Friday, 14 January 2011

Coming Clean - A Book I Just Can't Read

I have to come clean.

The Gunslinger is not for me. Certainly not in the readalong way I've been trying to read it.

I've been finding it a complete chore, trying to complete the posts for each Friday. I've been dreading picking up this so very slight novel and finding reasons to put it off. Look - it's Friday again today and I haven't even looked at The Gunslinger for two weeks. In that period I've read four chapters of Deadhouse Gates and written posts for the Tor Malazan Re-read, and completed four novels of varying lengths. I've done everything bar pick up The Gunslinger.

I don't like it. I find it tedious, dry. I struggle to gain any meaning or excitement from it. I can totally see why other folk warned me off the book.

So, this is me deciding to stop doing something that feels like a *job*. The Dark Tower Readalong officially ends here. I apologise to all those lovely people who encouraged me and left comments. I hate giving up on something, but would rather end it officially than have you keep coming by trying to find a post that isn't going to happen.

Now, I am stubborn - and I have a feeling I will finish reading The Gunslinger at some point, just for completism, but I really don't understand why this series has gained such popularity.

I invite you to tell me why YOU like the series...

Also, which inordinately popular books/series have you never managed to complete?


  1. "Lord Of The Rings". I think if you've not read it when you were an impressionable teenager, it's too late. I was 30-ish. Just after the first film came out. I loved the film (and the two that followed), but I could hardly get through the first page of the book. Over-written. Needed a good edit. Could've been cropped by, oh, 500 pages I'm sure.

  2. I've mentioned this a couple of times, but I don't think The Dark Tower was the best place to start with your first Stephen King novel. I haven't reached it yet in my chronological reading of King's books, but certainly I'd recommend 'Salem's Lot, The Dead Zone or Under the Dome as better introductory novels.

    I can't comment on The Dark Tower, but I would hope this hasn't put you off King's work. I think he's probably the greatest living writer of genre fiction, and not without reason.

  3. @Thomas - I completely agree with your choice too :-) Tiresome descriptions of the countryside and very little going on. I'll stick to the films, thank you very much!

    @Adam - I have Under the Dome on my TBR pile and am still happy to pick it up!

  4. Without a doubt The Gunslinger is the weakest of the Dark Tower series, originally written in 1982 (ish?) it isn't really up to Kings standard. To me he seemed to struggle writing out of his usual genre and it does show.

    The novel did undergo a re-write in 2003 so it does depend which version you read but even this newer one isn't all that accessible.

    It's a real shame too as books 2-7 are in my opinion far superior, partly due to the experience King gained in the years between writing.

    I did persevere through the first novel, can't say I enjoyed it overmuch but a friend convinced me to read the second and I must admit I think 2-7 are excellent books. I guess part of this is due to my love of dystopian fiction, I am not really a big King fan but Dark Tower is one of my favorite series (although I haven't written reviews for them yet).

  5. Kraken.

    I find it hard for my imagination to work on scenes in the book.

    And also the frequent trip to the nearest dictionary. The idea of the story intrigues me, but having to zigzag between reading the novel and reading the dictionary killed the whole thing for me.

    I'm gonna need to improve my vocabulary before I try again.

  6. @Ant - Thanks for your perspective on the series! I actually have the second book from the library so I might whip through the first book quick and then try the second. I hate the idea of giving up on a book!

  7. @Ganz - I haven't read Kraken yet, but I did find the vocab in The City and The City of a challenging level. Still, I find that China Mieville isn't the worst for this - it is, in fact, Adam Roberts. His novel I had to use the dictionary for :-)

  8. I tried reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for a book club a while back, and ended up only skimming through the last third of it. Hated it. Cannot understand why everyone calls it a classic.

    I persevered through Vanity Fair a couple of years ago, and then I wished that I hadn't wasted so much time! Far better, I think, to stop reading an unlikeable book, maybe pick it up at a later date when you're feeling more generous toward it, than force yourself to finish all at once and end up REALLY loathing it.

  9. The first time I read The Gunslinger I hated it. I found that odd having always been an avid Stephen King fan so I persevered with it and eventually went on to read the rest of the series which is SO much better. I absolutely loved the rest of the books in the series.

    This time around I have been enjoying it a lot more. Not sure why this is. Perhaps now I know what happens then it makes more sense to me?

    I have been struggling not to read on as I wanted to remember each section clearly to fully appreciate your commentary on each section and reading ahead would have spoilt that I feel, as it would not have been so fresh in my mind, so at least I can quickly devour the rest of the book now!

    Please do try some more King though! I’m sure you will get on better with many of his other books. My personal favourites are The Stand, Under The Dome, Insomnia and Desperation (although I would suggest not starting with Insomnia as I think you need to “know” King a bit better before reading that one I think).

  10. I think one of the reasons it has got so popular is that it incoperates a lot of little things from Kings other books (or so I understand).

    Salems Lot is one of the first books I ever really loved and I still think its fantastic though like you I have never been able to get into the Dark Tower.

    I've also never really been able to get into Robert Jordans Wheel of Time series. And with 13 books, not sure if I'll ever force myself through it.

