Book Plot: Spoilers
The book opens by introducing the gunslinger, Roland Deschain, who is on a journey to find the Man in Black. As he ventures across the desert with his mule, he meets a farmer who goes by the name of Brown with his crow, Zoltan. The gunslinger begins to tell of the time he spent in the town of Tull. When Roland first comes to Tull, he missed the Man in Black possibly by a week. It is later revealed to Roland by the barmaid, Alice, that during his stay the Man in Black brought a dead weed eater by the name of Nort back to life. Roland makes Sylvia reveal to him that she is pregnant with the Man in Black's child (more importantly the child of the Crimson King). Roland uses his gun and rips the unborn monstrosity out of Sylvia. Outraged, Sylvia convinces the entire town of Tull that Roland is the spawn of the devil. Roland guns down the entire town of Tull: men, women, children, and even his lover, Alice. The story refocuses on Roland at the dwelling of Brown. Roland goes to sleep and wakes up to Brown telling him that his mule died of heat exhaustion and wonders if he can eat it. Roland leaves on foot to continue his pursuit of the Man in Black.
As his journey continues, Roland happens upon a way station and sees someone there in the distance. Roland believes this to be the Man in Black, but finds out it is a young boy by the name of Jake Chambers. Roland is near death when he arrives at the way station and Jake brings him jerky and water from an atomic slug water pump. Jake tells Roland that the Man in Black passed by a few days before. The way Jake talks reveals that he is not from Roland's world. Roland asks Jake about where he came from, but Jake cannot remember anything. Roland proceeds to hypnotize Jake and learn about where he came from.
Jake reveals to Roland that he is from New York and was on his way to school when a man dressed like a priest snuck up on him and pushed him into the street. Roland believes this man to be the Man in Black. Jake is then hit by a car and dies, but not before the priest approaches him and blesses him.
As they prepare to leave, Roland goes down to the cellar and encounters a demon speaking to him from a hole in the wall. After their palaver, Roland reaches into the hole and pulls out a jawbone. They then depart from the way station, and eventually make their way out of the desert into somewhat more welcoming lands. Roland awakes in the middle of the night to find Jake gone. Roland tracks down Jake and finds him about to be taken by the Oracle of the mountains. Roland uses the jawbone to lure the Oracle away from Jake. He then gives Jake the jawbone to concentrate on while he is gone and couples with the oracle himself in order to learn of his fate and path to the Dark Tower. Once Roland returns, Jake discards the jawbone. Come morning, they continue their trek to the mountains.
Along the trek Roland tells Jake a bit about his past. He tells of Hax, the cook, who was hanged for being an aid to the enemy. Hax was to poison the town of Farson/Taunton. Roland and his friend Cuthbert overhear the plot and alert their fathers of the traitor. Hax is hanged and the boys are allowed to watch with permission from their fathers.
Roland also reveals how he became a gunslinger at the age of 14. As he is walking home, his father's advisor Marten Broadcloak calls Roland to see his mother, Gabrielle, in Marten's bed covering her shame. Angry, Roland charges off to challenge Cort so he may receive his guns. He defeats Cort with the use of his hawk, David.
Roland and Jake soon come to the mountains and enter a series of tunnels under the mountains riding on a mine cart. On their journey, they are attacked by a group of Slow Mutants. Roland battles the Slow Mutants and they move along without the mine cart. They eventually come upon the exit from the tunnels. Jake trips and is left dangling from the tracks. As Roland tries to help him, the Man in Black appears and tells Roland that if he saves the boy then he will never catch him. Roland decides to let Jake fall; Jake knows this and spouts, "Go then. There are other worlds than these." Jake then falls to his death as Roland goes to talk with the Man in Black.
They meet in a golgotha and palaver. The Man in Black reads Roland's fate from Tarot cards. Roland's fate includes The Sailor, The Prisoner, The Lady of Shadows, death, life (which the Man in Black burns), and the Tower at the center of everything. The Man in Black tells Roland he is only a pawn for Roland's true enemy who now controls the Tower itself. The Man in Black tries to convince Roland to give up on his quest by creating a representation of the universe and showing him how insignificant he is. Roland refuses and is forced into sleep. When he awakens, ten years have passed and there is a skeleton next to him, which he believes to be the Man in Black. Roland departs from the Golgotha and sits at the edge of the Western Sea contemplating the next step in his quest for the Dark Tower.