Ooo, cool, another Dark Tower novel. I can't say I loved ALL of the Dark
Tower series (the first couple of books were a little rough . . . but
then the first book was really a bunch of short stories pieced
together), but King certainly got it together for pretty much the rest
of it, whether you liked or hated the ending of volume seven. So hearing
there was another story set in that universe was great. And this novel
(really two novelettes nested together) will certainly help feed that
craving that Dark Tower fans now have for MORE.
The basic idea is that Roland and crew get trapped by a storm called a
starkblast and the storm reminds Roland of a story his mother told him
when he was young, as well as one of his first "jobs" as gunslinger. To
pass the time, he tells his ka-tet both stories, starting with his own
story, which segues into his younger self telling the OTHER story to a
young boy. Both stories involve storms, young boys learning to be men,
and skin-men, tying them neatly together.
The most significant story--meaning the one with the most meat--is the
story Roland's mother told him when he was young, called The Wind
Through the Keyhole. It's about Tim, his mother, and his stepfather, and
while it has the feel of a fairy tale in some parts, as you read it
that facade falls away and you end up living Tim's story with him. It
has all the hallmarks of a Dark Tower story--a slightly skewed "old
style" setting mixed in with hints of a technological world that has
somehow gone awry and faded into the past.I really loved this story, and
it's certainly the heart of the book.
The story that bookends this one--with young Roland on one of his first
missions--is also excellent, although as I said, it doesn't have as much
meat to it as the other. Not because it wasn't developed enough, but
because it's just a simpler story. Young Roland is sent to resolve the
rumors of a skin-man threatening a small town. This section of the book
has the most Western feel to it, dry like desert, hot, with ranches, a
mine, and the makings of a ghost town as the setting. And yet there are
still hints of that lost technological world.
The final bookend--of Roland and crew weathering a storm--doesn't have
its own internal story and is there simply to place what's here into the
larger Dark Tower series. As stated in the intro to the novel, this
could be considered Dark Tower 4.5 in the series/timeline.
So, definitely a great Stephen King novel, full of everything fans
expect of King AND of the Dark Tower series. It was great to return to
this world and these characters, and I hope that King does future
stories in this world as they pop up. No one ever really wants to leave a
series behind, and it was nice to sit back and revisit old friends.
Joshua Palmatier/Benjamin Tate