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Long Last Victory, a short fiction

long last victory

Bruno tied the broken strap of his backpack, threw it over his shoulders and stomped off, not pausing to see if Sasha was keeping up. “We can’t be late to the ceremony,” he called out as he picked up his speed. “This is the one Sasha. I can feel it this time. This. Is. The. One.” The last sentence came in between massive inhalations for air as he struggled to keep his over-sized frame in motion.

“The one, what?” On a normal day, Sasha could have kept up with Bruno, just by walking briskly. But he had roused her from a deep sleep and without any caffeine, she was held back by her own mental fog. Plus, in the time it had taken her to stoop down and tie her shoe, he had gotten nearly a half a block ahead of her.

“Today everything changes for me. Today I become new.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Do you have any idea how tired I am of watching an endless stream of worthless hacks parade past me, climbing mountains, solely on the basis of their ability to ejaculate pedestrian prose onto any forum that will have them? No more! Today I receive what is mine.”

Sasha shook her head as she finally caught up to him and matched his stride. She offered no response or argument though, and Bruno plowed on through his tirade.

“It isn’t my fault that the literary establishment is too small-minded to recognize the brilliance of my verbiage. Forgive me if my work isn’t childishly linear enough for them. Big five publishing houses? More like five abortions of taste.”

“Bruno—”

“Maybe I should send the editors a toy along with my submissions so that their attention would be sufficiently occupied while reading.”

“Bruno—”

“Or maybe I should start a series about sexually curious, adolescent vampires trying to make it onto the US ping-pong team. That sounds marketable.”

“Bruno—”

“We’re here.” Bruno ran up the stone steps, two at a time and threw open the doors. They walked into a large ornate lobby and Sasha immediately heard the sound of applause. Bruno jogged ahead of her and threw open the doors to the auditorium. Just as he did, she could hear the amplified voice emerging from within.

“…and this year’s selection, by a narrow margin, is Bleeding Rose Petals That Sing My Name by Bruno Hoppenfeifer.” Sasha followed Bruno into the auditorium and stopped short. The first thing she saw was the banner reading, “4H Annual Youth Creative Writing Contest.” The second thing she saw was that the crowd of fellow writers in the contest that Bruno had evidently entered was a crowd of grade school age children with their parents. The man up at the podium had removed his glasses and was looking around the room, likely waiting for whichever ten year old he assumed was the author.

Finally, she saw Bruno, racing down the aisle to accept his award, arms waving back and forth, hooting like a maniac.

“Suck on that you little bastards!”

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

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Tracing Trails : Revival, A Review

RevivalWhat with being inspired by Frankenstein and with a killer concept for the cover, I figured there would be no way I wouldn’t like Revival. Stephen King does Frankenstein? Sounds fantastic!

Well.

Not so much, as it turns out. Not for me at least.

I think there’s potential here but this is kind of a trend I’m seeing, like the meaty part of the story doesn’t really crystallize until the end of the book and the rest is just kind of meandering in that direction.

Frankly, I think that the focus of the story should have been on Charles Jacobs, the young pastor of the small town as we are introduced to him. The one who is driven away and possibly into madness by the tragic loss of his wife and son. What begins as a scientific interest in electricity becomes a dark fascination and obsession that takes us to the eventual conclusion of the book.

That’s a story I want to read. I think there’s a lot of potential there. Unfortunately, Jacobs melts away into the background and is absent for huge chunks of time. After the start of the book, we don’t see him again until much later when he had left the church behind to be anRevival 4 attraction in a sideshow as a faith healer. He faded away again and is gone until the end when we finally come upon his final experiment.

Instead, the book focuses on young Jaime Morton, who meets Jacobs as a young child. And his story could have been interesting. After growing up, his life does seem to take a dark turn as he succumbs to various issues with substance abuse. But in the end, I kind of felt like Jaime’s story was just a recycled version of Danny Torrence in Doctor Sleep, it seems like the most interesting aspects of Jaime’s journey happens off the page.

