It doesn’t seem like a story about a guy, a teacher named Wesley in the story’s case, who buys a Kindle would be particularly interesting. King recounts how Amazon asked him to write a piece as a way to boost publicity when the device was first released. From their standpoint, it wasn’t a bad idea as far as interest piquing marketing ideas go, but the author was uncomfortable with it as he didn’t want to go down the whole product plugging route. In an interesting twist of fate, it gave him an idea for a story that he decided to write of his own volition.
It helps to know that going in, because the early parts of the story are fairly heavy handed as characters explain to the protagonist what a Kindle is and what it can do. Some of the early conversations come off like the sort that you’d hear in a commercial. The story does eventually move past all that, but it will likely raise some eyebrows.
In true King fashion, this is no ordinary Kindle. It does things that other Kindles simply can’t do, like give you glimpses into other worlds or even the future of your own. Rather than nightmare fuel, it seems kind of awesome. You can read books by your favorite authors that never got released here and see how events unfolded on other Earths. Rather than being put off by this strange device, you’ll likely find yourself wanting the device. Just think, you could read “The Winds of Winter” right now; well, a version of it anyway.
The only dire consequence that comes about is a sort of addiction and that isn’t so much supernatural as just natural. There’s so much there that you can’t help but be curious. That holds true with our e-readers, of course, but it gets taken to a whole other level here. You’d think that finances would become an issue, that the addiction would drain Wesley’s bank account as he starts racking up purchases without thinking about it. Maybe King felt that was a bit too close to “Christine”, but it becomes moot as it is made clear that this is all on another person’s (well another Wesley’s) dime.
It was rather amusing how a lot of the new features (internet access, being able to buy music) listed to show how bizarre this pink device was are ones that more modern Kindles have. It’s been said that this version is drastically revised, so maybe that was one of the additions? I haven’t read the original, so I couldn’t say. Said original version does sit, unread, on my Kindle. Whether it warrants its own article remains to be seen.
The story is alright for the most part, though it really kicks into high gear in the final act. The prophetic element gives the characters something to do rather than just read things, as they embark on a quest to fight the future. In stark contrast to “11/22/63”, time doesn’t put up that much resistance this time around. That isn’t to say that there aren’t consequences to the protagonists’ actions.
If you’re a fan of the “Dark Tower” books, than this story will definitely grab you. It becomes a rather prominent plot point as the story unfolds. This may have been in the original, but considering how everything I’ve read talks about the “significant revisions” that this version of the story underwent, I could see it as being new. It’s a logical addition given the premise, but there you go.
While neither the story’s length nor pacing are a problem, per se, you can’t help but feel like the first act could have been more succinct. Wesley has a very particular set of circumstances that lead to him buying a Kindle. Having him decide to buy one because his shelves were full and he didn’t have room in his apartment for another one would have worked just as well in all honesty. It would have allowed Wesley to maintain his “pro-book” stance while also giving valid justification for the purchase without needing someone else to explain it to him. This would also allow the story to phase out the aforementioned commercial dialogue. That’s more armchair quarterbacking than anything else, though.
To the story’s credit, it avoids political soap boxing. When the characters are reading about other worlds, alternate outcomes of various elections are mentioned. It was a legitimate concern, but no real details are given about whether or not alt-Hillary, alt-Gore, or alt-Romney were successful or not. It’s for the best, really. The only other viable option would have been to pad out the story by showing that each candidate had a world where their respective administrations were amazing and another one where they were failures. It would be very likely given an infinite multiverse, but it wouldn’t really add anything to the story.
Overall, the “Dark Tower” tie in was really the major highlight of the story. The rest is still a solid yarn, but that was really where the story kicked into high gear. It would have been nice to see more of that, but at the same time, it makes sense to have that as the big reveal to cap off the story. The story isn’t without its setbacks, but it has likable characters and an intriguing plot hook.