youíre not like me in the respect that Iím finding myself somewhat disappointed and displeased by the RE. Hopefully, unlike me, you find the RE to be exactly what the OE (Original Edition) should have been. To be fair, itís Kingís book, and he can revise it in whatever manner he sees fit. Unfortunately, I think he may have created a George Lucas-type Original Edition versus Revised Edition situation (e.g. I liked Han shooting at Greedo first, and I prefer Roland saying Yes, not Yar). "If it ainít broke, donít fix it" is not simply a saying - it is an axiom - and there was nothing so wrong with The Gunslinger that it needed such broad alteration.
Thatís not to say that the original book couldnít have used a little additional editing, and I think some of Kingís changes to the book have been very positive. Plotlines and characters that will not be expounded in later volumes have been removed or appropriately altered, and Iím excited about some of the new plot elements (like Nineteen). I also believe King is setting the stage for something quite interesting with this whole idea of Resumption (more on that later). We also get much earlier mentions of ka and the Crimson King than we would have before.
The problem is that although King may not have liked his early 20s writing style, I did. I liked the way the book read. Many of his changes have altered the tone and timbre of the story, as well as Rolandís personality. Gone, to some extent, is the deadpan man-of-few-words adventurer with ice in his veins (but not in his heart). Heís a softer, more acceptable adventurer now. As Anthony and I have discussed, in addition to sounding too much like the Roland of two or three books away, the Roland of the RE now sounds too much likeÖa combination of pirate, farmer, and country bumpkin (e.g. "Yar"; "do that I beg ya"; "you say true, I say thankya", etc). Iím sure some people that bother to read both versions will find the RE more "readable", and Rolandís character more approachable, but that was never an issue for me with the OE. Itís hard to put my finger on it, but the RE lacks the unique feeling conveyed to me during every reading of the OE. Some of the most special aspects of the book have been changed, and I consider that to far outweigh the positive changes King has made.
Now that Iíve gotten that off of my chest, letís look at some of the changes themselves. This list is meant neither to be exhaustive nor authoritative. There are tons of small changes throughout the book that I donít mention here. It simply reflects some of the changes that stand out to me, and I will make further comments during and after the list. As I started doing this I made notations of which section of the new hardcover RE corresponded with the quotes. Eventually, I started noting page numbers between the hardcover RE and the plume trade paperback OE. Why? I donít know. It just happened, but it took me so long to get through both books I wasnít about to go back and look for page numbers.
*Text omitted due to size
As you may have surmised by this point, some of Kingís changes may have far reaching implications for the plot of the final books. Certain dialogue mentioned above, and the bookís new subtitle, Resumption, would indicate that there is some gap in Rolandís quest of which he is not aware. Certain events/places seem familiar to Roland, Roland himself muses on the idea of circles and resumption, and Walter is quite clear when he implies Roland is resuming his quest. Any attempt to discern the implication of this information would simply be wild speculation at this point. How or why would Roland have lost a portion of time during which he cried off of his quest?
One of the biggest changes, of course, is the additional dialogue concerning Nineteen. King would not have added the dialogue concerning this number if it were not to have implications further on. Unless youíre lucky enough to have a pre-release copy of Wolves of the Calla like Anthony (THE Antman!) of this website, youíll just have to wait until November like me to find out its significance.
I've got my fingers crossed that the last three novels will live up to the earlier ones (and if anyone can pull it off, King can), but I'm definitely trying to keep my expectations in check, especially after having read The Gunslinger: Revised and Expanded. King has mentioned that he is entertaining the idea of redoing all of the first four volumes, but I see even less need for that then the alterations to the first volume. I only hope the changes to The Gunslinger are not representative of how the remaining three books will be. For example, compare these excerpts from the OE and RE:
"Would you kill all your answers so easily gunslinger?
"Come down," the Gunslinger said. "Answers all around."
"Would you kill all your answers so easily gunslinger?"
"Come down," the Gunslinger said. "Do that I beg ya, and thereíll be answers all around."