Ultimately, I don’t feel like there is much of an arc for Jaime in this story. I just don’t get what the point is. He has personal struggles in his life, which he largely experiences somewhere between the start and the middle of the book. The rest of his story seems devoted to going after Jacobs, a character that he gradually begins to realize is dangerous and needs to be stopped.

I feel like the fundamental flaw of this book is that it’s sort of Revival 3about Jaime and sort of about Jacobs but not really about either one. It’s a feeling I got as well with The Colorado Kid where it was like watching a bunch of bonus scenes of a movie without getting to watch the film itself.

I think there is a lot of potential for a great, dark and gritty story here. A small town minister who has a passing fascination with the phenomenon of electricity. He’s living an ideal life until the day comes that his family is ripped away from him. Everything falls apart and in the midst of that rubble, he turns to the one thing he has left in his life in the vain hope that somehow, that is going to fix everything.

It could have been in interesting exploration of obsession. Of how a person’s life can be derailed by the things we think we can control but is actually controlling them. Unfortunately, King seems to kind of dance around this aspect of the book and the most we get are whiffs of something larger going on. The story tends to get a little overly myopic and as a result, a lot of the potential impact is lost.

The one shining, positive side of this book that I will definitely acknowledge is the ending. Once you reach this point, King definitely puts Jacobs into a position of realizing the folly of the path he has put himself on. It’s definitely a story that has been told before but I still find myself being a sucker for the kind of tale involving someoneRevival 2 finally finding the answers to questions they likely should have been leaving well enough alone, the entire time. Jacobs is convinced seemingly for a long time of the existence of other universes out there and what he ends up discovering is terrifying.

But while the ending is riveting, I’m still left somewhat perplexed by everything that came before it. And keep in mind that this comes from the author who makes a point of emphasizing the journey of a book over the destination. For not the first time in this stage of King’s career, I found myself thinking that the novel wasn’t great but that the very end could probably be retooled into an amazing short story.

It’s unfortunate because this was one I really wanted to like. I think that King would do an amazing take on the Frankenstein story but for Revival 1me there just wasn’t enough of that here. This book may very well work for others, there’s no real issues with the writing itself that I can see. But it fell short for me.

Still, I persist.

My name is Chad Clark and I am proud to be a Constant Reader.

 

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

 


Walking In Memory, A Fictional Short

walking in memory

The plane set down in New Orleans in a pouring rain. He stepped out of the terminal, his bright red alligator boots crunching down on broken glass. He raised up a hand, clutching a pack of cigarettes, as he waved for the next cab.

He walked down Bourbon Street, glancing up at the balconies, and remembering how her hair had flowed in the breeze as they pelted the Mardi Gras crowds with peanuts. He took long drags from the cigarette, the smoke rising up to mingle with the banners and elaborate flower arrangements that lined the street.

The coffee shop where he had met her was still there, now sandwiched between trendy chain restaurants. The ragged poster of Louis Armstrong still stood guard over the patrons, partaking in burnt espresso and stale sandwiches. He had never cared for the place, but the essence of her still lingered there and who was he to fight the pull of tradition?

On the next corner, as he tried to fight the taste of caffeinated memories, the smell of catfish frying wafted down from the balcony above, and he could make out the sound of someone inside, banging on an old piano. It was the same corner he had walked past with her, the preacher standing on his apple crate, reaching out to the crowd, reaching out for him.

She had always loved the city, the people and the music, the food and festivals. Loved the smell of spice in the air, and nights spent trudging through the worst parts of town to find restaurants hidden behind heavy metal doors. He was often surprised that they hadn’t needed a password, just to get in.

She had always been there next to him on these trips, here in the city and beyond. She was supposed to stay there, always at his side. Now the only presence he felt around him was the weight of absence.

