UR – Stephen King
I did not know much about UR until recently. I knew that it was a short story and something I would get round to reading eventually but beyond that I was in the dark. Someone happened to mention the premise the other day and I liked the idea so much that I downloaded the book immediately.
Reeling from a painful break-up, English instructor and avid book lover Wesley Smith is haunted by his ex-girlfriend's parting shot: "Why can't you just read off the computer like everyone else?" He buys an e-book reader out of spite, but soon finds he can use the device to glimpse realities he had never before imagined, discovering literary riches beyond his wildest dreams...and all-too-human tragedies that surpass his most terrible nightmares.
A kindle that not only contains books from alternate dimensions but also contains newspaper clippings from the future – count me in. What a cool premise!
As I mentioned this is only a short story of around 66 pages. It focuses on Wesley Smith, an English professor who has recently found and lost love in the form of a colleague. In a bid to appear more daring and modern, he purchases a Kindle.
In Wesley’s reluctance to buy the Kindle, King captures everything I felt towards the fantastic gadget I can now not live without. From Wesley unwrapping the Kindle to his first foray into the menu screen, King could have been writing about me. It is for this reason alone, I found myself immediately immersed into the story.
Wesley is a likeable character: the self-doubts, the pining over a girl following a recent break-up and the determination to better yourself are all something we can identify with. King makes you care for the relationship even though we never see any real evidence of it.
It is the concept of the Kindle being more than a reading device that really captures the imagination. Long term fans of King will rejoice in the nods to his other works. The Dark Tower is mentioned here and one has to wonder if this novella was a precursor to King’s excellent time travelling novel, 11/22/63.
As Wesley delves more into the machinations of the Kindle he uncovers more and more shocking events. He confides in a fellow teacher and a student and together they debate what to do with the supernatural gadget.
The plot works well as a novella, with the Kindle revealing an event that will affect Wesley in a big way. As such this forms the focus of the story and resolving it is the only goal. It makes for a tidy conclusion where all threads are nicely wrapped up, however I couldn’t help but think that King could have done more with the concept. Having read the Dark Tower series it was pretty easy to figure out what happened at the end, but I imagine people that have not read that particular series will have quite a few answered questions.
All in all, this is a great little novella, that raises an idea which will stick with you long after you have finished reading it.
My rating: 8.2