As many regular readers know, I am an avid listener to audiobooks at certain stages of my work in the studio. I can only listen to them when doing inking or coloring, which is more of a rendering process for me and less a conceptual one and therefore allows my mind to focus on both the work and the story. I’ve found these to be a great way to stay on task during grueling marathons of finish work.
Regular readers might also be aware that I am a big fan of Stephen King‘s writing, especially his epic Dark Tower saga, which are some of my favorite audiobooks to listen to. I probably put those on once a year and relive the journey of Roland and his ka-tet through the bones of a slowly dying land called mid-world. The original narrator was the incomparable Frank Muller, who was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident in 2001 and was never able to narrate again, eventually passing away in 2008. George Guidall took up the Dark Tower narration mantle and did a different but equally terrific job bringing the books and characters to life.
Naturally, I was very excited to hear King was going to visit the Dark Tower mythos in a new book called The Wind Through the Keyhole, which was just released on Tuesday of this week. It’s a backstory, as the full Dark Tower tale was told through to the end (or was it?!?) in the final book, The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower, back in 2004. Other than the short story Little Sisters of Eluria which appeared in the collection Everything’s Eventual in 1998, this is the first Roland tale to appear in book form outside the series. I saved up my Audible credits to buy The Wind Through The Keyhole audiobook on Tuesday and figured I’d listen to it right away and then do a review here on The MAD Blog.
Sadly, that is not going to happen.
Sharp-eyed readers may have caught that I wrote I was a “big fan of Stephen King’s writing” a few paragraphs earlier. Very true. What I am not a fan of is Stephen King’s narration. King has narrated several of his stories on audiobook, including Bag of Bones, Needful Things and assorted short stories like Hearts In Atlantis. He is an awful narrator. There is really no nice way to put it. His voice sounds like his sinuses are draining into his throat, with a perpetual mucas-y, nasal smacking that is just under the annoyance-level of nails raking a chalkboard. I was appalled when I saw “narrated by Stephen King” on the audiobook cover, and I didn’t even make it past the foreward…although I did fast forward to a part of the story itself just to see if King pulled some kind of miracle off and became Rich Little since his last foray into narration. Nope. This one will have to be enjoyed the old fashioned way…read with my eyeballs.
This is enormously disappointing.¬¨‚Ä† I do not know what King was thinking when he narrated this book himself. I know authors can be funny ducks when it comes to their work, and I can totally understand that they would feel they can bring something to “their baby” on audio that a narrator could not, but honestly there is a reason why professional narrators exist . . . they bring a talent to the table no amount of familiarity with the work can match. This is especially true for a SERIES like the Dark Tower, which has very distinct and rich characters and has already had seven books narrated by two of the best in the business. I assume King insisted on doing this himself (because no one in their right mind would suggest he do it himself), and he must be surrounded by a bunch of bobos and yes-men who don’t have the guts to look him in the eye and say “Steve, this is a bad idea. You are not a profesisonal narrator.” What a shame. Thomas Harris has the same problem apparently . . . although he’s not a bad narrator, he’s just not as good as a real professional would be. King is bad. Historically bad.
The narrator of a book makes a gigantic difference in the enjoyment of the material. A good narrator can make a marginal story sparkle and a bad one can ruin the best of books. Personal opinion enters into the equation, of course. My favorite narrators are Muller, Guidall, Simon Vance, Frederick Davidson, David Ian Davies, Barbara Rosenblat, Jim Dale and a few others. I cannot stand the work of narrator Scott Brick, who seems to attempt to give the same hang-wringing, face-distorting ?¬?ber-emotion to a reading of a car manual as he would Othello. I simply cannot listen to the man narrate, thus books like the Bourne Trilogy and many others are denied me.
So, sadly, is this new Dark Tower audiobook. Sorry, Mr. King, but you dropped the ball on this one. Please fire all the people who didn’t advise you not to narrate this audiobook, and hire people who keep the best interests of you and your fans in mind for future audiobook productions.
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