So, hours after his informal walking tour, he blinked and found himself on the bed of a hotel room. He reached across to return the now empty bottle of gin next to the empty bottle of scotch. Satisfied that he had finished both, he reached to the table on the other side of the bed, took hold of the tiny prescription bottle and laid back, steeling himself against the imminent comfort of the outstretched shades of eternity.

 

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

 


Reviews In The Machine : The Cabin & After The Cabin

Cabin

I don’t think that the horror genre is inherently suited for sequels. Or rather, to put more accurately, I often don’t feel like sequels in horror movies and books are executed in such a way as to merit their creation in the first place. Sequels have the automatic challenge of seeming like a cash grab, a paper thin attempt to profit even more on the success of the previous installment. And horror genre seems to make this fact all the more obvious. Usually what you end up with is a slightly modified plot featuring the same monster in what ends up essentially being another version of the original.

And I realize this begs the question, considering that this review is about Amy Cross’ duo of books, The Cabin and After The Cabin, where exactly am I going with this? Is this just a preamble to me ripping the books to shreds?

I would like to think that question would be answered merely by our invitation for Amy to answer some questions about her work, an interview just posted last week. We wouldn’t ambush her like that. I think that these two books are a perfect example of sequels done right. Any authors out there who are contemplating their own sequels or series should take note of these two books.

What I think makes them so strong is the fact that the second book, After The Cabin could also stand in its own. It isn’t just a bland repetition of the book that preceded it. I would even go so far as to say that these books could effectively be read in any order. The natural order would be to start with The Cabin and move on to After The Cabin but you could reverse them and still enjoy the experience.

I think The Cabin typifies what I think is the strongest aspect of Cross’s writing, namely that it doesn’t seem to conform to the borders of any specific genre. The Cabin has elements of thriller as well as both supernatural and extreme horror. Her writing often seems to be multi-flavored and this is no exception.

The story itself is simple, a group of friends leaving for Norway for a short trip and it isn’t long before we figure out that there is more going on than we might have realized. We find ourselves witnessing a harrowed fight to survive a nightmarish situation.

There is one aspect of writing that is extremely important to me and it is one that Cross easily clears. In her book, all of the characters get time to try and come off as sympathetic. Even the evil ones. And while their actions aren’t necessarily forgiven over the course of the book, you at least get to see the world through their eyes. It’s simple to create an unsympathetic, drooling psychopath. The real challenge is in crafting a character who does awful things and then get the reader to relate to them.

Amy Cross seems to love showing you one thing while sneaking up behind you with something else. The supernatural aspects of the story are hinted at throughout but by the time they come into play, it’s in a way that I never would have guessed or expected. And again, like the human monsters, these aren’t your typical moaning, chain-rattling by-product of indigestion.

Everyone gets the chance to shine in this book.

The net result is that this feels like a fully balanced story that is all the more effective, from not being overly focused on one specific person.  It’s a frightening tale to read, heightened by the isolation of the setting and from the occasional moments of extreme content that Cross places within the story.

It’s the kind of story that is hard to end in a way that is credible and entertaining but Cross does a good job with it. And instead of a final act that feels arbitrarily molded by the creator, it feels like a natural progression of the narrative.

A poorly done concept for a sequel to this would be simply to repeat the formula of the first book, with some details changed. I can hear the cheesy movie trailer voice in my head. “You’ve experienced the terror of The Cabin. Now check in to the indescribable horrors of … The Chalet.”

Cross doesn’t go the standard route and instead turns the narrative of the first book on its head. She goes so far as to imply to both the protagonist but also the reader that the events of the first book may not have happened at all. It’s probably the first time I’ve been essentially gaslighted by a narrative voice but the technique was highly effective. There were several points where I had to concede the possibility that things may not have happened how they were perceived. It puts you in a position where you find yourself doubting a character you were just rooting for.

