Reviewed by: Anthony -- webmaster of the DTC (firstname.lastname@example.org) (Wed, 2 Jul 2003 00:00:01)
Why, oh why...?
First off, I think it's well known by now of my love for the Dark Tower books. These books have literally changed my life in so many ways, it's hard to think what things would be like for me now had I not encountered The Gunslinger so many years ago. To me, all of the books within the series hold such a special place in my heart, it's impossible for me to pick a favorite among them. Like Sylvia Pittston and her numerous worn out bibles, there's a passage within The Gunslinger that was spoken by her, and if I may, I'd like to rearrange a few words here and there of that passage, so as to help express my true feelings and to describe it in ways that might be a little more understandable to you:
Ok, ok folks... that was pretty lame and a bit over-dramatic (even for me), but it still partially feels right. Which is why I'm finding it so hard to start the review of the book.
When I first heard that the revised and expanded edition was going to be released, I was overjoyous. Finally, some new material that would be found within the old. What was old, could now be new again. I just didn't realize how new it was going to be.
The first couple of pages were easy, and with a few words changed here and there, it seemed a bit refreshing. But that quickly changed. The poetry and romantic style was starting to get confusing. Lines that once had true meaning and feeling and depth, were suddenly replaced by what I call, "the common tongue". If I may give an example from another review I have read on-line (this one from Matthew Peckham) that explains better about the grammer (ie: verbs, adverbs, adjectives, etc.) of writing than I could possibly hope to in my limited knowledge of the art:
Nearly every adverb has been hunted down with merciless zeal and purged. There were several spots in the original where King would flip adverbs with subject and verb, e.g. "onward, he plodded." These have all been changed so they read straight, e.g. "he plodded onward." The literal use of semi-colons has also been toned down, so that "white; blinding; waterless;" becomes "it was white and blinding and waterless."
In the review quoted above, the reviewer sees this change as an improvement over the old passages. With all do respect to Mr. King, I just could not see that.
I had been reading the original version of this book since almost the very beginning, and I guess I had become accustomed to understanding that things I had read, were in fact, etched in stone. Ok, it was paper instead of stone -- I realize that of course -- but it now becomes clear to me that I had never expected the original dialogue, script and plot to be changed, but only added to. In this idea, I found I was partially correct, but in other ways, completely wrong as well.
Speaking of language, I had a brief conversation with a "Constant Visitor" -- as I like to call them -- of the DTC who had e-mailed me, wondering what I thought of the new release of The Gunslinger. Although our correspondance has been short to this point (due mostly to my busy schedule, much to my disappointment), he said something about the language used in the dialogue between characters that hit the nail on the proverbial head. "It makes him sound like a farmer or something". Exactly my thought! Roland was supposed to be a quiet talker -- sharp, to the point and as little as need be. He had travelled many a mile on his quest for the man in black, and I'm certain that ordinary conversation would have lost it's appeal after awhile, to one such as the gunslinger. Not this "say thankya" and "do that, I beg ya" (which in the future, we'll hear much more of, but it will sound more appropriate when we do hear it)... and the absolute worst was "yar". And atleast if it had been used constantly throughout the revised and expanded edition, it might have sounded a bit more normal for this rewrite. I found that Roland (and other charcaters as well) kept lapsing back every now and again to "yes" and "thank you" from "yar" and "say thankya". It just didn't sound like Roland any more... or at least not the Roland I once knew. He sounded more like the young Roland using the patois of a long ago Mejis in Wizard and Glass, than the older and more experienced gunslinger we read of in the original version. King even had Jake, of all people, using "yar" every now and again, then lapsing back. I just couldn't abide by those changes. Plus, we never hear of such language again in the following books until Wolves of the Calla, as those of you who've read the official prologue can attest to.
There were however, some very interesting plot additions to the story that I found very intriguing. After the man in black resurrects Nort in Tull, the introduction of the number "nineteen" subplot was very compelling. I would stop and ask myself, "why the number nineteen? There must be some reason for King to have added this here." It's just so like him to drop a potential clue to something, and then leave it behind only to reappear again much later down the road, much to our surprise. And until very recently, I found out exactly why. And boy, oh boy... if you only knew what I know now, you'd be just about messing your underwear with anticipation. Ye gods it's so exciting... *wink*
There are many other revelations within the additional text that shed light on some of the most profound questions and plot points that readers like myself have been asking for a long time... some of which have taken me by complete and utter surprise. Maybe even the word "shock" and "incomprehension" could fit appropriately with "surprise" as well. Ideas and understandings that I had once taken, not for granted, but as the simple and plain unadulterated truth after reading the original version (one might say "as true as the bible", but I myself wouldn't), have been turned completely upside down and backward for me. I won't explain too much about this just incase there are those of you who are reading this review before reading the book itself, which would invariably spoil the outcome of this book for them. I couldn't do that to my fellow DT Junkies, now could I? But I will say one thing more about this surprise that shouldn't be to much of a give away... whatever you knew, or thought you knew about Walter... throw it all away. You won't be needing it anymore.
I could literally go on and on about the good changes and the bad changes to this book, but invariably, most of you who have read, or will read the revised and expanded version, will come to your own conclusions about this book, and will probably be unaffected by whatever my own views are. I remember listening to the interview with Stephen King on the "Today Show" that aired on June 23rd and he talked about having done the revisions and expansion to this novel for the new readers out there... the ones that haven't read any of the Dark Tower books yet. He wanted to do this so that they could be "drawn" in (pardon the pun) and have a bit more of a "reader friendly" version; something that some of the readers of the original version have complained about over the years -- that The Gunslinger was too different in writing style and too hard to get into compared to the books that followed in the series. That's all fine and dandy if you're one of "them", but what about us poor souls? The true Dark Tower Junkies, as we like to be called. The ones that have followed the series right from the beginning ("The man in black fled across the desert, and the Dark Tower Junkies followed.") and have spent years pouring over these pages and learning and understanding all that could be learned and understood about the story being told (much like the the "Tolkienites" out there and their Lord of the Rings books). Was it really so neccessary to change it in such a fundemental way? I guess we'll never really know now...
Again, I'd like to point out that if this review seems too harsh, it's nothing personal against Stephen King himself. Ye gods, if he only knew how much I loved these books, he would know that what I'm saying here is not to berate, insult or condemn him or his work, but to express my love for the story... as it was originally told. And yes, in his own words, he might have been a writing seminar survivor at the age of 22 and had a lot of pretentious ideas about how stories were supposed to be told (yes, his words!) but for whatever its worth Mr. King, you did the best you could back then, and I've loved you for it ever since. I still have my original, worn-out, paperback copy of The Gunslinger... and it's this book that I'll still continue to read from. I must remain true to my heart, and remember the face of my father.
To you, dear Stephen-sai... long days and pleasant nights.
Anthony (THE Antman!)