Has this ever happened to you?
You're reading a book at work. It's going to be a photo finish to see which finishes first, the book or your lunch hour. You find yourself skimming quickly, trying to squeeze every last second of readable time out of your break, a desperate race to beat the clock. But in the end, you just run out of time (much like Jake did a couple of pages back).
That's where I am with The Gunslinger. Page 292 out of 300.
Maybe I can sneak a quick glance at the book at my desk. It's not like I have any real work right now. Wait -- is that the boss? Gack!
It appears that the end of The Gunslinger is not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning. I know this because Roland says it, the man in black says it, the narrator says it, heck, I think even Jake says it.
Thanks to the man in black's explanations (of which he has not yet finished -- curse that lunchroom clock!), Roland appears to live on a parallel earth, one that may have suffered some sort of plague, possibly man-made. Hmmm, some tie-in to The Stand here? Anyway, it appears that Roland's quest will take him to the Tower, some sort of nexus point of all these parallel universes.
Well, d'uh. The series is called The Dark Tower, after all.
Okay, I've finished off The Gunslinger and moved onto book two, The Drawing of the Three. At 463 pages, this is more like a typical length for King, as opposed to The Gunslinger's rather scant (scant for King, anyway) 300 pages. And it reads like a more typical King book. Drawing was published in 1987, five years after Gunslinger, and seems less stylish and more assured in its narrative voice. King had also just finished an amazing run of releasing four novels in a year, including two of my favourite King novels, It and Eyes of the Dragon. The other two were Misery, not exactly a slouch itself, and The Tommyknockers (as Meatloaf might have said, three out of four ain't bad).
Anyway, I'm not too far in. Roland has just gone sleepwalking in the surf and has had bits of himself eaten by the giant lobster.