I said at the beginning of this that the horror genre isn’t necessarily suited for sequels. With this however, it really was like I was reading one large piece. The story in After The Cabin feels much more like a psychological thriller and I think the decision to turn the narrative inward was brilliant. The protagonist is facing new threats in this book but instead of arbitrarily created new monsters, the vengeful brother who returns from traveling overseas for example, the new threats she now faces comes essentially from her own unconscious

If I’m not making this clear enough. These are two books you should be checking out. This is an author that should be getting far more recognition than she gets. Head over to her Amazon author page and grab up a few free books. I’ve read about ten of them so far and I’m yet to be disappointed.

Support a fantastic artist today.

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CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE YOUR COPY OF THE CABIN.

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE YOUR COPY OF AFTER THE CABIN.

CHECK OUT AMY’S AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE.

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

 

 


Tracing The Trails : Joyland

JoylandJust looking at this cover should be enough to place it in the same family tree as The Colorado Kid. They were both published by the same imprint and the artwork for both has a similar feel, giving me an expectation of a kind of dark, gritty noir story. It reminds me of classic pulp book covers so naturally, this is what I end up expecting as a reader.

And as with Colorado Kid, I found this book to be completely unlike what I had been expecting. As it started, I thought I had a sense of what I was in for but I was wrong.

Fortunately, this is where the experience went down separate paths. I think that The Colorado Kid failed for me because I didn’t feel invested in the story or the characters. It just came off as a fairly mundane recitation of the mechanics of a story.

And with Joyland, I can definitely see points where critics might be inclined to take King to task. For much of the book, I don’t think I could have comfortably stated what it was about. There were some good creepy moments throughout but while the story seemed to hint at a paranormal direction that was impending, the shift never seemed toJoyland 6 happen. I realized at some point that I was over halfway through the book and still had no idea where things were going.

This is not generally a good thing.

Still, despite the lack of narrative movement until the end of the book, I still found myself enjoying it, often forgetting the fact that not much was really happening and instead being lost in the narrative and the story of, essentially, one young man’s summer vacation.

I related to Devin and I thought King did a really good job capturing the drama and awkward energy of those pre-sexual experience years, when you are trying to discover as well as understand the world around you.

I think that carnivals make for superb atmosphere for spooky story telling because they naturally bring a sense of dark history and seedy Joyland 1beginnings. You get the sense that by taking this summer job, Devin is submerging himself into the murky waters of a sub-culture that he can’t truly understand.

In many ways, the style of storytelling here reminded me of King’s novella, Low Men In Yellow Coats in that there are some supernatural elements to the plot but the story that takes place within that is also moving and heartfelt on its own. It also made me think of Robert McCammon’s book Boy’s Life in that the specifics of the Joyland mystery took a definite backseat to the coming of age story that was taking place.

The history of Joyland was also a breeding ground for great storytelling, although I think King didn’t quite utilize this as well as heJoyland 2 could have. A murder has taken place at the park in its past, a murder that was never fully explained or understood. And while the story rarely does more than flirt in the direction of this issue, I thought it carried enough of a lingering presence in order to help aid the mood of the story.

Regarding the atmosphere, I also appreciated that the book was so heavily steeped in that of the seventies and eighties. Part of me couldn’t help but wonder if King’s stronger talents come through more clearly, setting books during these time periods. I remember well enough the era before the digital age so reading this book was a lot like getting the chance to go back and visit an old friend.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book, one for which I had honestly Joyland 4low expectations. Books always have the ability to surprise you, though. It’s important to keep that point in mind and this book is a great reminder. Of all King’s recent books, Joyland is one that I am more likely to come back to.

To conclude, I have to relate a story around this that I found entertaining. When King first published this, it was only in print edition. There was however another book titled Joyland, by Emily Shultz. Needless to say, a ton of people flocked onto Amazon and purchased Ms. Shultz’s book for their Kindle, thinking it was Stephen King. Let’s just say that Ms. Shultz’s rankings and bank account both saw dramatic upswings. You can look it up on Google but Ms. Shultz set up a blog detailing how she wasJoyland 5 spending Stephen King’s money. It’s pretty great.

