THE GUNSLINGER (THE DARK TOWER, BOOK 1)

Begun by King while at college in 1970; serialized episodically in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, 1978-1981; printed in limited-editon hardcover, 1982: this King novelty at last achieves mass publication. King fans will find little to celebrate, however, in the derivative portentousness of this first volume in a threatened 3000-page epic western set in a blighted future world. Warmed-over sauce from Sergio Leone's classic spaghetti-western films is splashed all over this doughy tale. There's the gunslinger of the title, tall, strong and silent, and his evil nemesis, "the man in black"; there's the gunslinger's quest to track down and slay that villain; and there are the dust-swept towns he rides through, the lost boy he adopts as a sidekick, and the saloon-keeping wench he beds. The spice in this tired sauce, however, is pure King—fantastic and grandiose. For, as King reveals bit by bit, often in flashbacks, the man in black is a sorceror, able even to raise the dead, and the gunslinger the last of an aristocratic caste, keepers of "the High Speech" and of the few guns left in this nearly machineless, presumably post-nuclear-holocaust world. Moreover, bizarre turns sprout here like weeds—spellbound by the man in black, an entire town turns on the gunslinger, believing him the Antichrist and forcing him to massacre all souls; farther down the road, a band of "Slow Mutants" (irradiated humans?) attacks—and, as is King's wont, the central character is so obsessed as to brook no opposition, eventually sacrificing the little's boy's life to stay on the heels of his quarry. What's all this futuristic neo-Wagnerian posturing about? Something to do with a debt of honor, of course, vengeance for the death of the gunslinger's father and the dishonoring of his mother; and something to do with Tarot-wrapped pseudo-mystical prattle wherein beyond the gunslinger's yearning for the man in black lies his lust for "the Dark Tower"—where, as King concludes, the gunslinger "would some day come at dusk and approach, winding his horn, to do some unimaginable final battle." Heavy, real heavy—as sales undoubtedly will be too.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 1988

ISBN: 0452284694

Page Count: 290

Publisher: New American Library

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1988

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more