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Shelf Indulgence

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UR - Stephen King I remember when King released Riding the Bullet, the first mass-market commercial e-book. I remember thinking that there was no way I was going to be able to get used to reading something electronically, but being the Stephen King fan I was (and continue to be), I knew I was going to read it. Once I did, I realized that it was a mediocre story, publicized by its distribution.

Ur is another first of sorts, which was a story that was written exclusively for the Kindle. When it came out, I didn't have any interest in the device (see "there was no way I was going to be able to get used to reading something electronically", above), but I figured I would read it eventually (see "Being the Stephen King fan I was", also above). I'm honestly surprised that it took me six years, but as I recall, Riding the Bullet was free, and Ur cost me real money.

What did I think of it? Well, see "it was a mediocre story, publicized by its distribution", above. The story felt like it was an advertisement for a Kindle, which doesn't make much sense, since the story is only available to read on what it's advertising. Now, folks can read Kindle books on any device with the right app, but I don't recall this being the case when the Kindle was first released. It felt hackneyed and forced, and the fact that the story wound up being predictable made it feel even worse. I knew how it was going to end as soon as Wesley's girlfriend walked out on him.

The story is about an English professor in Kentucky who orders a Kindle out of spite toward his ex-girlfriend. What he receives is a Kindle, yes, but it has access to reading materials from alternate worlds. He first discovers this when he downloads a book by Hemingway that he, a Hemingway expert, has never read, but as a Hemingway expert, he can definitely identify the style as Hemingway's. Later, he stumbles across access to the local news, but the only news he can get through the Kindle is from the future.

So, yeah, the premise is pretty stupid, the ending is obvious, and to make matters worse, this is another entry into the never-ending world of the Dark Tower. King's characterization skills have always been his strong points, but it feels like he doesn't develop the central characters of this story outside of establishing their general personality and motivations. Beyond that, they feel like they're just there to prop up the story which, I've noted, just isn't very good. The use of the Kindle as a narrative device and the exclusive method of reading the book feels a bit like an insult, especially to his Constant Readers who don't want to be coerced into buying a product that they had no interest in before. I'm glad that it's now available to read outside of just that device, but if you've been tempted by this novella in the past, allow me to suggest skipping it. There's really nothing memorable about it.