And to those who might react by saying, “how dare that person take money she didn’t earn!”.

First of all, the listing for the book clearly shows her as the author. The cover is completely different and people have the ability to return kindle books within seven days. Plenty of time to correct an errant purchase. And she actually did try to reach out to Amazon to get them to redirect King’s fans to the proper book. Her requests were ignored. Also, she was there first. Her book was published years before King. And Stephen King himself gave her his support. So don’t harpoon her because people can’t pay attention to Joyland ESwhat they’re buying.

None of this is relevant to the book itself but I think it’s an interesting historical note. Also, if you do decide to check out this book, make sure it’s the right one.

My name is Chad Clark and I am proud to be a Constant Reader.

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Interviews In The Machine : Amy Cross

Cross2

I love discovering new authors. In this craft that I have devoted so much of my life to, it is a thrill to find artists out there who are like-minded and to see their approach and their process. My introduction to the work of Amy Cross came via her book, The Farm. I was immediately attracted to the great cover and as it was posted as free at the time, I had no reason not to try it. And when I finally got around to checking it out, I was instantly impressed at the quality of her prose. The story was intriguing and paced perfectly. The characters were sympathetic and dynamic and the book had just the right balance of atmosphere and elements that were more extreme.  Continue Reading


Tracing The Trails : Doctor Sleep

Doctor SleepStephen King is one of the most well known and established names of our country’s popular literary landscape. Still, even he isn’t immune to the occasional marketing gimmick, the sly shaping of product in an attempt to garner more sales. Often the context in which a book is sold can make all the difference. I think you can see evidence of this in both The Green Mile as well as Desperation/The Regulators. Sometimes he is more successful than others but there are books where the vessel of the story itself almost seems more important than the story. And how does this relate to Doctor Sleep exactly? Well, as far as I’m concerned and how I have always seen the book is fairly simple.

Despite all the intense marketing of it as such, Doctor Sleep is not really a sequel to The Shining.

Not in the way I would define it, anyway.

So what is a sequel? It’s important to define what we’re talking about. For me, a sequel is where the primary narrative from one book or movie is carried over into the second. They need each other as fundamental pieces and one doesn’t stand up as well without the other. Perfect example, Empire Strikes Back into Return Of The Jedi. There is a clear narrative arc from one movie to the next. Now take a look at the Doctor Sleep 1James Bond films. With the exceptions of the rebooted films which seem to be more inner-connected, the classic Bond films aren’t really sequels. They’re just a series of films featuring common characters.

Doctor Sleep may feature a primary character from The Shining in Danny Torrence, now grown up. And we may get a few cameos from some other characters but for the most part, this story tends to stand on its own. There is a level to the story you wouldn’t pick up on without having read The Shining but those plot points are pretty minor.

Being totally honest, when I read Doctor Sleep, it came off to me like King had already written much of this as its own book. Then, at some point either he or his publisher realized that with a few tweaks to the Doctor Sleep 2story, they could market this to the world as a sequel to The Shining. Really think about it for a minute. Strip away any of the references to events in The Shining, plus a few short scenes and you still have pretty much the same book. Some of the back-story would need to be changed and you may miss out of some of the emotional impact that we (finally) get at the end but otherwise it’s still the same story.

It isn’t until the very end of the book that I really felt a strong connection with The Shining and I did like that King established a moment of emotional connection to the first book. It was almost like he was trying to rescue Jack Torrence from the image of Jack Nicholson that most people have in their heads. But, while throughout, I did feel the emotional trauma of Danny’s childhood experiences, I never felt like the actual involvement with The Shining extended beyond that of Easter Eggs for his fans.

My biggest issue with Doctor Sleep is with the character development, in that it feels like a large amount of the story happens Doctor Sleep 3before the book even starts. It was like I was reading the third book of a trilogy after skipping the second part altogether.

