I’ve been a long-time fan of Stephen King, and recently I reviewed two of his recent publications – 11/22/63, an epic novel that I tried to portray as not typical of King’s work, and Mile 81, a short story that is the type of horror King is best known for. When we were offered The Wind Through the Keyhole, a new entry in the Dark Tower series that King ostensibly finished a few years ago, I jumped at the chance to be introduced back into Roland’s world.
The Dark Tower has long been referred to as King’s magnum opus. A series of 7 novels, the books follow Roland of Gilead, a gunslinger from a parallel world, and his ka-tet (a group of people bound together by fate or destiny) – Susannah and Eddie Dean and a boy named Jake Chambers, all from New York in our world, and a billy bumbler (a creature from Roland’s world) named Oy, as they seek the Dark Tower.
Now if you’ve read this far, chances are you’re saying, well, I never read any of those novels, so why would I care about this one? The Wind Through the Keyhole takes place in Roland’s world, but is stand-alone from the other books. While those that have read the series will understand more of what happens in the beginning, as King himself puts it, you do not need to have read the books to enjoy this one.
As the novel begins, Roland and his band are on their journey when they are warned of an oncoming storm called a Starkblast. Preceded by unusual heat, the storm consists of extreme cold that causes trees to explode and kills anyone in its path. When the travelers find shelter and settle in to wait out the storm, Roland entertains them with the story of the Skin-man, a shape-shifter that he and a close friend were sent to destroy as teenagers. But within the story of the Skin-man is another tale, the title story and the bulk of the novel, about a boy named Tim who seeks revenge for his father’s death.
The Wind Through the Keyhole has all of the elements of a Dark Tower story but is definitely accessible to those not familiar with the saga. It is, however, typical King, with language, sexual innuendo and even a monster or two. But King is also a master storyteller, and if you like a good story and can look past these aspects, then this novel will interest you.
Notes on the audiobook: The Wind Through the Keyhole is read by the author, and unfortunately Stephen King doesn’t have a good reputation as a narrator. And while his performance may not be as well polished as one done by a professional, I think he did a better job than I had expected. I also enjoyed hearing some names pronounced that I wasn’t quite sure of, and of course no one knows a book’s material better than the author.