I think Rolandís delivery was much cooler in the OE. This, coupled with the changes that soften our image of him, have had a negative effect, in my opinion. Weíre supposed to leave The Gunslinger conflicted in our feelings for Roland. Hell, we just finished reading how he slaughtered a town and let Jake fall to his death! It was only gradually, after much interaction with the characters of the next couple books that our view of Roland softened to the point where we began to appreciate the gravity of his quest and the importance of his sacrifices. It is later that he becomes a truly likable, even admirable character. The changes that affect the perception of Roland in The Gunslinger: Revised and Expanded are unfortunate, in that regard.
To conclude, I believe The Gunslinger: Revised and Expanded has introduced some interesting new elements into the Dark Tower mythos, corrected some editing errors, and enhanced continuity with the later novels. On its own, The Gunslinger: Revised and Expanded is a great read, and some of my criticism is surely driven by a fanatical appreciation for the original work. Nevertheless, I feel the RE pales when compared to its predecessor. Granted, it is now more "readable", and certain glaring continuity issues have been corrected, but these changes were neither necessary nor wanted on my part. For the true Dark Tower experience, I would recommend to anyone that they start with the OE and read through the first four books, then go back and read the RE before tackling the last three books (like all of us are having to do now). For one thing, reading the OE will help place Drawing of the Three in a better perspective when you read it. Part of what makes Drawing of the Three such a good book is that it provides the sequel youíre craving at the end of The Gunslinger, not just in how it provides more story, but how it transitions from the tone and style set by the first book. Ah, well. The RE is certainly worth buying and reading if youíre already a Dark Tower fan (yeah, I know youíve already bought it), but if you havenít read the books yet then find yourself a copy of the OE first.
Long days and pleasant nights, everyone. Iíll see you at the Tower.
Reviewed by: The Book Reader of Emerikai (firstname.lastname@example.org) (Thu, 13 Nov 2003 19:38:04)
Come on now Mr. King...
If it's not broke, don't fix it.
Reviewed by: Tom Orszulak (RWnotredame@yahoo.com) (Sat, 08 Nov 2003 06:49:34)
New Gunslinger... 3.5 rating
This book was great. I liked it but its not the same reading it the first time. If you read this book first instead of the original for the first time... most likely you'd like it better than the original. But what I didn't like was how Stephen tried to sneak in more info... He was talking about "Horn of Deschain." After reading the first over again a discovered it read nothing about this horn. But I did like how Roland went nuts on Sheb when he remembered him from Mejis. All and all it was a good book and a great read and I hate saying it but I liked it better than the original. I hope you enjoy it.
Reviewed by: Roland (email@example.com) (Tue, 04 Nov 2003 01:16:46)
...and "The Gunslinger" followed...
Well, now I finally finished the "new" Gunslinger. Since i got my copy of Wolves of the Calla yesterday, I rushed through the last pages of it, while while I listened to the audiobook of the original Gunslinger.
After I finished the book I was torn apart. Yes, there were some nice new ideas, but there were so many things that didn't feel right. The way Roland talks, the way he behaves, all so different from the man I met many years ago on a beach of the Western Sea (yes, I started with The Drawing of the Three, and read The Gunslinger right after that one). And was all this new stuff neccessary? I don't know and I think I won't find out until I finished book seven. And that is the one big problem I have with The Gunslinger: Revised and Expanded.
Instead of writing the new books in a way so they fit the original old books, King rewrites the beloved original to fit his new books! And it gives me the creeps to think he might do this to the other books as well. I really love the DT-books, but I love them the way they are. I was so surprised when I first read the english originals how everything fitted more or less together, reading the German translations one sometimes gets the idea that the translators didn't even bother to read the other books, so they don't fit together at all.
And now King did this to The Gunslinger, to his original idea. The new books are here, and "The Gunslinger" follows. Cut off a bit here, add a bit there and suddenly it is strangely different. Well, who if not the author has the right to do this, but I will continue reading the original version, even it it doesn't fit the new books as good as the revised version does.
