The Wind Through the Keyhole takes place between the events of Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla, the worst and best novels of the Dark Tower series. But The Wind in the Keyhole isn’t a Dark Tower novel, no matter what the book cover says, it’s three nested stories, one taking place in the Dark Tower “present” of our gang traveling on to their next destination, one that Roland tells while waiting out an ice storm, the Starkblast, and a children’s story that his younger self tells in the story to a child.
None of those stories are very good on their own. The present frame is very brief and nothing much happens in it. Roland’s past story is the best of the bunch, but it gets tossed aside for the children’s story and once that’s done, it ends quickly and abruptly. The children’s story isn’t that good. Stephen King starts out trying to channel fairy tales but tells it in such detail and with his usual tics, abused women, evil con men, random references to 20th Century America in a fairy tale setting, that it never passes muster as a children’s story. Tim’s story is strong in places, but once the tiger and Maerlyn come on the scene, it turns into a parody of a fairy tale.
But with all that, The Wind Through the Keyhole works. It’s better than the last two Dark Tower novels, not because of its plot, but its charm. The stories aren’t very good, but they have enough world building and enough fantasy to make up for it. When he wants to be, King is still a good writer and the Dark Tower was a fantasy series that had real potential once upon a time. But King couldn’t figure out what he wanted to do with it and The Wind Through the Keyhole suffers from that same problem.
Stephen King might have turned The Wind Through the Keyhole into a full-fledged Dark Tower novel and jettisoned the Tim tale that takes up nearly half the book. It would have made for a better version of Wizard and Glass. But King already finished the Dark Tower series and trashed it while doing it. And I get the feeling that it’s really the Tim story that he cared about and that all the Roland nested stories were just a way of publishing it and selling it to a large audience.
The Wind Through the Keyhole is not the worst example of a writer selling his shopping list. It’s a pleasant book in its own way and fans of the series will want it. But what The Wind Through the Keyhole really does is remind you of what the Dark Tower series could have been and might still be.
This contains spoilers for the ending of The Mist. If you have already seen the movie or don’t mind being spoiled read on, if you do, then don’t. That clear enough?
Well Stephen King and Frank Darabont promised a shocker ending for The Mist and arguably they delivered. Where Stephen King’s novella The Mist ended on an ambiguous note with a vague promise of hope ala Cell, The Mist’s cinematic ending is somewhat promising and yet ominous for humanity, but utterly devastating for David Drayton. Overriding that, the sight of the marching troops is not really in contrast with Drayton’s devastating realization that he not only murdered his son and his friends for nothing, but that in the end the human impulse is no better at the individual level than it is at the government level.
I suspect that Frank Darabont got his idea for the ending of The Mist from the ending of Lord of the Flies, as the navy warships arrive to rescue the boys, who are themselves a microcosm of England and the world. So too the supermarket is in the end meant to be a microcosm of America. The army appears to have won against the creatures of The Mist but at a high price and the decisions they make are not likely to be any better than the decisions David Drayton or the rest of the people in the supermarket made. In the end we’re all human, all flawed and we don’t know what we’re doing.
An ending that completely devalues the journey the characters have gone through is also a bad ending because it jettisons any real reason to care about what went before. (As Stephen King should have learned when he ended the Dark Tower so miserably.) As the ending now tells us, all Drayton really had to do was keep quiet, keep his head down and he and his son would have gotten rescued. Is that really a message Darabont wants to send, especially for a political movie?
I would say that having Drayton howl a second time was a mistake. It’s redundant after the car howling and it would have been far more devastatingly effective and closer to real life, for him to stumble along joining and merging with the soldiers and refugees, shocked and stunned and walking toward a new life he doesn’t know.
“While Stephen King began writing in small markets and the original Gunslinger novel, serialized in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, he is best known for his more general horror writing. The Dark Tower series attempts to do what many successful Fantasy and Science Fiction writers have done, which is to tie in all their writing into a single metaverse. Robert Heinlein began it with his Future History and for Stephen King, The Dark Tower serves not only as the linchpin of the tale, but as the core element uniting all the worlds he has written about. So much so, that in a rather controversial move, Stephen King wrote himself into the narrative of the final novels as Stephen King, the creator of the novels. The result seemed to foreshadow the surrealistically circular nature of the final conclusion.
Except it was not the final conclusion. Back when Stephen King had been severely injured after being struck by a van on the shoulder of the road and was recovering in severe pain, he announced that he would be giving up his writing career once he finished the Dark Tower novels. Stephen King has shown no sign of actually giving up his writing career even after finishing the novels, but what he has done is signaled his desire to rewrite them altogether. In a sense the limited run of the Gunslinger comic book series begins the process, returning to before the world of “Wizard and Glass”, to Roland growing up from a boy into a man.”
Gunslinger #1: Stephen King’s Dark Tower Reborn