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Cell: A Novel

A book by Stephen King

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Back to the roots of terror

  • Feb 6, 2006
Rating:
+3
"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" isn't really like that.

The story starts out quickly, giving the Constant Reader only a few pages to get their footing before things start to go wrong. And once that happens, they go wrong in a big way. We meet Clay Riddell walking down the street on a sunny day, having just closed the biggest deal of his life and feeling pretty good about things. The good feeling doesn't last long as the world seems to tilt all around him, strangers turn unspeakably violent and people begin to die in terrible ways while others are changing, becoming less human than they were. As the story progresses we see that this change has occurred all over...maybe across the country, maybe across the world. All, apparently, because of an unknown signal received through cell phones.

In some ways, this is familiar territory for a King novel. It reminded me strongly of his short novel "The Mist," or the very long novel "The Stand," with the storyline centered around a group of people representing the last scraps of humanity trying their best to stand against the end of the world as they know it. And even in the writing itself, King's words have the sharpness and clarity of many of his earlier works like "The Dead Zone" or "Firestarter" -- certainly he never flinches from the nasty details of what has happened, making "Cell" just as horribly delightful as any of King's books from 25 or 30 years ago.

All of which is not to say that this is a carbon-copy of King's previous books -- not at all. There is complexity here as well, and a willingness to let the reader make their own call as to how they feel about the plot elements as they occur. While the story is similar to "The Stand" in ways, the themes are not; "Cell" doesn't moralize so clearly and refuses to ever draw obvious lines between good and evil. Not all of the protagonists' actions are necessarily good, and not all of the other side's actions are necessarily bad. King is showing trust here; trust that his readers are smart enough to be able to make their own calls and decide how they feel about it.

"Cell" isn't a perfect book. The characters are a little on the thin side, mostly due to the fact that the story quickly takes the center stage and the characters don't really get much time to establish themselves very well. Some elements of the story seem a little too familiar in ways, and I feel that the book might have benefitted from less reliance on old themes.

Still, "Cell" is a great ride. It may not be for everyone, but anyone who liked King's work back in the day, when he wrote from the gut and scared people around the world, should find something to like here. This is pure, classic King, and the Constant Reader should love it.

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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 20, 2006
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 …
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. …
About the reviewer
Rich Stoehr ()
Ranked #80
I often hide behind a pithy Douglas Adams quote or maybe some song lyrics. I guess it makes sense that much of what I share is reviews of things I like (or don't).      People … more
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Wiki

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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Details

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

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