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on 14 March 2017
The Unsung Hero of Stephen Kings Considerable Talent:
Wow. What can I say? I didn't read this collection because having read Stephen's entire catalogue, I didn't see what amounts to a very long Western {I avoid Westerns like the plague usually} adventure, could possibly add to the mix. I couldn't be more wrong! I've read all of the Gunslinger volumes now, including the post conclusion addition Wind Through The Keyhole and I am once again left in awe. The way Stephen has written these tales weaves Cowboy Roland Deschain, Ex-druggie Eddie Dean, profoundly injured but in no way Disabled Susanna Dean and young but no Child Jake Chambers and their wonderfully intricately painted {That way Stephen has of creating live images of every tiny detail the through words} surroundings in to your imagination and in this case, your heart, is nothing less than breathtaking! When I am reading these books, I'm in love with Mr Deschain and the other characters feel like well loved members of my own family. I feel like I could walk out of my house and down the road and I will stumble into an arid wasteland populated by tumbleweeds, cowpokes and old world Sheriffs who wield huge nickel plated revolvers and drink themselves silly in the local tavern every evening to drown out the harshness of their daily lives. These stories are written so well you feel like you almost could be there. It's shocking how totally immersed one can get into the dreamscapes of another's very clever imagination.
I recommend you read these if you like John Wayne, or not. Read them if you've been avoiding them because they might be a little bit too far from Stephens usual work, because they're not. If anything life back then could be more harrowing than an alien invasion, a killer clown on the lamb, or a rip through time enabling one man to go through and rewrite history for the destruction of life as we know it. At turns these books are terrifying. But they're also beautiful, heart-wrenching, thought provoking and harsh. They are masterpieces each and every one.
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on 28 April 2012
As always, it was a pleasure to be back on the path of the beam. This book does not delve too deeply into the lives of my favourite Ka-tet, it simply enriches the tapestry of the story that has already been told. The writing was beautifully crafted and captured my attention immediately. I read the book from cover to cover in one day and was only sad to have to leave Mid-world again so soon. I've read a few of the reviews from people who were expecting more of Roland and his first Ka-tet's back story, and whilst I would love to read about those things too, I didn't feel the lack of them here. There is a joy in the author's story telling that I find impossible to deny. I fell in love with Tim and his tale. It also made me want to go back and re-read the Dark Tower series from the beginning again. Whilst you don't need to have read the series to appreciate this story I can't imagine anyone who has read it who wouldn't heartily recommend that you do.
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Whilst seemingly a late addition to King's epic Dark Tower series, The Wind Through The Keyhole is in reality so much more. Roland and his ka-tet take shelter from a storm, and, whilst taking refuge, the Gunslinger tells a tale from his own younger life about a 'skin-shifter', a man who can change shape to take animal form. This story in turn features the younger Roland telling a boy the story of 'The Wind Through The Keyhole' - and it is this standalone story that lies at the heart of the book and, rightly, takes up the bulk of its pages.

This main part of the book is a tale of which the Brothers Grimm would have been proud. It's hard to say much without giving too much away, but it's simply an old fashioned fairy story in which a boy heads out into a massive, terrifying forest to save himself and his mother from the clutches of the evil stepfather. Whilst this may sound massively cliched - and could easily be so in the hands of a less gifted author - in the hands of Stephen King, the story unquestionably succeeds. One of King's massive strengths as a writer has always been his ability to seemingly recollect how it was to be a child or a youth, and to write from that perspective. He's shown this time and time again in stories such as The Body (filmed as Stand by Me) and It, and The Wind Through The Keyhole shows that encroaching old age has not dimmed this talent.

What the story also shows is King's overriding ability to simply tell a story. In recent years it seems that, after literally decades of being tagged as simply a horror eiter, the media and the critics are now beginning to see him as something far more than that - a master story teller, who can tap into one's deepest feelings, whether love, dread or despair, and can quite literally transport one to another world.

If this book has a companion in King's massive canon of work, rather than The Dark Tower series, it's surely The Eyes of The Dragon - a standalone fairytale about a prince being framed for the murder of his father, the king, by an evil magician. Whilst King later loosely tied The Eyes of The Dragon into the Dark Tower series, the link is here far more overt.