Going in, you have to assume that Danny is going to be focus for many of the readers. Finding out what happens to him would be of great interest. And the book starts off for him at a moment that is quite bleak and unforgiving when he makes a choice that many would see as morally questionable.

But then the book skips forward to the point where Danny has largely moved past his personal demons. He hasn’t emerged totally victorious but a lot of his struggles are told in exposition. And considering the natural parallels with his father’s alcoholism, I would have thought that King would dwell more on that. While he still seems to have some lingering issues around his experiences at the Overlook, much of what might have been interesting with Danny’s story seems done and in the past.

Doctor Sleep 4Then we have Abra, the young, gifted girl who Danny takes on, now in the Dick Hallorann role himself. Again, lots of potential here, especially with the kinds of feelings and emotions this relationship could evoke in Danny. But all we get are a few quick scenes that set up Abra’s psychic abilities and when the book hits the present, she is basically fully formed. No journey there for her, save for the small amount of danger presented to her in this story. In fact, I would even say that there is a certain amount of cockiness to her as a character that for me only served to diminish the level of threat and danger I felt for her.

That brings us to Rose the Hat. I’m just going to say in general that the True Knot in this book was a wasted opportunity. They are interesting to me but in the context of this story it almost seems like they are only there to fulfill the obligation of having a villain. I got none of the sense of menace and power from Rose that I have from other King monsters. Largely, Rose seems to trip over herself in encounter after Doctor Sleep 5encounter, constantly overestimating her own abilities. I actually think Rose would have an interesting story to tell and that I would be interested if King were to ever make them the focus of their own book. As it stands in Doctor Sleep however, they just kind of fell flat to me.

As a specific subset of the True Knot, I was especially perplexed by the character of Andi, or Snakebite as she comes to be referred to by the Knot. King takes great pain introducing her, giving her some POV chapters but then she kind of drops out of the story and save for a sequence towards the end, she plays almost no role. I didn’t really get what purpose she served and it was like she had once had more of a subplot that King decided to remove but then forgot to take out her backstory.

Ultimately, my biggest criticism is that throughout the book I never Doctor Sleep 6really had a strong feeling of danger or peril for the characters. When I got to the ending, there wasn’t a sense of unveiling or climax. It just felt inevitable and if I had to choose one word to describe the overall book, it would probably be mundane.

The quality of the prose is actually good. I don’t see the shortcomings of this book as coming from the writing itself. It’s just hard to not read it and feel that it was more of a cash-grab than an effort to tell a really good story. This is getting into the most recent books of King’s career and I have to say that a common vibe through most of them seems to be that King isn’t necessarily devoting the amount of time he might have in the past to writing these out. There’s a story there and it’s decent but there also feels like there’s just something missing. Like when you pick up a gallon tub of ice cream and it has almost no weight to it.

I think whenever you see a sequel being crafted after so much time, it generally comes off as an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the first Doctor Sleep 7book and reading Doctor Sleep, I just didn’t see much to justify the massive amount of marketing I saw, leading up to the book’s release. I’m sure there are plenty of people who love this, it just isn’t for me.

My name is Chad Clark and I am proud to be a Constant Reader.

 

 

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IT (2017) – A Review

IT (2017) 1

I’m going to start with my immediate reaction to the movie, literally as I walk out of the theater. This was possibly one of my favorite adaptations of a full-length Stephen King novel. Any time you are dealing with Stephen King’s style of storytelling in particular and considering the extreme length of many of his books there is often quite a bit lost in translation when it makes the full transition to the screen. But in this case, while there certainly were plenty of changes made to the story, I thought they really nailed the heart of the book and brought IT to life.  Continue Reading


Tracing The Trails : Wind Through The Keyhole

windThis was an interesting year for Stephen King. Besides publishing a sequel to his classic novel, The Shining, he also announced his return to the universe of his epic Dark Tower series.

To say that the world of King nerds exploded would be putting it mildly.

