Book Review: The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower #1)

The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, #1)The Gunslinger by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy/Western

The Gunslinger was an unique experience. I loved this book for its narrative brilliance, oddly intriguing characters, and its dark outlook on our future-world (which, save for all the magic, is a perfect possibility!).

This was my first western — my only prior experience in the genre being the cowboy movies.

The setting is terrific. Stephen King paints a vivid picture of a world long dead (a world that has moved on, as the protagonist would say).

King being King takes us to a dark world and makes us the live the horror and tension as lived by the protagonist and other major characters.

Meet Roland Deschain, the Gunslinger. The last gunslinger, to be precise. A lone adventurer, who leaves death in his wake. And he is in pursuit of the Man in Black.

Meet Man in Black, whose purpose, or even existence, is unclear. He creeps up every fucking place he visits — whether with his “magic” tricks or by his appearance.

Meet Jake, a boy who is alive — but not quite. Maybe he’s somewhere in between, we really can’t tell. He is the only one of the “earlier” world. He accompanies the Gunslinger in his hunt for the Man in Black and it is often through Jake’s eyes that we get the glimpses of how much darker the world has turned.

The world itself is a big puzzle. And all the answers lie in a Tower somewhere far away. That’s what the Gunslinger (really?) seeks. The Dark Tower.

The hook is established from the very first page, with the very first line, where King writes:

“The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.”

What is this world? Ours? Post-apocalyptic? Some near future? Post global-warming? What happened here?

Who is the Gunslinger? What the fuck does he want? Is he insane? Is he of the earlier world? Why is he so desperate to find the Man in Black and the Dark Tower?

Who is the Man in Black? Devil? Devil’s apprentice? Just a random bad guy?

King makes us hungrier and hungrier with each turn of page and before we even know it we are at the end of the book and now are in a severe need of going out to buy the second fucking book.

If you love fantasies with a dark setting and quirky characters, this book is for you.

However, being only the first book in the series, the story itself may not leave you satisfied.

Three stars for the narration, worldbuilding, and the characters. One more star for delivering the experience unlike any other book I’ve read so far.

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Movie Review: Seventh Son (2015)

Genre: Adventure/Fantasy

Based on a novel by Joseph Delaney (The Wardstone Chronicles: Spook’s Apprentice)

Writers: Charles Leavitt, Steven Knight , Matt Greenberg (Screenplay),

Director:  Sergey Bodrov (Prisoner of Mountains)

Cast: Julianne MooreJeff Bridges, Ben Barnes

 

I haven’t read Spook’s Apprentice.

Meant to do so before the movie came out last week, but I couldn’t.

And now I’m terribly sorry for it.

The movie was nothing like what the reviews of the book suggested the book to be (they hardly are, anyway) and I think I lost my chance at a rewarding experience of knowing Thomas Ward and his world.

But.

What if I manage to free myself of that grudge, and view the movie as an original piece of work?

Well, it still changes nothing much.

The Story (SPOILERS!)

Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges) is a local, drunken Spook, who catches supernatural beings in exchange of some coins.

One fine day, Mother Malkin (Julian Moore), the Queen of Witches, whom Gregory had locked down years ago, returns to exact her revenge. She kills his apprentice, Kit Harington (Jon Snow from GoT, anyone?) and summons all her followers (other witches/shape-shifters) to attack human.

Master Gregory, now, must find a new apprentice (the seventh son of a seventh son) and train him with witch-battling skills (that takes years to learn, let alone master) in just a span of one week.

Enter Thomas Ward (Ben Barnes), the seventh son of a seventh son. A simple farm boy with no idea whatsoever that ‘nightmares and legends’ (as Master Gregory puts it) are real.

Of course, it goes without saying that from there, the two join hands to battle Mother Malkin and her crew of witches to save the day.

Ooh, almost forgot… in between, there is a subplot of Thomas Ward falling for this young witch, Alice (Alicia Vikander), and battling the ever rising question of whether or not all witches are bad.

Afterthoughts

Make no mistake, it’s an entertaining movie. Specially, with all that awesome visual effects (a shout out to the talented John Dykstra, Star Wars fame) how could anyone not be entertained?

Two spooks fighting shape-shifting dragons and sexy witches? Sign me up. Sign me up, now!

The premise was set, the story was cool, the audience (book readers and non-readers alike) were ready.

Unfortunately, the movie didn’t go any further from there and got stuck somewhere in the level of mediocrity. It was entertaining, but too far off from the point of being memorable.

Major Characters

Jeff Bridges is too perfect for the role of the Spook. His growly voice magnifies the spookiness. The acting is ever so brilliant (as one would expect from him).

His arc is quite satisfying. He starts out as a Spook with little care for anything in the world. Then we get to know that he is a lover in disguise. Who had once fallen for a Witch, but then had to marry a human-girl, who was then murdered by the same Witch. That sort of thing is bound to turn you into an asshole and we can finally understand what’s with all the spookiness!

Julian Moore pulls of Mother Malkin with a flair. Although, the role hardly required her to show the brilliance of acting that we all know she is truly capable of.

Her character also has a nice arc. At the beginning, she’s just a pure evil, but by the end (spoilers!) we get to know that she was the witch that Master Gregory had fallen for. And she was betrayed. That turned her malevolent. I think we can all relate to that.

No? Anyone?

Ben Barnes looks relatable. You know what I mean, right? The usual farm boy turned into a hero of the prophecy after the visions of the oncoming doom. Ben Barnes plays that sort of guy well. We feel sorry for him, we want to give him a boost, and we seriously want him to kick some ass.

Overall Satisfaction (conflict and all)

The major conflict in the movie is twofold.

One. Can they stop Mother Malkin and her team of witches in time?

Two. Is Thomas even ready to kill? Or do whatever it is that the Spook does?

Oh, and there’s that forgettable plot of whether or not all witches are bad. Never mind that.

Now, come on, people. I’m all for ordinary farm boy rising up to answer his calling or to fulfill the prophesy.

But years worth of training in one week? Eeesh.

And what’s up with that climax where all of a sudden the hero gets the pendant, and just begins to fry out all the bad people? For me, that’s just lazy. It is not supposed to be that easy.

Also, as per the movie (and not the book), it is too soon for Master Gregory to give up his staff to Thomas. He hasn’t had enough training and I do not think he is yet ready to take up the mantle of the new Spook (although that is what the last scene suggests and preps us up for the big sequel).

The movie has too many loose ends for me and just leaves me unsatisfied.

All in all

For book readers, Seventh Son is a book done bad. Not Eragon bad, though (maybe Percy Jackson bad, I don’t know). But the talented special effects team and the excellent cast keep the story going and make this an entertaining theatre experience.

For others (like me), this movie might be successful in keeping you stuck on your seat (please notice not at the edge of your seat) throughout the screen time, but it will not make any lasting impression in your mind.