Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King

I was impressed enough with the first novel in the Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger, that I immediately started reading this next novel. While The Drawing of the Three is indicative of King's excellent and unique writing style, ultimately it just didn't do it for me.

The novel picks up right where The Gunslinger left off. Roland has had his confrontation with The Man In Black, who planted in Roland's mind enough clues to the Dark Tower that our hero is even more determined than ever to find the Tower. There's just one problem: Roland is exhausted from his travels through the desert, he's dehydrated, and, as occurs almost immediately as we jump into this novel, he becomes crippled.

Right there is where King began to lose me. Roland is an indomitable character; nothing is going to stop him as long as he's got his six shooters at his side. We learned that from the first book. But what King does is change the game right from the get-go as Roland is severely wounded by a lobster-like creature (called 'lobstrosities'), thereby impairing his ability to use his weapons in quite the same fashion as he did in The Gunslinger.

It's fairly obvious what King is doing. The Man In Black told Roland he would need to draw three people from the other side (i.e., our world) to aid him in his quest. These three are then to become Roland's crutches. This might have worked if the Three were as strong as characters as Roland himself. But instead they are a druggie, a crazy black woman with a severe split personality disorder, and… well, I won't reveal the third. Suffice to say I couldn't get into the crutch characters. They become too much of the story and just weren't nearly as compelling as Roland himself.

While King shines through with his usual well-thought supporting characters, and the writing truly kept me engaged, I just don't like where this series is going. I read a review of the next book in the series, The Wastelands, and it didn't sound like it was much different. In fact, the reviewer said it was even more out there than this novel.

That being said, I don't think I'll be following Roland any further on his quest to find the Dark Tower. I am, however, looking forward to the Ron Howard directed movie adaptation. King has penned some amazing novels that have later been adapted to the big screen. I think Howard is going to come up with something superb with this material. The Drawing of the Three , however, was not good enough to compel me to want to continue reading the series.

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

The announcement that Stephen King's Dark Tower series was coming to both movies and television was all the impetus I needed to finally jump into reading this series. All told, the series encompasses seven novels, with the first having been written in the early 70's and the next not coming until almost a decade later. In the preface to The Gunslinger, King notes that it was upon reading Tolkien's Lord of the Rings that the seed of the idea for his own epic fantasy was planted. But it wasn't until later viewing a certain western featuring one of America's greatest living actors (the movie being The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, starring Clint Eastwood) that the light bulb went off in King's head.

The Gunslinger is very much a melding of Tolkien's epic scope, Eastwood's gritty, gunslinger persona, and, without a doubt, King's own unique writing style. The plot is fairly straightforward: Roland, the last of the Gunslingers, is pursuing an ominous villain known only as The Man In Black. Roland follows in the latter's footsteps across a wasteland dotted only by the vestiges of our own modern society, for the world has "moved on." The modernisms we know so well have been swept away. By war, disease, or some other means, King never says, but the world depicted in this first novel is harsh, desolate, and unforgiving.

With only the occasional flashback into Roland's past, The Gunslinger follows a fairly straight course as Roland does whatever he needs to do to capture and kill The Man In Black. Even still, the glimpses into Roland's persona offer a glimpse into a very complex individual. He's a man driven by things we may not fully understand yet, but we see him as sympathetic nonetheless. We may not understand or condone his willingness to sacrifice anyone or anything to capture or kill his enemy, but we also realize that, hell or high water, he is going to do so.

King admits he didn't know what direction the series was going to take past The Gunslinger. He knew Roland was on a quest to find the Dark Tower, but King didn't know the why's of it or even if Roland would ever actually find it. Needless to say, the reader is left with more questions then answers, which might be the best way to leave the first novel in a series of seven.