Some stories are meant to be heard. Imagine yourself huddled with your closest friends around a roaring fire as a murderous storm rages outside, mesmerized by a master storyteller spinning tales of long, long ago.
That is how Stephen King, master of suspense, breathes life into his characters from the Dark Tower series in the audio version of THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE. Roland of Gilead has guided Susannah and Eddie of New York, and Jack, the boy who returned from the dead, all escapees through the fabric of time into Mid-World to follow the beam to the Dark Tower. With them is Oy, the billy-bumbler, a magical talking half-dog/half-raccoon, and a young lad they’ve rescued along the road in their quest.
"Some stories are meant to be heard. Imagine yourself huddled with your closest friends around a roaring fire as a murderous storm rages outside, mesmerized by a master storyteller spinning tales of long, long ago. That is how Stephen King, master of suspense, breathes life into his characters from the Dark Tower series in the audio version of THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE."
King says in the foreword that he felt a tug from his time travelers who finished their journey in the seventh Dark Tower book in 2003. They had more stories to tell, and he provides a brief recap to reassure those who have read the series and new readers alike that this book stands alone. If you have followed this ageless saga --- first inspired by Robert Browning’s cryptic narrative poem, “The Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” --- from the beginning, which was, as hard as it is to believe, published in 1974 with THE GUNSLINGER while King was still in college, you will be sorely tempted to pick it up and start all over. If we were to place it on the bookshelf in sequence with the seven Dark Tower novels, King says, THE WIND THROUGH THE KEYHOLE would fall between Book IV, WIZARD AND GLASS, and Book V, WOLVES OF THE CALLA. Or, as King describes it: Dark Tower 4.5.
Roland tells two thrilling tales as the group huddles, in fear for their lives, against a stark-blaster --- a storm of tornadic force winds with flash-freezing sub-arctic temperatures. The raging maelstrom is destroying everything and everyone in its path outside their trembling shelter as Roland spins tales from his childhood. Think of a campfire story told by a counselor, except that the serial killer with a hook for a hand is a shape-shifter, and the wolf lurking in the shadows is a puka, a man-eating snake of Godzilla proportions.
First he tells of young Billy Streeter, the sole survivor and witness to an attack by a shape-shifting skin-man who has slaughtered half a town when Roland was a teenager. Roland’s father, a Gunslinger (the Mid-World equivalent of a federal marshal), has sent him out with another green-as-grass deputy to investigate the killings. This blood-curdling adventure also brings forth further information about Roland’s turbulent young life after the tragic death of his mother at his own hand, only alluded to in the first book.
As the storm enters its second day, in the small block building that threatens to be dismantled brick by brick, Roland weaves a second fable,The Wind Through the Keyhole, heard at his mother’s knee as a child. Tim Stoutheart was a young lad who became a reluctant hero of epic proportions of long ago, battling dragons, wizards and man-eating beasts, through raging forest fires and floods.
Roland Deschain and his band of four travel in search of “the linchpin that holds the world together” as the planet seems to be destroying itself as if it is a terminally ill, nearly sentient being. King has produced more than 50 novels since that first venture into a genre that it could be said he created --- that of horror, thriller, mythological fables and social commentary. After a lengthy hiatus from producing a sequel, he joked about receiving a photo of a teddy bear (a muse that occupied his study for decades) bound in chains with a caption reading “Finish the Dark Tower or the bear dies.”
I have a guilty memory of thinking, after King’s near fatal accident in 1999, “If he doesn’t make it, I hope he left a manuscript of the ending of The Dark Tower.” Thankfully, he survived to write what was meant to be the final book plus several new additions. As a bonus, he brings back his most memorable characters and delivers them in his own silken, and mildly ominous, voice.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on April 26, 2012