UR by Stephen King

UR by Stephen KingUR is a novelette, Stephen King’s take on the Kindle. King’s Kindle is, of course, special, but I think most of us who own one of these little marvels believes ours are special, so I can’t fault him for that. My Kindle is named Earl, as in “My Name is…” and he came to replace Fred, who gave up the ghost far, far too young and is still deeply missed. Both Fred and Earl are Kindle 1’s because, yes, I’m an early adopter: books of all kinds, all lengths, all genres, downloadable from the ethos in under a minute — OMG move over and let me at that!

But I digress.

King’s Kindle is special: for starters, it’s pink. Everyone knows Kindles (so far) are white. All of them. Unless you buy one of those nice little skins and stick it on yourself. Amazon’s taken a lot of flack for the white, but the idea is that the Kindle fades into the background as you read and then it’s just you and the words. It’s brilliant at that. Much better than books, as anyone who’s ever tried to read a paperback in bed and had to fight with the blasted booklight can attest. I don’t understand why when Apple comes out with their bright white device, it’s called brilliant simplicity but when Amazon does it it’s called lack of imagination. Well, considering Steve Jobs swears no one reads anymore, maybe it’s just non-reader snobbery. I dunno. My first computer was an Apple, back when dinosaurs roamed. It was white. And it left me so broke, I’ve been “reduced” to PC’s ever since. But I’m not bitter.

Back to King’s special K: Besides being pink, this Kindle has a spectacular talent: it can transmit to it’s lucky reader books by his favorite authors: books those authors never actually wrote. Books they would have written, however, had they lived longer.

Imagine, as King does, the output of a Hemingway who did not die in 1961, but who remained productive though to 1964. A world where Poe hung on for another 26 years and where Raymond Carver lived to be 70. Where Shakespeare died in 1620 and produced two additional, ever more brilliant plays. Now imagine a reality where all these glorious, unread treasures wait for you, dear reader, to simply press a button and within a minute hold them in your hands — all for the nominal price of $9.99 or less.

My heart is actually beating faster just thinking about it. Go ahead, take a moment, catch your breath. I’ll wait.

Back? Ok. UR, being King, dissolves into a kind of half-hearted attempt at horror and the perils of breaking Time Paradox laws. The rest is pretty much anti-climax after the idea of all those great books we’ll never get to read (like seventeen — seventeen! — more John D MacDonald novels). Man. In the end, Wesley, the protagonist, looses his Kindle to the Paradox Police. But for a brief while, all those literary treasures were his for the reading.

“Do you understand how lucky you are?”
“Yes,” Wesley whispered.
“Then say thank you.”
“Thank you.”