Traveler, here lies the town of Tull.
It is passing small, built around one main road which is bisected by three smaller ones. There is a tavern, and a tailor’s shop, and a mercantile that has gone under of late. Hard to keep business up with no one passing through. All the travel is one-way these days, with people riding hard for the north, where the world is not so far-gone as this.
Surrounding this gloomy blip of a town is eerily empty prairie dotted with abandoned homes, once full of light and life but now host only to whatever phantoms and demons have slipped into their walls.
A trifle depressing, isn’t it? How sad to think that this town has become the rule and not the exception in this bygone time. The world has moved on for this part of the world, understand. This is all there is now.
It is late in the evening, so the streets are emptying out. There are a few pallid, listless women walking the boards outside the boarded-up storefronts, and from the tavern comes the familiar strains of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude" rapped out on a honky-tonk piano.
Isn’t it strange, traveler? Such a well-known tune ringing drunkenly through the streets of this alien town.
But here comes something new, approaching this rundown ruin of a town as the sun sinks to the horizon. He is a stranger and walks with his head down, leading a mule behind him. He smiles slightly at the singing of the tavern’s patrons, but there is no humor in it. Hasn’t been any humor in him for a long time, it would seem.
On his hips are holstered two guns with sandalwood grips, marking him for what he is -- a gunslinger, both killer and diplomat. Anachronistic in both our world and his own, this man has not moved on yet. He still has a purpose.
The gunslinger, on the first steps of a journey still too large for him to truly understand, rolls into town.
So begins the journey of Roland Deschain, as written in Stephen King’s The Gunslinger. So begins the “Dark Tower” series.
Whether you’re a fan of Stephen King’s writing style or not, there’s no denying that the man knows how to build worlds. He blends familiar elements of our world with the apocalyptic, alien world that is Roland’s home. In this book in particular, this blend creates a nightmarish and surreal landscape, comprised of haunting memories and an devastating feeling of foreboding. Reading it is like trying to walk through a Dali painting.
King also tends to build language to match his world. While much of the story’s vernacular will be familiar to the everyday reader, King peppers this simple vocabulary with words of his own devising. Words such as “ka” and “cully” and “thankee-sai” mixed into the writing create an archaically sweet language that is infectious in its simplicity. If they are drawn deep enough, readers may catch themselves thinking in this lilting patois as they read.