Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole (2012)

Author: Stephen King | Page Count: 335

"I won't kill him, but you shall be there when he swings, and with my own hand I'll give you the bread to scatter beneath his dead feet."

Stephen King calls it book 4.5 of The Dark Tower series because it's set chronologically between Book IV: Wizard and Glass (1997) and Book V: Wolves of the Calla (2003). He also suggests that you can read it without having read any of the previous works, but I would strongly advise against doing that. It would nullify one of the most dramatic and defining moments in the early books. I feel it's best if you start at the series beginning or not at all.

The Wind Through the Keyhole uses the story within a story (within another story) literary device. The bulk of the book is taken up by gunslinger Roland Deschain telling his ka-tet self-contained stories from his past. The interpolated frame narrative used is so very brief that it draws attention to itself; it serves little purpose other than to enable King to slip the book into the existing continuity without upsetting it further. In doing so, it offered him the perfect opportunity to remedy the dramatic shift the reader experienced between Books IV and V (he had a near death accident in the interim—it clearly influenced the direction the narrative took in Book V), but there's no real attempt to smooth that transition. I'd hoped that distance and hindsight would've offered a renewed perspective.

Ultimately, I think a collection of shorts, removing the unnecessary frame and the three-tiered structure, would've been a better approach. Telling of Roland's youth and expanding upon his relationship with his family and his peers would've been preferable. It could've better explored the reasons for his actions in later books and offered a deeper insight into why he allows himself to be so utterly consumed by his obsessions. It could even have been the beginning of a series of prequels, offering King the opportunity to do the same for the other members of the ka-tet prior to their meeting Roland, enabling him to tell a different kind of story, one removed from the fantasy setting but still a part of it.

To his credit, though, he's crafted a story about storytelling and about the power of the imagination to create horrors or to stave them off. It's the written word but it captures a style of verbal storytelling that's almost dead now, and for a short time it comes alive once more. That kept me reading.

Ironically, the best part of the book is the story most removed from the Dark Tower mythos and its 4000+ pages of fictional but rigidly dogmatic continuity.

The author's addiction to Midworld makes me suspect this won't be the last time he journeys there. I sincerely hope he makes the next one less awkward, because I'm a sucker for Roland’s way and I'll surely buy into it.

2½ throckets of bumblers out of 5

1 comment:

sorei said...

thanks for this review. reading it, I start to wonder if I should read the series again, putting the new one in this time...
anyway: you made me want to read it again!

:-)