on 13 February 2007
After the conclusion to the Dark Tower series, Stephen King said he might think about retiring. He lasted all of about eighteen months before The Colorado Kid appeared, swiftly followed by Cell. And thank God he couldn't keep away.
Cell starts fast and then keeps coming, twisting from bizarre to even more bizarre and finally bordering on the ridiculous at its climax. As with all of King's work, it's beautifully crafted, with believable characters (even the cameos are sculpted in great detail), good locations and a thumping plotline that holds your attention.
Cell has a lot of the qualities that made King's earlier work stand out; unpredictability, suspense and graphic violence all combine with the human elements and the interactions between the characters to create something which is simply a pleasure to read.
The premise (cell phone pulse drives all cell phone users into murderous frenzy - only old people, young children and the technically inept survive - cue struggle for survival a la 28 Days Later) seems a bit silly at first, but it's executed so well that by the time you're 20 pages in, you don't care.
If you're new to King, this would be a pretty good place to start, as it has a trademark blend of tongue in cheek humour and horror, but without stretching to thousands of pages like some of the earlier epics (though if you like this, It, The Shining and, in particular, The Stand are all must-reads).
A stand out point in this book is that King seems to have found a way to get around his notable difficulty in reaching an ending. The technique employed will either leave you desperate for more (as it did me) or perhaps feeling a little cheated. I liked it, others clearly haven't. Why don't you read the book and decide for yourselves?
Hat's off, Mr King, you've done it again. Hopefully, the recently released Lisey's Story offers yet more of the same!
on 3 February 2006
Stephen King is back and I, for one, am glad King is still writing--even if I was nervous about picking up my cell phone for a couple of days!
The editorial reviews tell you everything you need to know about the plot, so I won't repeat it here.
When I read this book I saw comparisons to two novels; one of those books is Dean Koontz's "The Taking." Although the plots are superficially the same--a trip through a nightmare world--the books are very different in style, in tone, and in the "whys" underlying them. [Depending on your point of view, by the way, you'll find King's explanation either inspired or exasperating.]
The comparisons to the zombies movies are fairly obvious, but the descriptions of human life after the Pulse, for Clay and his band of struggling "normies," and of non-human life.
And that plausibility carries through to the ending. It's difficult to write an ending for a book like this one, but King managed to write one that makes sense without false optimism (as the book's prologue notes, most of America is dead by the time the book ends) *or* unnecessary pathos.
All in all, King fans will be thrilled by this book; and if this is your first King Novel it will leave you drooling for King's next novel.
on 11 August 2007
I bought Cell simply because it was written by Stephen King and without prior knowledge of the jist of the plot. The description and reviews on the back don't give very much away. The first half of the book is classic zombie-apocalyptica, and this came as a very welcome surprise. A pulse which is sent via every mobile/cell phone in the world scrambles the phones' owners' brains and reduces them to psychotic killers.
Of course, simply re-treading the walking dead path wouldn't do. The phone plot-device grants scope to take the zombie theme in a new direction. It's only a few days after the pulse that the phone zombies begin to develop a hive mind and other, more fantastic capabilities.
Things begin to unravel around halfway point. I've heard from quite a few of Stephen King's readers that any of his books that you care to mention "start out great but get a bit silly towards the end," and I tend to agree. There are shades of his less credible evil-circus metaphysics as the phoners continue to develop. However, the book's ending tied things up quite nicely for me, whilst leaving us on an interesting cliffhanger involving Cell's leading protagonist and his son.
I've been a fan of Stephen King's books since my early teens. Having recently been sorely disappointed by the over-written self-indulgence of the Dark Tower series, I was hoping for a return to a more focused, effective form of writing for Cell. By and large, I think I got it. Although some of the characters' one-liners are a little too glib and wordy given the scenario, the dialogue and narrative is much tighter and restrained.
However, this isn't King's best book; if you want his finest post-apoc work, then look no further than The Stand. In many ways, Cell smacked of The Stand Lite. If it's zombies you want, then I can also recommend Max Brooks' recent World War Z.
Cell is a perfectly okay addition to Stephen King's repertoire, but I am deliberately damning it with faint praise.
on 21 March 2006
As a die-hard Stephen King fan, I was mightily disappointed with this latest offering from the master of horror. It would be churlish not to admit that it's a page-turner - once hooked I read it through in a matter of a few days. However, gone is the trademark characterisation that made Arnie Cunnigham of 'Christine' or Jack Torrance of 'The Shining' not just one-dimensional bad guys. Gone is the small town creepiness and petty jealousies and adulteries, minor sins letting in the real evil in the plot dynamics of Salem's Lot or Needful Things. Gone too, under insufferable conditions, the essential heroics of Rose Madder or Dolores Claiborne.
