It all starts with a Gunslinger and his pursuit of the Man in Black (not to be confused with the movie). Why he is following him we do not know. But in flashbacks it slowly becomes clear. Roland, the gunslinger, has been set up by the Man in Black and that caused him to kill 39 men, 14 women and 5 children.
Roland's real quest is to find the Dark Tower, to put his world back the way it was. For his world is slowly falling apart, it's ending. The Man in Black has information about the Tower and Roland needs that information if he is ever to reach his goal. On his way to the Mohain desert he comes to a Way Station where Jake, a 9 year old boy. Jake is from our world, but he died there and woke up in Roland's. Since he has nowhere else to go, Jake travels with Roland.
This presents a problem for Roland who must now face a choice soon. He must either safe Jake or catch the Man in Black. If he catches the Man, Jake will die.
The Gunslinger is under 300 pages and clearly a introduction to the universe of the Dark Tower. We learn some of the past of Gilead, Rolands home town and a little bit about why his world is ending and how it is linked to ours. But only a little bit, just enough to understand why Roland is chasing the Man in Black.
I really liked this book, it got me very interested in the series and its universe. It is written cleverly, you know that the world of the Gunslinger is much bigger and that its writer knows how big. Also the link to our world is interesting as you will find out in the next books.
The characters are mostly a mystery. Obviously the Man in Black, who doesn't have name until the end of the book, is an important character, yet we do not know much about him or his link to the Gunslinger. Roland is also not somebody you can identify with, you know that there is a past that might explain him, but you do not know it. Jake is the only character you can relate to, since he also new in this world. And therefore he is our guide.
A build up story to much more, a book that reads really fast and leaves you wanting more. An entrance to a mysterious universe that you want to unravel. I think must fantasy lovers will like this book and most Stephen King fans also. So if you belong in either one of those groups (or both, like me) you might want to go read it.