  11. Recently, I forgot to reply to some Science Fiction Book Club featured selections and got a copy of Book Two of Stephen R. Donaldson's Final Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I enjoyed the original Chronicles when I was a teenager, so I decided to dive into it despite not having read the first of the new books. I found Donaldson's writing a lot more pretentious than it was 25 years ago and I didn't get even a third of the way through the book before giving up.

  12. Ah, I have a long and bloody history with these books...

    I liked the first one well enough, but it is very different to the rest in the series; things get a whole lot jucier, for one thing. The Drawing of the Three and the Wasteland are two of King's best, in my opinion. Wizard and Glass is great but here the series changes again, and not for the better. The last three books are... well, let's just say I have a self imposed ban on talking about the last book, because it irks me so much.

    So my highly conflicted advice is read the next three, and then make up your own ending. :)

    (I actually started with book 4, which might explain why I didn't mind the "dry" feeling of the first book- I knew things would pick up later!)

  13. I couldn't get through this book (let alone the series) either. I found it to be the very pinnacle of boredom. My old roommate (and Co-Blog Author at Iceberg Ink) however...thinks those books hung the moon, but I can't fathom why because I can't stand them. You are not alone. :)

  14. It took me ages to get through the first book. I'd put it down for a couple of years and had given up on it. It just didn't grab me at all and that was it - couldn't be bothered.

    In an act of desperation one day I picked it up again as I really needed something to read. I did better with it this time, soldiering on and even enjoying it by the end.

    Eager for the next one, I bought it and was so glad I did. Much better, great atmosphere, hooked.
    Last 3 books in the series can be safely avoided indeed. It seems like they were written quickly, on demand, to get it out of the way.

    Books 2 & 3 definitely the best of the bunch.

  15. When I read the serialized version back in '82 I didn't care for it much--so I never picked up the rest of the series.
    I'm still finding the Gunslinger a bit tedious but I'm going to forge ahead and give the rest a try.

  16. I can understand you not getting through the book. And it's definitely not anywhere near King's best work.

    As for where to start reading Stephen King, I suggest Four Past Midnight. Four novellas that showcase his work in a good way. (My review is here: if you want to see more of what I think of it.)

  17. you finished foursome but the gunslinger isn't good enough for you? bravo! way to go!

  18. I found The Gunslinger hard but got through it and whipped through the next three. As you know i then came to a grinding halt on Wolves of the Calla and just can't get into it at all.

    I read my first King (The Dark Half) when I was about 15 and have a fair number of his books now.

  19. Hey Amanda, I guess some books just aren't for everyone. :-)

    I love the Dark Tower series because, well, it's completely different to everything else out there; It borrows from so many different myths and legends that we know but twists them, pushes them slightly off-centre; it doesn't follow any of the conventional rules of genre fiction, since the tale is so damn allegorical; it's absolutely creepy and unsettling, very sad, very intense; and it ties together practically all of Stephen King's major works.

    Maybe my love for it has got something to do with the fact that the first adult novel I ever read was Pet Sematary (9 years old) - maybe I'm just so deeply indebted to King that I won't ever be truly objective about his work, but I love everything I've ever read by the man. :-)

    One thing is for sure, though - his work is not for everyone. :-) Don't feel bad - I put down The Tommyknockers not even mid-way through the book because it was boring me to tears, but when I picked it up a year later I finished it in a week; sometimes we just aren't at the right 'place' to fully get into a novel, sometimes we never reach that 'place'. The fact that you tried is awesome. :-)

  20. Wow, thank you, I rarely find someone that shares my views about The Gunslinger. I felt so sorry for giving up on a series after just one book, especially when it comes to Stephen King, of whom I am a huge fanboy of, but there are too many good books out there to waste time on the ones you don't like.

    If it's time for confessions, here it is: I couldn't get past the first novel in the Dune series, and had a very hard time finishing and enjoying Tolkien's The Silmarillion. There, I've said it.

  21. I've never read the Dark Tower books, and I've read very little of King in general. I don't think I'll pick it up any time soon, either.

    I'm unable to read through Lord of the Rings. I'm half way through Fellowship and I stopped to read something else. It's just too damn much for me. One day I'll read it all, but not today, and not tomorrow neither :P

  22. That's funny, because I'm a huge Steve fan, but could not get past the first book in this series -- just not for me. But that's OK, 'cause there's plenty others out there.

  23. I can only say that the Dark Tower series are amongst my very favorite books. I think it all depends on your taste, but I would say that you should give it another try. And I do agree, that some of the other books in the series are possibly better written than The Gunslinger, especially Drawing of the Three and Waste Lands. Oh, heck....actually, they're all good =)

  24. If reading a certain book becomes a chore, then it's just not worth it anymore. Reading should be enjoyable, I think.

    What popular book or series have I not yet finished? The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I think I made it about 1/4 into the second book before putting it down and forgetting to pick it up again, and I don't know what number attempt that was at reading the trilogy. One of these days I'll have to try again...

  25. I listened to the first two books in this series on audio and didn't like them very much. Blah. I won't be finishing the series.

    I've never made it through a Tolkien book. They put me to sleep and the only books I continue reading after that happens is textbooks. I'll stick with the great movies and leave the books for people who find them to be more then uncomfortable pillows.

  26. Brian Ruckley's Winter Birth. I tried, I really, really tried, but after a hundred pages I was just forcing myself to read on and I just gave up :/