This is Stephen King stripped bare of all that makes Stephen King more than just a pulp writer of horror. Death, mutilation and gore were always staples of King's writing - but always BECAUSE of something - malevolent supernatural forces born out of past evils or present corruption, sociopaths, wife-beaters, aliens. There is no depth to 'Cell' to even begin to explain from where the evil within has originated - just plenty of carnage to indicate its consequences. The worst thing is that whilst the 'Will-be-stiffs' pile up on the pages - I don't care. Never has King shown such little regard for his characters. Maybe his novels have always been thick as doorstops but I've always felt that you got your money's worth in living alongside ordinary human beings faced with impossible situations and dealing with incomprehensible evil in the best way they can. In all but one story that I can remember (Pet Cemetary - though others may remember more) the evil is overcome and life goes on through the heroic actions of sharply drawn characters that we care about. This novel ultimately disappoints because we don't know the characters at all and their reactions to the situation unfolding around them beggar belief.
It's a definite post 9/11 book - references a-plenty to global terrorism - but it's unworthy of King to jump on the bandwagon of American paranoia.The nihilism isn't in the effects of the 'Pulse' - the rage, the brutality, the despair - it's in the reactions of those not affected who immediately set themselves apart, as higher lifeforms, not only to defend themselves (which is understandable) but to immediately wage war on something that they haven't yet completely begun to understand. I don't know if King meant anything analogous by his 'flocks' and 'brainwashings' and 'unreasoning rage' but if he did he certainly doesn't present those who are supposedly rational in any better a light - in fact worse because they are supposedly rational. Maybe that was his intent. Sadly I think it all falls well short of the mark on any level and even the ending is the same old thing. Ultimately I can't help thinking this was all done so much better in '28 Days' to which it bears more than a passing resemblance!
on 23 March 2014
'Cell' is the story of a world full of technology and what happens when technology turns on the world. 'Cell' begins with 'The Pulse', anyone talking on a cell/mobile phone or near one goes into a blind, violent rage, people fighting and killing each other.
Clay Riddell witnesses this on a day that his life is about to change for the better, so his story begins as he tries to return home whilst hiding from the 'phone crazies' who attack the non phone crazies on sight, the only break there seems to be is that phone crazies 'rest' at night and move during the day as a hive mind towards their plan lead by a phone crazy who wears a red Harvard hooded jumper named 'The Raggedy Man', who begins to haunt Clay and other survivors dreams.
What does the future hold for them?
I read 'Cell' when it was released in 2006 and at the time I did enjoy it but did not like the ending because I thought it was too convenient that Clay would find his son so easily but overall a good read.
This time around I enjoyed 'Cell' a lot more, the characters are well written, Clay, one of the main characters is brilliant as the dad trying to return to his home in Kent Pond for his son, Johnny, you understand his feelings as he desperately tries to get home.
Tom McCourt is a great character too, I found him so likeable and he was a calming effect on the group as they make their way to their destination. As always Stephen King delivers, I enjoyed how much goes into his characters, you get to know them, which is great to read. I do not know what changed from reading it before and now but I enjoyed more the second time.
I've read all of King's novels and in places Cell seems a poor imitation. The opening scenes of carnage, which fail to engage the reader because there's been no build up to them beforehand, are written in such an odd, comic book style I was really turned off and almost put the book down without finishing it. Eventually King gets into his stride and ramps up the tension and, properly placed, violence to the point the novel explodes into a huge road trip as 'normies' flee North in an attempt to escape a growing army of 'phone crazies' whose telepathic behaviour is turning them into a more and more frightening enemy. There's King's trademark little gang of oddball characters at the heart of everything. They're the readers eyes and ears, the platform in and out of the story, and it's something King's usually so good at doing but; it's not so smoothly done in Cell. I had doubts about the 'good guys' because they remain quite shadowy and have a tendency to act in ways nobody would in their situation. I's a hard novel to stay with. Anyway; the end of mankind is approaching, or so it would seem, and the crazies are beginning to act in ways not quite so crazy anymore. They're telepathic, they're learning to use tools, they're plotting and planning and seem to be losing their taste for extreme violence. What's going on?. I'm not telling you!. I'm 50/50 about Cell. At times it's poor but in parts it hits a full 5*. I'm leaving 3* simply because I wouldn't want to read it again and won't remember too much about it in the future. Not your best SK though I doubt that'll worry you too much!!!.
on 18 May 2006
Mixed feelings on this one people. The groundworks here follow two typically successful formulas.
