The gunslinger steps into the lives of three different New Yorkers, and must figure out how they fit into his quest before he dies of an infection.
The contrast between The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three always astonishes me. As King puts it in his introduction, in book 2 of the Dark Tower series the story really takes off. I always spend the first few chapters mourning the elegiac tone of the first book, but soon am swept away by the power of King’s characterizations.
Eddie’s story always gets me, mostly because of the subtle poignancy of his relationship with his older brother Henry, the “great sage and eminent junkie.” Couple that with a drug deal plotline that takes Scarface to a supernatural plane and I just devour the first huge chunk of The Drawing of the Three. The shootout at Balazar’s is one of King’s finest sequences, expertly plotted and staged and visualized.
I slow down a bit when I get to Odetta/Detta, because King takes Detta to such an odious place that I need to look away. I can’t get too close to her. And because I know Jake is coming (though not until the next book), I end up rushing through the Jack Mort stuff. I love watching Roland work Jack Mort, giving the first hint of the diplomat that we’ll find in later books, but knowing that we’re not going to stay with Jack keeps me from getting too invested in that chunk. Reading it now, knowing the ending, I’m struck by how little of the Jack Mort stuff ends up figuring into the larger mythology. He’s pretty much just a plot device at best, filler at worst, a way for King to take a long time getting where he intends to go. I wouldn’t advocate cutting it, but I do wonder how those scenes would’ve played out had they been written closer together with the later books.