At the time, I had made the complete journey through the Dark Tower series several times so I was thrilled at the prospect of another addition. And besides me, I think there was also a contingent of Tower fans who were holding out hope that a new book would modify or expand on an ending that has proven to be fairly controversial and not so popular.

Personally, I love the ending and it was because of the nature of how the series ended that I was perplexed as to how King was going to add to the story. Gradually, word got out that the new book was going to take place in the middle of the series. Essentially, it would be book four-point-five, as King would come to refer to it. Also, the book would be a standalone story. While it would take place in the Dark Tower universe, anyone would be able to read and enjoy it, regardless of reading the previous books.

So this is a dilemma that has been faced many a time and I admit that there is no good resolution. You have a choice to make. Do you go after existing fans or new ones? I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t a littlewind 5 bit disappointed that the book wasn’t going to be more rooted in the mythology of the series. Still, I have to acknowledge that I understand why he made the decision he did. Writing the book this way allows it to be enjoyed by all fans. And the upside is that if a new reader comes to this book and becomes interested in the series, they might turn and read the rest of the books. If you were to write a book only for the hard-core fans of the series, there would be no potential for that kind of growth. You’d likely end up either satisfying or pissing off the fans. And with as aggressively hostile nerd culture has become these days, I think we know how that would’ve likely come out for him.

Despite my misgivings, I was eager to get my hands on this book when it came out. And on the whole I would have to say that I was satisfied with the final product. As promised by King, the story has very little to do with the overall narrative of the Dark Tower. But there are some appearances from the main characters as well as some typical King Easter eggs and references.

The structure of the narrative was definitely interesting and I have to give Stephen King credit for trying something like this. The essential wind 4premise of the story is that while Roland and his band of gunslingers are waylaid in the course of their travels by a severe storm, Roland proceeds to tell a story from his past. And let me say that I completely acknowledge the fact that King employs pretty much the exact same narrative device as he did in the book previous to this one, Wizard And Glass.

The story Roland tells his ka-tet is of being sent to a small village to investigate a string of deaths, the suspicion being that one of the people is a shape-shifter who is attacking the population. A young boy who saw the beast is convinced to help them and one night, while Roland is watching over the boy, he tells him a story from his childhood that his mother told him, titled The Wind Through The Keyhole.

This story is of a young boy who goes on a dangerous quest to save his mother (shades of The Talisman here, perhaps). It is in this story that we get another surprise appearance from a major character of Dark Tower lore. King even makes a few references to the CS Lewis Narnia series.

Essentially, the book becomes a story within a story within a story. And while this likely sounds cheesy and gimmicky, King still manages to make it work. The book isn’t breathtaking by any means but it’s a fun read.

The portion of the story involving Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy is the shortest and least impactful part of the book. And again, I get why they did this. He couldn’t have anything major happen to them. If wind 3there was some kind of huge event, the question would become why there is no mention of it in later books. So we have enough time to enjoy their presence and to get that rush of nostalgia before getting into the heart of the book.

As for the rest, I found the story of Roland trying to root out the shape-shifter or, the “skin man” to be fairly mundane. It was interesting enough, just not spectacular. One aspect about it that was interesting was that it added a little bit of information about Roland’s mother, relating to events from Wizard And Glass.

The story of Tim Stoutheart was really entertaining, a fictional tale for children that had a great air of fantasy and adventure. And there is a character who you can’t help but feel a thrill of excitement as you gradually realize who he is. Tim goes on a Tower quest of his own in the course of this story that feels steeped in the flavors of age old legends and mythology. King does here what I think Tolkien did with Lord Of The Rings in that he creates a new story that somehow carries with it the weight of history and culture.

Even though this falls within the timeline of the original books, I would not read it as a part of the series. As I said earlier, the book that immediately precedes it, Wizard And Glass, also is told predominantly as a flashback to Roland’s youth. To go on and immediately read Wind Through The Keyhole would feel odd, just in terms of the pacing from book to book. There are also a number of references that you understand better if you have read the entire series.