My only criticism of the book is that the fact that it is a Dark Tower novel, which fact may deter non-DT fans from reading it. If so, it would be a great loss. If you're a DT fan, you'll revel in the further glimpse into Roland's early life, and enjoy the superb fairy story at the heart of the book. If you're not a DT fan, you'll still love the fairy story. In either case, there is no excuse for missing out.
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on 30 March 2015
its Stephen king its a dark tower novel its brilliantly done, at first I found it hard to get into the story in a story kind of thing but after a while I just became entrapped and so much so I've started to re read the whole dark tower series which in fantasy terms is now my favourite with Lord of the rings taking second place I can relate to Eddie, Susan, Jake and of course Roland Deschain of Gilead is a Dark and troubled Anti Hero, Stephen king has always been one of my favourite authors but the way this series brings well known themes as in Arthur and Merlin and some of his other works as in the priest Callahan from Salem's lot and Randal Flag from the stand mixing worlds our own time and Roland meeting Mr king himself and of a future world gone to ruin leaving mechanical wonders and terrors behind because the world has moved on is brilliant.
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on 24 July 2012
A return to Stephen King's completed Dark Tower saga, which appears to have disappointed many. Set midway through the seven book cycle, this was never going to be a story of revelations about the main characters of that masterpiece. Their story is told. Instead, they appear only as a framing device for two other stories. As they hunker down before a mighty storm, Roland begins to tell a tale of his youth, and his battle against a skin changer. This is where things get interesting, because 'that' isn't the story either - it's an entertaining novella, but itself is a framing story for a third, which young Roland tells to a child in his care. This core story, 'The Wind Through The Keyhole', is a lovely tale of quest and self-discovery, as a young man seeks revenge for his father's death and hope for his mother's blindness. I love the structure of this book - the Russian Doll effect of a story within a story within another story. That said, it's a device with potential that King barely scratches, and therefore it wastes an opportunity to really expand on the world he's built, and examine it in new ways outside of the central Tower narrative. King's storytelling gift is evidenced in each story, but he shows little interest in the potential for complexity that his nested structure offered.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 April 2013
This is a nice little addition to the "Dark Tower" series which I enjoyed very much. A story within a story, we see our Ka'tet sheltering from a storm and whilst doing so, Roland tells them a story from before...and during this story another story is told. There is not really a lot more to be said, our favourite characters make an appearance and its set about midway through the Dark Tower series as a whole - Dark Tower 4.5. The 3* rating I have given it is based on this book and where it sits within the Dark Tower series, rather than a rating I might have given it as a standalone book - because really, if you havent read or don't intend to read the series you are probably not going to pick this up anyway. As someone who devoured all 7 Dark Tower books in under two weeks I would recommend this: If you are intending to read the series but have not yet started, or reached the point where this book sits, then DON'T read it as book 4.5. Read books 1-7 and come back to it. If you have already read the books, and are intending on a re-read, then you could happily read this where it is set - in the middle - and it would work very well. It doesnt really expand or answer any lingering questions from the epic as a whole but its fun and it was very nice to visit with Roland and friends again.
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on 17 September 2012
He is back, the master gunslinger of realistic fantasy. With him we are not getting down into some world of a nightmarish imagined fictionalized past, but in a world we are a part of. Stephen king does it with a very effective method that he is not the only one to use but he uses it with such an art that this novel becomes both a thriller and a treatise in philosophical and practical ethics.

First of all we are so happy to meet with Roland, Eddie, Suzanna and Jake again, plus of course Oy, the smart wild furry pet of theirs. This pet is useful in the first layer of the three-tiered story since he is the one who felt the coming of the starkblast, a special meteorological phenomenon of the Middle World: a wind tornado that sweeps a swathe of land with hurricane-force wind and cold that can freeze dead any living organism and explode any tree into splinters.

And that's the first quality of Stephen King's multi-layered story telling. He takes us into a world that has several layers too. In this novel the top layer which is our modern world is hardly present except with the three characters that have been napped from it: Eddie the weaned and reformed drug addict, Suzannah the female black lady crippled by a subway accident in New York, and Jake the young teenager escaping his stifling family. Then a few allusions, to Gary Cooper or who knows what or whom that comes like an ugly duckling in a batch of swan chicks.

