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Cell: A Novel

A book by Stephen King

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A swift, gory, cinematic book...and King writes himself into a corner!

  • Apr 20, 2006
  • by
This is almost a Richard Bachman book. Simple, direct, bloody and not too full of itself. It's almost the anti-thesis of THE DARK TOWER. (Which is kind of funny to say, since much of the book involves a small group of unlikely companions traveling by foot along unfamiliar roads, confronting one crisis after another.) It feels very much like a book wanting to be a movie.

Yes, it is a zombie story, of sorts. Everyone in the world who uses a cell-phone has their brains/programming erased, and turn into a brutal, telepathic flock. The few survivors are looking for a safe haven, and the main character, Clay, hopes to find his son and estranged wife...and to find them intact.

King has many times written stories in which groups of very different people are forced circumstance to stand together against a world-threatening enemy. THE STAND is the shining example of the best of this. THE MIST was an outstanding novella of this ilk, and I even liked the short novel THE LANGOLIERS. There are plenty of other examples. It's a comfortable genre, because it lends itself to fast-pace and broad characterization. It also shows us how many different kinds of people can learn to be heroes.

King also writes lots of stories where the ending leaves us hanging. Many people hated the ending to the DARK TOWER for this reason...I didn't mind it myself because the very elusiveness of a conclusion WAS the point. Then in his recent THE COLORADO KID, the entire little book was about how some things just can't be known. But CELL is a more conventional story, and it cries out to be wrapped up. We want to see the enemy defeated, and we've learned to think of this as Clay getting his son back nice and "normal." If he does, we can by happy, even if the ending is a bit "Hollywood." If he doesn't, then we can be chilled by knowing that this world we've been reading about is far bleaker than we dared dread. But leaving us hanging accomplishes NOTHING! It just made me think King realized that a resolution, no matter which way he went, would leave us thinking it was all just too darn pat and predictable.

In THE MIST, the people trapped in the grocery store finally leave...with the main character headed home to see if his wife survived. We don't know if she did or not. But the story was really about GETTING OUT OF THE STORE. And they do, after much trail. In CELL, the story is about father and son reuniting and being whole again. We don't know if that happens or not. It's frustrating, and in this case, I think it's King's failure of imagination.

But for those who like their horror more straight-up, direct and in your face...CELL is good stuff. King embraces the gore. He embraces a brisk pace. And he sketches sympathetic characters. 95% is a very satisfying read. If you can face that, and you've liked King's starker books (like the early Bachman books, such as THE LONG WALK), you should like this.

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More Cell: A Novel reviews
review by . January 08, 2007
It all starts off with a bang, or should I say pulse, that literally turns artist Clayton Riddell's world into a moaning, groaning, biting world of zombies. Clay had just completed what seemed to be a great business meeting with a company interested in his comics work. He walks outside with celebratory gifts in tow when havoc breaks out by an ice cream truck. Then havoc breaks out in the local park. People begin biting, eating, hacking, slashing, etc. each other. This is just a brief summary of …
review by . April 09, 2006
In a world that is currently under seige by all manner of technology, the cell phone stands out as the one most people cannot do without, and the one most likely to be abused and exacerbate how rude we can all be to one another....in his most recent novel, King demonstrates how he feels about this particular piece of progress. It's a beautiful morning in Boston, until Clayton Riddell, a Maine artist about to make good, witnesses chaotic and inexplicable human behavior that seems to be related to...what …
review by . March 20, 2006
What would happen to society if a mental "reboot" signal was sent through the cell phone system all at once? That's the premise of Stephen King's latest, Cell.    Clay Riddell is celebrating his first major cartoon contract, and is looking forward to getting home to his wife and son. But all that changes in an instant when a strange signal is sent out to all the cell phones on the cellular system. Those who placed a call or were on the phone are turned into mindless deranged …
review by . February 08, 2006
Finally, a new book by Stephen King that doesn't feel like you're holding a concrete block when you're reading it! This new, slimmed down King is a throwback to his earlier, shorter books, and I, for one, appreciate the change. The prose is more sparing, the plot moves along quite quickly, and the tension never ceases. My only quibble with the story is that it seemed to end just a bit prematurely, but I'm sure Mr. King wanted to leave just a bit of doubt about the outcome in his readers' minds. …
review by . February 06, 2006
"Cell" is definitely a novel that hearkens back to Stephen King's origins in the raw, brutal side of the horror genre. It doesn't pull its punches, and as a result it's a fun read.    Make no mistake...I've enjoyed King's recent work quite a bit. "From a Buick 8" and "The Colorado Kid" were both departures for King, and to me were signs of a maturing author coming into his own. Those books had a complexity and an ambiguity that King's never really explored in the past. "Cell" …
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I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … more
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About this book


Witness Stephen King's triumphant, blood-spattered return to the genre that made him famous.Cell, the king of horror's homage to zombie films (the book is dedicated in part to George A. Romero) is his goriest, most horrific novel in years, not to mention the most intensely paced. Casting aside his love of elaborate character and town histories and penchant for delayed gratification, King yanks readers off their feet within the first few pages; dragging them into the fray and offering no chance catch their breath until the very last page.

In Cell King taps into readers fears of technological warfare and terrorism. Mobile phones deliver the apocalypse to millions of unsuspecting humans by wiping their brains of any humanity, leaving only aggressive and destructive impulses behind. Those without cell phones, like illustrator Clayton Riddell and his small band of "normies," must fight for survival, and their journey to find Clayton's estranged wife and young son rockets the book toward resolution.

Fans that have followed King from the beginning will recognize and appreciate Cell as a departure--King's writing has not been so pure of heart and free of hang-ups in years (wrapping up his phenomenal Dark Tower series and receiving a medal from the National Book Foundation doesn't hurt either). "Retirement" clearly suits King, and lucky for us, having nothing left to prove frees him up to write frenzied, juiced-up horror-thrillers like Cell. ...

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ISBN-10: 0743292332
ISBN-13: 978-0739464335
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Scribner

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