Reviewed by: Jay (firstname.lastname@example.org) (Tue, 09 Sep 2003 14:45:57)
One of the things you can tell about The Gunslinger is that it was written by a young man, and a very young writer.
I had doubts about a revised edition of this book, and after reading it all I can say is that they have been put to rest. King shows us all that he knows what he is doing, and that The Dark Tower is still important enough for him to want to make sure that it starts well, and that all the parts fit together.
He's taken a not so easy to read novel, and made it a joy to read.
Reviewed by: Dorian (email@example.com) (Fri, 15 Aug 2003 22:08:34)
Back to the beginning...
Stephen King's introduction likens this revision to the expanded edition of The Stand, and he muses that some hardcore fans could be put off by it. Apparently he's a good judge of his own work, given the number of negative reviews here.
I loved the revised edition. I've been hoping for it for years.
Stuff I like:
-Jake sounds more like the tough kid he iis later, not the brainless puppet of the original.
-Roland acts/speaks more like the father--figure we know he becomes eventually, setting up that otherwise-kind-of-random plot point later.
-The Jake/Roland dynamic seemed better too me this time. It meant more to me when Jake died.
-Of course, the "nineteen" subplot, and aanything else I'm going to hear about in books 5-7.
-The fleshing out of the Susan flashback.. It makes Wizard and Glass that much more horrifying once you figure out where that flashback fits in. Remember, in Wizard and Glass Roland knows he can't get to Susan in time, so there's already this claustrophobic build up to her death; Roland's pain is amplified when you already know the outcome.
-The confrontation with Walter. Haven't ccross-referenced the exact changes, but it seemed that I giggled at Walter more.
-The rearrangement of the khef/Manni/Browwn stuff. Suddenly, there's a really good reason for Brown to be where he is. Even in the original, we heard about the Manni living out on the edges of society, now we see one up close. Also, that khef crap never worked like the original described it again.
I could see being pissed at this edition if the original were really a masterpiece, but I never thought so. I always thought The Gunslinger read like a homemade Dungeons & Dragons Sourcebook: loaded with ambition, creativity, imagination, but immature in style and content. Like Christopher Pike. I was interested enough to continue the series, but it wasn't until The Waste Lands and Wizard and Glass that I really felt anything about the characters.
This edition might not suit your tastes if you've already decided that The Gunslinger is perfect. For those more partial to the 3rd and 4th books, this revision fits right in to the universe you've read about. Some mysteries remain, and some new ones spring up, but, hey, it wouldn't be a Dark Tower novel otherwise.
Reviewed by: Stacey Dunton (firstname.lastname@example.org) (Sat, 2 Aug 2003 00:18:56)
Revisionist History of Midworld... Pee-Yew!
The following was a reply to the webmaster's own review of The Gunslinger: Revised and Expanded
I just read your review of The Gunslinger: Revised and Expanded, and wanted to briefly commiserate. First, if you are looking for some redeeming quality in it, try listening to George Guidall reading it on tape. Not bad, though I am a purist, and will always be true to Stephen King's original reading of the ORIGINAL The Gunslinger.
About the adverbs, and other changes in grammar, I have a theory. The original The Gunslinger, with all of it's beautiful adverbs and sumptuous semicolons was written before he wrote On Writing, in which he advised against the use of adverbs. It's almost as though he sought out to erase every little unsuspecting adverb so as not to make a liar out of himself. He's saying "See, everyone? I'm positively hell on the overuse of gratuitous descriptive actions!"
It's a shame because, while my own undergraduate English Lit. professor would have shuddered after reading it, the language of the original The Gunslinger was beautiful and complex, like a spider's web.
Also, King has answered some questions, but presented more new ones without answers. If you've read some of Wolves of the Calla, you have a better understanding, but the presentation of elements that won't appear until much later, i.e. that bird-man thing just confuses me. It is a kind of revisionist history that panders to the future. (I don't know if that makes sense to you, but it sounds good, and will look great on your message board!)