Deep under the story-telling present which is nearly ours, at least simultaneous to ours, the old dead world of super-advanced technology that has left behind some artefacts, machines, some technology that is often going berserk or is already out of order. In this episode we do have some allusions to some of that technology, satellite communication, cloud computing and a few others, but always emerging from that old world that has gone to rot. This technological, blind, inhumane and non-human world survives as a danger, a menace, the attempt by survivors or pirates who took control of what's left of this world to take over time and history and hence the worlds that came after this technology. In other words this deepest layer is the advanced world that existed before an apocalypse that destroyed it leaving behind ruins and desolation.

We have to understand here both the top modern world that is ours and this deepest technological world that has died and is only surviving archaeologically are embracing the Middle World with two destructive influences. Everything that dies in the deepest world causes devastation and death in the Middle World, and everything that goes wrong in our world, especially due to careless pollution and the unsustainable race to easy profit, even if that means exploiting or killing human beings, causes negative phenomena in the Middle World.

Finally the Middle World, just under ours, with doors here and there to cross from one to the other, and more por less over the oldest dead one, is a fantasy world, feudal in organization and very close to some 19th century western saga. It is the main locale of the Dark Tower novels. But this world has history and the story telling technique used by Stephen King in the Dark Tower novels is to intersperse the picaresque voyage through this Middle World, along the Path of the Beam to the Dark Tower where the Crimson King is locked up in his insane but power-packed senility, with stories told by Roland, the dunslinger from Gilead, a dead kingdom of the Middle World, about his own youth and experience.

In this novel the voyage and discovery in the Middle World is very limited since the seven Dark Tower novels have already taken Roland and his friends to the Dark Tower itself, hence to the end, which is nothing but a new beginning, of course should I say, since the end is always the beginning. So the essential part of this novel is a long story told by Roland, and this story told by Roland contains a story that his own mother used to tell him, the eponymous story of the novel, a story that took place in the distant past of Middle World embedded in the story of one of the very first missions Roland got from his father as a gunslinger.

Hence in a universe that has at least three layers Stephen Kind embeds a story that itself has three temporal levels. This multiplication of levels within levels is the originality of this novel and all Dark Tower novels. Other novelists use this technique, Anne Rice for instance, but this triple time strata within this triple space strata is definitely original. And it is fascinating since we are taken away from our present by so many layers of distance building fantasy, the top layer being our own world, that we feel the deepening distance as natural and not some illusion. This deep and distant worlds become all the more real.

Yet Stephen King though is a lot more than a simple story teller. He is a realistic author who speaks directly and/or allegorically of our problems in our world in our time. What are the problems he is speaking of here? They are essential in many ways.

He speaks of love and of the very bitter experience Roland went through with his mother he adored and still adores, though he killed her himself, by accident in a way, but his guilt is constantly over-brimming. In this experience Roland learned that the most powerful love between two people can just be terminated by any event and one of these people moves into another adventure, love affair or whatever, and leaves the other person and eventually their offspring stranded in frustrated love. In this case it is Roland's mother who moves on and we already know from another novel that Roland killed his mother. We are confronted to his guilt, though he could not know he was actually killing his mother, but we are also confronted with a note she left behind for him and her demand, request, prayer, begging that he should forgive her. And here I must say Stephen King must have changed with age. Under the name of Richard Bachman he would never have answered yes to this question, and I must say that even under Stephen King's own name he extremely rarely got to such an ending.

A crime leads to a crime which leads to a crime, with no possible outlet, evasion, escape from this curse, fate, course of affairs. To evade a curse at the least and at the best Stephen King has always required a human sacrifice of some sort. Think of Thinner in which the main character is saved from the curse by having his wide and daughter cursed I n his place. Think of The Stand in which three innocent sacrificial human beings are burnt to death by an A-bomb to push aside for a while the Black Man, the forces of evil. These are only two examples, and even Christine, the devilish car survives after being crushed into the size of a shoe box.

But that leads to another element that is fascinating. Stephen King had always been a very little empathetic and emotional author but in this latest novel the empathetic emotions we feels all along are numerous and so powerful that at times we have to stop reading just to digest the emotions. In the old days Stephen King was a genius of terrorizing, horrifying or grossing-out his audience with his tales. Here there is another dimension which is reaching the emotional power of empathy. If you think of Misery there is no love wasted anywhere and there is no empathy either required from the readers for the fictional author or for the nurse. The fictional author is a cold, cruel insensitive man totally deprived of sympathy or empathy for anyone and the nurse is a paranoid schizophrenic torturer.

