Tuesday, January 18, 2011


In addition to being the most popular horror writer for the last 35 year, Stephen King has always embraced experimental forms. He wrote a serial novel (The Green Mile), a novel available by download over the internet, long before such a thing became fashionable (the uncompleted serial novel The Plant), and simultaneously published two novels that were alternate takes on the same subject by himself and his alter ego (Desperation under his own name and The Regulators as by Richard Bachman). It is not, therefore, surprising he would be one of the first to produce a story for the Amazon Kindle E-reader, and to make it about the Kindle. It is called Ur, and it is also not surprising that a diehard Stephen king fan such as I would buy it as soon as I received my Kindle.

Wesley Smith is a professor of English at a small college, and something of a Luddite. He is one of those who steadfastly proclaim the superiority of printed books over anything electronic (as I was a year ago). When his girlfriend leaves him in part because of his old-fashioned ways, however, he decides to show her different by ordering a Kindle. Wesley has a bit of dyslexia, though, and makes some sort of error in placing the order. When the Kindle arrives, it is in the unusual color pink (Kindles are white or charcoal) and has some unusual features, chief among them the ability to tap into different Urs.

An Ur is an alternate universe. In our Ur, Ernest Hemingway committed suicide in 1961, but in others he lived and continued to write for many more years. In others, he became a hard-boiled detective novelist, or some other variation. This is true of all other writers, and is obviously an English professors dream, the opportunity to read great novels never published in our reality. Wesley has made an excellent purchase.

The Ur-Kindle has another experimental feature that is not standard on the run-of-the-mill Kindle: the user can download editions of the local newspaper up to thirty days in advance. Through this feature, Wesley learns a disaster is about to take place, one that will claim the life of his ex-girlfriend and others. Wesley and one of his students have to use the knowledge gained to change the future.

All in all, the novella Ur is a bit lighter than most of King’s work, but his gift of characterization is as good as ever. Any of his fans should enjoy this, and for the hardcore fans, there is a connection to the Dark Tower series.

I also admit it was pretty cool to read a story about a Kindle on a Kindle.

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