I totally agree about the way things that belonged and should have been left alone, such as Roland's way of speaking. That is what made him Roland from the time of his birth. The new usages of Mejis-speak by Roland and Jake in The Gunslinger: Revised and Expanded make me angry because they negate what came before. The original The Gunslinger, warts and all, may be different in style, and much older than the subsequent volumes, but it is responsible for all that has come after it.
I liked what you said when you attempted to express your feelings about Roland and his world. I actually understand just what you mean. I love all that is Dark Tower, not just because it is entertaining and spellbinding, but because I began listening to them on audio during the beginning of a very hard time in my life. I fell in love with Roland, his friends, his world, and even the darkest aspects of the story itself. It has become so important to me that I often imagine myself in that world. Sounds crazy, right? I just have the soul of a closet writer, a veteran reader, and I also have a great imagination.
Again, if you haven't already, try listening to the audio version of The Gunslinger: Revised and Expanded. George Guidall does a much better job of the reading than it deserves. Am I ambivolant about the The Gunslinger: Revised and Expanded? The answer is definitely "Yar."
Long days; pleasant nights! (...or should it be pleasant days and long nights?)
Reviewed by: Nic Patton (email@example.com) (Tue, 29 Jul 2003 17:59:29)
Disappointment is the only word to describe my feelings. I don't even know where to begin. I think the only thing I liked about the revised edition was the inclusion of the numbered chapters. I think all the changes in adverbs and what not takes away from the gravity of the situation. It was white and hot and blinding. Bah! White; hot; blinding feels so much stronger. I don't really want to get in to the plot but I feel I have no choice. I have to rant here for awhile, so if you haven't yet read it cover your eyes.
First off the "thank ya's", "you say true" and "yar" becomes an inconsistency. We never hear of it until Wizard and Glass but now it is introduced here and not involved in The Drawing of the Three or The Waste Lands. Also all the manni talk gets on my nerves. We are to believe that the hut dweller Brown was a manni. And Roland reached the fifth level of khef not "...and had reached perhaps the fifth level." I also agree with Roy (see review below) that the inclusion of Susan and references to the future books should have been left out. King always said Roland didn't have an imagination but then he keeps imagining and remembering the past now. Worst off is the palaver with Walter. We are now told that Walter is Marten, and Marten is John Farson... but wait, Marten is also Flagg, and the Ageless Stranger/Maerlyn. But when Roland was chasing Walter he saw Flagg being chased by the boys from The Eyes of the Dragon. And in Wizard and Glass, Walter went to Mejis and is distinctly a separate character from Farson. King has a lot to clear up in the new books which I though was his intention with this rewrite. I had also always held out that the Beast was a sort of guardian of the Tower to make sure no one fucked with it or freed the Crimson King but here we have the complete omission of this entity.
All in all the story was good and it read smoother but it is not The Gunslinger we all know. The original was always like The Hobbit. It stood on its own and is sort of like a prequel. It had certain background information but was the quest before the quest. I think King should have left well enough alone and kept it in the original form. This would be like picasso going back and painting over his old masterpeices when he entered his blue period.
Reviewed by: Roy Hudson (firstname.lastname@example.org) (Sun, 27 Jul 2003 19:50:28)
A blemish to the entire series
Okay, yes it was easier to read, yes it flowed just like any other King book, and if that was the only change he had made, I would have liked it very much. But it wasn't the only change he made. And so--- I hated it!