And I will admit that I think there are some slight continuity goofs here or, if not mistakes they at least are a bit perplexing. At the end of Wizard And Glass, Roland tells a story that reveals something he did, an offense that has largely shaped his character and who he has grown in to. wind 2It is a dark moment in Roland’s life, one which challenges how you feel about his moral center. Then, in Wind Through The Keyhole, we get a little more information that almost seems to absolve Roland’s guilt slightly. I almost equate it to George Lucas’s decision to edit A New Hope to make it seem like Greedo fires first. My issue with this is that once you read the story detailed in Wind Through The Keyhole, why would Roland have lived so much of his life feeling the guilt for what he had done? Also, I kind of liked the stark challenge felt in Roland’s crime and how that moment changed him. Roland did a terrible thing and I think it’s kind of important for him to stay in that space.

If you were hoping for King to somehow shoehorn a new ending to the series for you, this book is going to disappoint. However, if you are looking for an entertaining, light read, check this out. There is more still to the Dark Tower story that I think needs to be told and I hope one day it will. In the meantime, this was a good nostalgic trip back to a universe and to characters I have loved since childhood.

My name is Chad Clark and I am proud too be a Constant Reader.

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First Meetings, by Chad A. Clark

first meetings

Before the crew had even finished the landing sequence, the delegation of Khaln’aari had emerged from the forest to greet them. Captain Altranor led them down the ramp to meet the party with the crew already in full dress uniform. Theirs was one of the first crews to come to the planet, and it lifted their spirits to find such a warm reception.

The digital network that was streamed through their comm badges was able, albeit slowly, to translate what the Khaln’aari were saying. Before long, the formalities of the reception had lessened somewhat to a more comfortable familiarity. They exchanged gifts, the Captain giving the Khaln’aari a glass figurine of Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom. The Khaln’aari had given each of the crew necklaces of tiny, but intricately sculpted pieces of brawn’dak stone.

The two groups entertained each other at the reception site with traditional myths native to each others’ cultures. They traded the stories, back and forth, until the sun was starting to set beyond the southern horizon.

The food was by far, the highlight of the evening.

Being nighttime hunters, the Khaln’aari allowed several members of the crew, including the Captain to join them on that evening’s excursion. The crew had been able to achieve several kills, even though all they saw of the animals were dark shapes running through the trees. The Khaln’aari had several dozen kills, and they sent the younger hunters of the tribe to collect the bodies and clean them for the feast.

Hours later at dinner, the servers brought out pots, steaming from within. The stews, all different, were served to everyone, dark and rich, with the most moist, and flavorful meat any of them had ever eaten. The over-sized glasses of blood-red wine went straight through them, and soon, most were seeing the table through an unsteady haze of pre-intoxication.

The Captain stood to toast the hospitality of their hosts and to thank the Khaln’aari for the feast.

There was a tittering of laughter in response to the toast and for the first time, the Captain looked uncertain. The leader of the Khaln’aari rose and spoke loudly for quite some time, the rest of his delegation chuckling as he went on. It took a minute before the neural network was able to fully translate what was being said, and another minute before the implication of his statement set in.

“That is precisely what the last group of humans who visited here said. I know that you believe you were the first to set foot here, as did they. You were incorrect in that assumption, as were they. They enjoyed their meals as well, that is, before they knew what they were eating, or rather, who they were eating. As great as their anger was at being tricked into hunting their own kind, the humans who had visited here before them, it paled in comparison to the revelation that it was those fellow travelers who they had been dining on.”

The crew all pushed back from the table, meaning to stand, reaching for weapons that the Captain had not let them bring for fear of offending the Khaln’aari. Before they could even rise to their feet, guards stepped forward out of the shadows and held them down in their chairs. The Captain stood frozen in place, unable to move or react. The leader spoke one last time, “I wonder,” he said as he lifted a glass, “how the next crew will feel about hunting you. Do you think they will enjoy the food?”

 

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page