Thursday, April 18, 2024

UR, novella by Stephen King that rides some of his most fundamental hobbyhorses


Storyville, LLC (non-affiliate Amazon link)
$3.99 Kindle edition, available now

Rating: 4.5* of five

The Publisher Says: 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.


My Review
: Whether or not there's a unitary entity like the one monotheists and Abrahamic-religionists call "God," there is a certain universality to the reality that you will lose everything you love, often all at once, and that smacks of horrible vicious intentional cruelty. You might not know what they price you pay for any tiniest fleck of good luck/happiness will be, but there will be one.

King's Dark Tower Universe operates on this principle. This short work makes the cost of this nobody-special of a main character getting access to a multiverse-spanning Kindle...and what I would not give for this device to come into my possession! and immediate. What I found especially fun was the archaeology of the Kindle. The modern Kindles do not work the way the one in this story does, there are no longer buttons but touchscreens and a lot of functionality has changed. This story is from 2008 (written)/2009 (published), so it predates 11/22/63 and Under the Dome, which explore in greater depth some of the themes that preoccupy King and that form the basis of this novella.

What are those themes? Look at my first sentence. Going into detail makes a sixty-page read pretty useless and this is a story I think y'all will like. In common with most of King's work, it feels very Manichaean to me. That is, he follows developments in his stories that seem to me to like the summation of that religion's tenets:
A key belief in Manichaeism is that the powerful, though not omnipotent good power (God), was opposed by the eternal evil power (devil). Humanity, the world, and the soul are seen as the by-product of the battle between God's proxy, Primal Man, and the devil.

That quickie is from Wikipedia.

It makes for good fiction. I'd call it fan fiction since religion is all fiction, but that's a discussion for a different venue.

There are over fifteen hundred Goodreads reviews of this story. This one won't make any difference. The reason I write it is to say to those few remaining dismissive snobs who would never read anything by King, That is an absurd stance. You might like or dislike his work according to taste but he is as influential and as generation-defining a writer as Tolkien or Dickens.

Point your nose down at the work, not up in disdain, and learn something.

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