Why talk so much more about Susan? In the original Gunslinger, she was hardly mentioned. All you knew about her was that Roland had loved her, she's dead now, and she was "the girl in the window." Now you know how she dies. That RUINS the whole suspense of Wizard and Glass! When I read Wizard and Glass for the first time and read how the townspeople burned her alive after getting to know her as intimately as we did (I'll admit it, I fell in love with her--- hell, I was 17 and in love when I read it, their love story seemed real to me--- now I'm older and bitter. hehehe), I cried. Now, honestly, do you really think that anyone who STARTS the DT series with this revised Gunslinger and knows everything that happens TO Susan before knowing what she's like at all is going to cry when she dies in Wizard and Glass? No! Because they already read about it! They know it happens, they've been desensitized to it! Agh! And now, what is up with the man in black? HOW could SK make him Marten when Roland makes it clear in Drawing of the Three that Flagg is Marten, then in The Waste Lands Flagg appears to them and Roland recognizes him AS Marten. If Walter was Marten and Walter died, and Walter made it clear that he is NOT the Ageless Stranger (Flagg), Legion (another change I wasn't comfortable with, that name is way overused in SK's works), HOW could Flagg be Marten!? What was King thinking!? I know, he plans on rewriting all of them, but right now, as they stand, they don't match up! Agh! Finally, the thing that really made me mad, was the fact that King took the IT reference out of the book! When Roland is talking to Walter about the beings in the Tower, Walter tells him that above the Ageless Stranger is the Beast, and he refers to this being as "It," capital I in the middle of a sentence, as in "See It run." Now, I know he had to make a reference to the Crimson King, because it's become blatantly apparent that the keeper of the Tower, the Beast, is the Crimson King, but he didn't have to take out the IT reference! I've been saying for years upon years that the Crimson King and It are one and the same, and my strongest arguments are the original Gunslinger and Insomnia! But no--- he had to go and change The Gunslinger to make a fool out of me! Agh! But you'll see. "Pennywise lives." The sh*tweasels said so. I bet he'll appear to Jake in one of the last DT books. They list IT as one of the books in the Dark Tower universe on his website, and I know it's not just because of the Turtle. It and the Crimson King are one, I tell you!
***********here endeth the spoilers***********
Ahem. But yes, overall, I think that the revised Gunslinger is an abomination to the rest of the series. As difficult as the original is to read--- READ IT! Or here, if you have to read the easy-to-read revised Gunslinger first, then read the original and tell yourself that THAT's how the story goes, that'll do, Donkay.
Reviewed by: Mark Hobbes (email@example.com) (Thu, 24 Jul 2003 16:02:53)
This book is awesome! I read the original The Gunslinger book a long time ago, and thought it was great, but frankly it sucked compared to the others in the series. Now, all that's changed. King has FINALLY cleared up all those annoying little inconsistencies, and made the overall book far, far better. (That thing with Nineteen... I can't WAIT to see what that's about!!!) It now finally sounds like the other books, especially Wizard and Glass. And the changes he's made to the character of Walter are worth the price of admission alone (I won't spoil anything). All in all, this is a great way to lead up to Wolves of the Calla, now all he has to do is fix The Drawing Of The Three...
Reviewed by: Dale Thomas (firstname.lastname@example.org) (Wed, 23 Jul 2003 07:46:54 PDT)
Agree with the Antman
I think that a revised version of this book was a good idea. Some of the writing in the original version was amateurish and the dialogue could get quite clunky at times. In retrospect however, it maybe should have been left alone. It's difficult to expand much upon what THE Antman said in his review without delving into major spoilers, suffice to say I completely agree with his view on the dialogue changes which alter Roland's character from a hardened, softly spoken threat into some sort of jovial bumpkin. The introduction of "Nineteen" is curious and obviously planted to set something up in a later book - now confirmed by THE Antman and his advance copy of 'Calla' - lucky bugger. It sits better than some other changes, which become more and more prevelant until the palaver at the end, which has been tinkered with hugely and in my opinion suffers as a result. It does make more sense now with regards to the continuity but some of the power in the conversation between Roland and Walter has evaporated.
It's not enough to ruin the book, and for newcomers this is probably the place to come - but for long time fans this book is a strange one; You'll probably read it as many times as the others in the series, but never love it quite as much.
Reviewed by: Robert (email@example.com) (Fri, 18 Jul 2003 11:44:53)
Would you kill your answers so easly?
I have just completed the gunslinger revised. In this book Stephen King answers some of the nagging questions we as readers have had over the years (why would Marten not be able to handle the vision Walter sent to Roland?) and offers some new insight to the up and coming books (the horn that Roland lost?). In all not much has changed and it is still a great introduction to the Dark Tower.