In this novel, more that in any of the other Dark Tower novels, there is a tremendous level of emotional empathy, probably because the hero of the central story is an 11 year old boy.

What's more the novel is constantly crossed with class distinctions, class segregation, class exploitation at a level that is so intense that we are surprised by this discourse in Stephen King. This is a sign of his period, of the enormous human suffering the present crisis is imposing onto the world in general but also on to the weaker and weakest strata of society. It is not new in Stephen King. It is only a lot more intense than what I seem to remember from all the novels and short stories I have read.

Yet do not turn Stephen King into a social writer. He is not. A social writer could not have resisted making the shapeshifter be the owner of the general store of the mine, of the bars and whorehouse of the mine, the direct and main exploiter of the miners in their everyday life though not in their work since that man is not the owner of the mine itself. He is only the parasite exploiter of an exploitative situation and an exploited bunch of miners. The second generation exploiter, the second tier of exploitation. In other words Stephen King avoids the easy social depicting and caricaturing of humanity. Evil is NOT ONLY the result of exploitation and the deed of exploitative businessmen and industrialists or even shopkeepers. Evil is a deeply human "quality" that is absolutely shared by everyone and if some manage not to be evil, at least not most of the time, it is because they use their heads first and their instincts and impulses only second.

And there Stephen King is a tremendous ethical author and it is a real pleasure to read such horrible stories because they are profoundly human and even humane.

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on 1 February 2013
After having read all the above series, I loved getting a new immersion in that world. Best that you read them in chronological order and a brief look online will find you a helpful reader who will tell you where to slot this book into the series. However, if like me you've already read the books it was great to have another bite at the Dark Tower apple.
I have to say that there are passages contained within these books that are some of Stephen Kings finest writings. Once you get into the different worlds contained within them they have such a compelling and rich storyline that for me at least I was totally hooked and spent many a time thinking about the characters over the years that it took for Stephen to finish the series. To someone new to this you have the considerable luxurary of being able to buy the lot and reading them without delay.
If you are new to Stephen King and I guess you would have to be fairly young to be that person he writes many many books that span from crime to alternative worlds to a huge catalogue of horror. What he is superb at is capturing growing up, the interactions between people, the dialogue is always good and the stories always gripping.
I really don't want to give any of the storyline away in this particular book. I suggest you buy the first of the Dark Tower books and I would be really surprised that if then you would not carry on a lifetime journey of reading more and more of my constant companion's catalogue.
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on 9 May 2012
As a Dark Tower fan I was excited to see that Stephen King had written a new novel featuring Roland Deschain and his ka-tet. I knew that this was going to be like The Little Sisters of Eluria novella than a full-blown Dark Tower book so for that reason I wasn't disappointed.

The latter books of the series seemed overblown and long winded (SK's editor seems unable to get the writer to prune his work when he needs to) but they still evoked clear imagery of the type of worlds that the ka-tet travelled in. This novel is no different in its rich imagery but the book is leaner in terms of exposition. The reader is fully immersed in Mid-World where both stories within stories are set.

Following Wizard and Glass it's safe to assume that Roland had more stories to tell his friends, on the road to Calla Byn Sturgis, so the novel isn't out of place. Marvel comics have successfully broadened King's stories so it should only be right that King adds more to the world that he created.

The story around the main legend, of the Wind Through the Keyhole, is fairly superficial; that of a young Roland on the hunt for a "skin man". It didn't' matter to me because the story of Tim (told like a Grimm fairy tale) might well have been the story of a version of Roland in a different world. However, there are more clues as to the origin of Mid-World and some background to Roland's character and the fall out from his Mother's death. A healthy knowledge of the Dark Tower series is helpful but not essential. There are hints back to King's Eyes of the Dragon and even The Tommy Knockers.

I'm glad that King had at least one more Dark Tower book left in him as the universe has such great potential for more stories, with or without Roland and it's such a big part of King's literary canon. If you're after more depth and detail of Roland's back story, stick to the Marvel Comics adaptations of the Dark Tower books. If you want a well crafted story, set in mid-World, grab a copy of this and enjoy it for what it is.
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on 10 November 2014
When I saw another book of the Dark Tower series I pounced, To give me another opportunity to spend more time with Roland and his Ka Tet made me happy. It was well written and fitted well between Wizards and Glass and The Wolves of The Calla. Stephen King has always been one of my favorites authors through the decades and the Dark Tower my favorite set of books of all time.
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