Friday, May 11, 2012

(Review) Stephen King's "The Dark Tower 4.5: The Wind Through the Keyhole"

I've read the Dark Tower series some 6 or 7 times all the way through despite not liking the vast majority of King's work. A post-apocalyptic gunslinger in a world running parallel to ours seemed like a pretty interesting premise and I wasn't disappointed until the ending of the last book, which seemed to fall apart quickly. Otherwise, I loved the series.

This book, set after the fourth in the series, puts us back into the company of the the four gunslingers and their billy-bumbler companion (a dog-like animal with gold ringed eyes and the limited ability to speak). Susannah Dean, her now husband Eddie, the boy Jake Chambers, and the head of their group (or ka-tet) Roland Deschain. A storm called a starkblast is on its way. It's powerful and cold enough to cause frozen destruction over any landmass and the quintet scrambles to find cover.

When they do, Roland tells a Russian doll of a story; one set within the confines of another. Roland recounts his adventure with Jamie Curry, another young gunslinger, in hunting down and killing a beast called a skin-man. The skin-man, a shapechanger of sorts that can become any kind of beast at will, has caused wanton destruction and many deaths over the course of a few months. When Jamie and Roland, both fifteen, arrive in Delabria, they find a single witness in a scared boy. Using the boy as a bait of sorts, Roland keeps him locked up in a jail cell and recounts another story from his early childhood in order to calm the boy.

This fable is one that's been told "many a and many a year." It is a classic tale handed down from the generations about a boy who loses his father to murder, gains an abusive step-father, follows a strange magician's advice deep into a forest in order to save his mother from the man she married. He is, of course, successful in his endeavor, returns home to help his mother, and all ends well.

When the story is over, it's time for Roland to sniff out the skin-man. He and Jamie figure out who it is a little too late, but they eventually bring peace to the rural area and keep the boy witness from coming to any further harm.

As a book of stories from the youth of Roland Deschain, this book is captivating and interesting enough. As a new entry into the Dark Tower story started so long ago by King, it's severely lacking and lends nothing to the overall tale. It can be read completely separately from the other 7 books, but it helps to have read the others that have come before it. Much of the writing felt forced and I never found myself as engrossed in it as I was in the others; I read the 700 page entries much faster than I read this 306 page tome. As a stand-alone collection of stories, this works, but I think it does a disservice to the rest of the series by being included as such between books four and five. I think much of this feeling stems from the fact that I've spent so much time with Roland and his ka-tet over the other seven books that I have an emotional attachment to them. With the characters in these two stories, I felt very little save for getting a glimpse further back into Roland's troubled past.



  1. I'm with ya, brother. I'm glad someone else has picked up on the writing feeling 'forced.' That's how I felt about much of the final trilogy. When King is feeling compelled, that feeling easily spills over into the reader's experience, as it did for much of the first four book. I found the fifth and seventh novels to be almost painful, and the sixth one was saved only by virtue of having an interesting plot and being rather short. This latest one was interesting, but lacked passion. I almost wondered why King framed it the way he did, a story within a story, rather than just sparing us the cock-tease and just writing a book that took place in Roland's pre-Dark Tower days. As you pointed out, this doesn't add anything to the existing arc.

  2. i loved the entire series, but felt it fell off during book 6. the pregnancy was interesting, but i found the calla a far more interesting plot overall. but yeah, i think this entry into the series should've been more like the concordance in that it was separate, but helped expand the entirety of mid-world and end-world. i don't mind reading about the lore/myths/fables of this particular universe (in fact, i'd love to read more), just not if it's considered part of the epic's timeline. a book of short stories compiled together that have nothing to do with roland (or even a bunch of pre- or post- tower stories with nothing but roland) would be a winner if more time was taken with them.

  3. An excellent book, either standing alone or taking it's place within the larger Dark Tower cycle. King's writing style contines to mature, and this novel seems more contemplate, less rushed than his final three in the Dark Tower series. (That being said, I still enjoyed them immensely; the feel was simply different than previous works in the series.) In this novel, there is a rich fullness to the writing, and a return more to Mid-World and its richness rather than to the characters...and yet, both come alive well. The tales told leave you hanging on every word. I started reading the day I got the book, and had no choice but to finish it the same day.