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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

Now a major motion picture starring Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba A #1 national bestseller, The Gunslinger introduces readers to one of Stephen King’s most powerful creations, Roland of Gilead: The Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner on a spellbinding journey into good and evil. In his desolate world, which mirrors our own in frightening ways, Roland tracks The Man in Black, encounters an enticing woman named Alice, and begins a friendship with the boy from New York named Jake.…

The Gunslinger

by Stephen King

Overall Book Review:

In The Gunslinger, the reader is introduced to Roland, the last in a line of noble warriors called The Gunslingers, an order who wield pistols with a prowess akin to a knight’s swordsmanship. The book follows Roland on his quest to catch a villain called, simply, The Man in Black. The world through which this unrelenting chase occurs is brutal and unforgiving, and King uses his beautiful command of prose to empahsize the almost complete lack of beauty and hope in the setting. As usual, King’s characterization is skillful, and he is able to communicate to the reader the tension of the war between good and evil that exists in all of us. Roland is a character that readers can identify with emotionally, even if his story and environment are completely foreign. That unfamiliarity of the setting serves to make the loneliness of his trek more apparent and to make any friends who he meets along the way feel truly treasured.

The only criticism that I have for this book is that almost the entire book feels slow. This is, I think, intentional on King’s part, as it brings the reader into the mood of plodding desolation that characterizes Roland’s quest. However, I think the story could have been helped by a little bit less plodding to get to the action. Enjoying this story, though, is well worth wandering through the few pages that probably could have been cut to get to that story.

This book left me looking forward to the next installment.

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  6 religious exclamations; 19 mild obscenities; 7 religious profanities; 9 derogatory names; 5 scatological words; 3 anatomical terms; 7 f-word derivatives.

Violence/Gore:  Man threatens to beat a child; plot to poison children is overheard; character tries to hit another with wooden planking; character begs another character to kill them; man raises a fist threateningly to his child; character considers murdering someone; character shoots at another and threatens them; character agonizes over whether to let a friend die; character lunges at another, intent on killing them; characters threaten each other a few times; off-hand mention of mutilation, rape, and murder; a slaughter is recounted;  brief mention of a few violent stories from the Bible; mummified corpse is found; a valley is filled with animal bones; character suffers from heat stroke; an animal minorly injures a child while hunting; man strikes a woman abusively; character’s wrist is broken; blood from a wound is contemplated at length; adult punches a child repeatedly; a dead body is grotesquely reanimated; creepy scene involving a demonic monster in an underground setting; characters flee from human-like monsters in a dark area, and this scene is creepy and tense, involving characters being shot with gory details; a frightening scene involves heights; character performs an abortion on another (few details); character is executed by hanging (not graphic); character dies in a gory, drug-related manner, vomiting blood; a mutilated body is grotesquely strung up; a child is run over by a car, and their injuries are very graphically described; character is executed by burning in a brief but graphic scene; a child’s body has a spike drive through its forehead (this is mentioned again two more times); extended scene involving a man, a child, and an animal includes bloody graphic injuries, broken bones, animal death, and severe human injury; extended scene of mob violence including many men, women, and children in which improvised weapons are used to try to kill a character, many characters are shot (some at point-blank range with bloody injury described), people are impaled, a woman is used as a human shield, blood and brains fly, people are burned and stabbed, and even children dish out and receive bloody wounds and death.

In addition to the above items, the following receive a non-detailed recount or brief mention: a loaded pistol put to someone’s temple; past murders; matricide; deaths due to machinery malfunction; rape; past child abuse; gas used in warfare; stabbing death.

Sex/Nudity:  Breasts are mentioned in a non-sexual way; mannequins are described as “bare naked”; artificial insemination (mention); reference to masturbation; brothels (mentioned twice); non-graphic reference to sex (twice); rape (mention); mention of animals mating; child jokes that another child is having sex with his own sister; crude gesture imply sex is used; character’s lustful feelings for each other are mentioned three times; brief mention of stories in the Bible that include sex; masturbation is implied; attention is called to a minor girl’s (clothed) breasts; “hot parts” of a romance novel are mentioned but not detailed; romance novels are referred to as “bodice rippers”; reference to parents having sex; sexual desire is dwelled on with a reference to breasts; cuckholdery (mentioned); mention of character’s previous sexual activity; woman pinches her nipples, through her shirt, suggestively; adult pushes a minor girl’s skirts up over her head (no further activity is implied); character discusses sex while unclothed; sexual activity with few details (4 instances); mention of previous sexual encounter with little detail; sexually-themed scene involving characters and a spirit-creature of lust (extended, but not explicit); man fondles his daughter’s breast; character performs an abortion on another (few details).

Mature Subject Matter:

Past war, death of a friend, death of a family member, matricide, abortion, rape (mention), child abuse, incest (implied), marital infidelity, some characters follow a cult (that has aspects of Catholicism, including the use of the name Jesus, but only vaguely resembles Christianity), murder.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Tobacco is chewed and smoked; heroine (mentioned); LSD (mention); cocaine (mention, also referred to deceptively by code-name of “Coca-Cola”); children smoke corn shucks; adults drink beer, wine, liquor; mescaline is used to bring visions; a fictitious hallucinogen called “devil grass” is smoked and chewed as a story element.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

My taste in literature leans heavily towards sci-fi, fantasy, and (my favorite) horror, and the latter can present some fairly murky waters for parents to let their children explore. I enjoy novels of both the standard and graphic varieties. Since those genres, and graphic novels in particular, tend to appeal to boys, I hope that I can help other Boy Mommies in their quest to find books that their little video gamers--I mean, future bibliophiles will read and enjoy. When I am not reading, I enjoy tabletop role-playing games, video games, and singing karaoke. I have a wonderful husband who lets me indulge my reading habit by sharing the housework and being a great dad to our genius kids and their faithful hound.