Book Review: Ur by Stephen King

Title: Ur
Author: Stephen King
Genre:
Speculative fiction/sci-fi
Date Read:
23/08/2014
Rating: ★★☆

Review:

Ur_coverThe only other Stephen King book I’ve read is The Colorado Kid, and I didn’t particularly enjoy that one either, so maybe I just keep picking the wrong books. The main thing that unsettled me with this one, though, is that I was never quite sure whether this book was an ad for the Kindle or a caution against it. The first third or so certainly felt like the former, but the rest felt like the latter.

Wesley Smith is an English professor and ardent book lover. He’s dealing with a break-up and his (ex-)girlfriend’s parting shot, “Why can’t you just read off the computer like everyone else?!” After discussing it with a pupil, he decides to buy a Kindle, but the one that shows up at his house is not the white one he ordered, but a bright pink one. It also arrives the next day, when he doesn’t remember paying for next-day delivery. Soon, Wesley discovers an experimental feature called “Ur” and soon learns that he can access author databases in approximately 10 million alternate universes, allowing him to devour works that never got written in our own world. He shares this discovery with aforementioned pupil and a colleague, and then they discover that this is not the only function the UR provides… and those they love could be in danger…

One thing that bugged me the whole way through this book was that even though this book was only ever released on Kindle, King seemed to be assuming that his readers had no idea how technology works. He basically explained step-by-step how Wesley sets up the Kindle when he first receives it, and says things like “he sat down at his desktop Dell computer”, which just felt clunky. I also felt like the characters accepted the nature of the URs far too quickly, especially as it is even mentioned that there are computers that can generate text to emulate particularly authors. That idea is quickly dismissed, though; no, this writing is too good to be an emulation of Hemingway, it could only actually be Hemingway! What?

Apparently the ending ties into King’s Dark Tower series, which I am not familiar with, so that explains why it felt weird and rushed to me. The consequences for Wesley’s misuse of the UR at the end do not seem to really fit the crime (and within the sci-fi context of the story, it basically is a crime), so it felt like a bit of a let down. I’m sure that plenty of people would tell me I just need to read Misery or The Shining but I’m pretty sure those would freak me out too much and I would end up not enjoying those either, albeit for different reasons. Maybe Stephen King just isn’t for me.

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