1) This is, as many other reviews here will tell you, almost a complete rehash of The Stand, arguably Kings best work yet. This puts King in an immediatley unenviable position. The writer excelled himself with the Stand so surly something so similar is only going to compare unfavouably. It does. The opening establishment of a "2nd Dark Age" is done far to quickly, leaving the only character we really know as Clay. I feel that at a story like this should be epic- but at only 400 pages I guess it was obvious that was never going to happen, the Stand introduced a flock of great characters then thrust them into apocolypse, what this does is take one character and thrust him in and out of catastrophe in as few chapters as possible- not a terrible idea, but not the best either.
2) The other typically successful formula used here is the Zombie-story. This isn't so much Night of the Living Dead, but it certainly reminds of that kind of thing, which for King seems pretty preliminary, but then I guess after nearly 40 years of writing your resevoir of ideas is going to start running low.
Another con here is the end, it tells you nothing, you don't find out how the characters turned out, how it all truly began, or why, you just accept what little you are told and live with it.
Although this is not Kimg at his best you still can't help be absorbed by the King of Horrors ability to create truly frightening and gruesome moments and love them. The Raggedy Man whom you'll meet about half way through is one of Kings many great villains. Which is why this is still a definite must have for an fans of King and horror alike.
on 8 March 2006
When I read the newspaper reviews of this book I was excited. They seemed to suggest that after a bit of break, Stephen King was back to the form that produced The Shining, The Stand and It. I rushed out to buy it as soon as I could, and sat down to read it with eager anticipation.
That, unfortunately, was where the experience peaked. Very quickly I found myself reading (as another reviewer has already suggested) what seemed to be a pastiche of recent horror movies, notably 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead.
Worse, Stephen King's trademark characterisation was completely absent. During his "golden age" I felt that I knew personally every significant player in his stories, and it was that level of intimacy which made me care about their fates. By the end of Cell, I really didn't care how things turned out. And it's not just that I am an older reader now - I often go back to those original stories and they are just as good now as they were then.
This book is competently written, and if I had bought it at an airport bookshop under an unknown author's name I wouldn't have asked for my money back, but I wouldn't have rushed out to buy another by the same hand. A bit like the way I felt about Dean Koontz, though not quite to the same extent.
The problem is that King's earlier works have set the bar very high, and a standard acceptable of other authors is not applicable to him.
It's not quite as derivative as James Herbert's "48", nor quite as two-dimensional as anything by Koontz or Dan Brown, but it's just not a Stephen King. I don't resent the money I spend on it, but it's very close.
on 23 February 2015
I love Stephen Kings books - and this is one of my favourites, along with The Stand and It. I love that King draws you right into the story from the beginning - hes so good at getting you to love his characters - whether they are children or adults, he amazes me that he has the ability to think like a child for the children in the story and like an old timer for the older people.... and the way he takes something ordinary to make it the centre of a sinister plot - in this case, mobile phones, well - thats just classic Stephen King! Another smash hit!
on 25 February 2006
King goes back to his roots. All those bemoaning that King doesn't do horror anymore may now rejoice because this novel is horror pure and simple. When a 'pulse' is sent out via cellular phones it turns everybody who has one into mindless, violent zombies (are there any other kind?). A small band of 'normals' (those unaffected) are then charged with the task of finding somewhere safe to live whilst rescuing the protagonist's son. And ultimately that is what the book is all about, one man's attempts to rescue his son. King has ventured here before, and the child in peril plot line works well here as well as it worked in his other novels such as "Cujo" and "Pet Semetary". The novel flys along with barely a limp and the characters are all well drawn out, as is King's speciality. My only gripe with the novel, if you can call it a gripe, is that the book seems short, but I guess thats just me wishing for more from King when he is in such good form. The ending, which I obviously will not give away, is perfect despite some rumblings on fans sites. I bought this from the States as it was out a good month before the UK release date, but now the time is upon us and I urge everyone to pick it up. You will not be disappointed.