There’s a reason cell rhymes with hell.
On October 1, God is in His heaven, the stock market stands at 10,140, most of the planes are on time, and Clayton Riddell, an artist from Maine, is almost bouncing up Boylston Street in Boston. He’s just landed a comic book deal that might finally enable him to support his family by making art instead of teaching it. He’s already picked up a small (but expensive!) gift for his long-suffering wife, and he knows just what he’ll get for his boy Johnny. Why not a little treat for himself? Clay’s feeling good about the future.
That changes in a hurry. The cause of the devastation is a phenomenon that will come to be known as The Pulse, and the delivery method is a cell phone. Everyone’s cell phone. Clay and the few desperate survivors who join him suddenly find themselves in the pitch-black night of civilization’s darkest age, surrounded by chaos, carnage, and a human horde that has been reduced to its basest nature...and then begins to evolve.
There’s really no escaping this nightmare. But for Clay, an arrow points home to Maine, and as he and his fellow refugees make their harrowing journey north they begin to see crude signs confirming their direction. A promise, perhaps. Or a threat...
There are 193 million cell phones in the United States alone. Who doesn’t have one? Stephen King’s utterly gripping, gory, and fascinating novel doesn’t just ask the question “Can you hear me now?” It answers it with a vengeance.
Topics: United States of America, Maine, Boston, New England, Suspenseful, Adventurous, Psychological, Angsty, Violent, Zombies, Apocalypse, Text and Instant Messages, Post-Apocalyptic, Dystopia, Survival, Murder, Family, Death, Crime, Road Trip, and American Author
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For starters, the first thing I noticed was the much quicker beginning to the action. By page eight, in my copy, things were going to hell. No big build-up introducing us to a ton of characters. I actually quite liked it. It sucked me in pretty fast, and it didn't cost much in terms of characterisation -- I still got to know and love the characters.
It's also not as... explained as The Stand. In that, we knew what was happening. With Cell, we're in the dark and we have no idea what is really going on, or why. We have the same journey of discovery as the characters. The pseudo-science is also on much shakier grounds. I was able to suspend my disbelief enough to read it, but your mileage may well vary. Particularly as, be warned, this book does not come with explanations as to why, which definitely did irritate me.
This reminds me of From A Buick 8, which is the same deal, but even that has more closure than Cell. I quite liked the uncertainty, and the last line, but I wasn't ready to leave the story, really.
Not my favourite King novel, but definitely okay for a quick, immersive read, I think.more
I like the overall apocalypse aspect here. The first three chapters of Clay and Tom trying to make it out of Boston are fantastic. There’s so much massive confusion about how things happened, why they’re happening, and how does it affect the survivors. I loved the early details of how the initial Pulse works, even the note that just overhearing it makes someone go insane. While I don’t like all of Stephen King’s works, I do have to give him credit—aside from two nonfiction books, there’s at least one part in each of his books that terrifies me. There’s also the fact that we don’t really know what caused the Pulse in the first place; it’s speculated that it’s another terrorist attack, but we never really get a definitive answer. (Also, reading the book now makes the premise a lot scarier, IMO—I know only one person who doesn’t have a cell phone. Add in the fact that I use my iPhone a lot….brr.) I also liked that we saw the aftermath of the Pulse, how information is passed from group to group. I really liked that there’s no mass exodus to the ‘safe zone’ and that our main characters are in the minority of survivors, before they get the bright idea to “Hey, let’s torch the zombies.”
I don’t know how I feel about these characters. I don’t hate them, but I didn’t feel like I had connected with them well enough throughout the events. The only character that I really liked throughout the whole book was Tom—he realizes how messed-up the situation is and that the group of survivors needs to take action, but he’s still the voice of reason and tries to see all sides. (Also, I liked the fact that he’s gay and survives, even if it feels like it’s randomly dropped information.) I also did like Alice, mainly for the number of survivor action girl moments she got. However—and this is something I’ve been noticing in my reread of The Stand—she doesn’t feel like a genuine teen girl. I think Stephen King can’t get into the mindset of young women, and while Alice does have one or two great scenes, she reads as too old or too innocent. And the fact that she’s the only one of the survivors to go into hysterics. Jordan was okay—again, he felt too young at times for being twelve and then had moments of being overly mature.
Our hero Clay Riddell is the atypical Stephen King main character—creative person from Maine (he’s a comic book artist writing a series called Dark Wanderer Or “I see what you did there”). I was with Clay’s mission of finding his son and his estranged wife for most of the book—I really liked that Clay was worried about his wife for the first half of the book. I felt like that they actually had a good relationship, if strained at the moment, and even though Clay was more worried about his son, he was still grieving that his wife got hit with the Pulse. What made me lose most of my sympathy is when the survivors finally reach the conversion centers, and Clay sees his zombified wife for the first time…and he justifies shoving her away and blowing her up because “Well, it’s not really her in there anymore, she’s too far gone so she’s technically dead.” Mind you, the end of the book is Clay trying to save his zombified son, really? Really. I know that the later converted zombies aren’t as far gone as the initial wave, but that is just callous thinking. I was kind of hoping for Clay to fail after that.
There are two other issues I have with the book overall. The first being that Stephen King has the politically subtleness of a boulder, and there’s a good three pages of Massachusetts politics and gun laws. I’m not criticizing him for his views, but I don’t need three pages of explaining gun laws and poking at right-wing extremists just to set up the group finding guns. It only really comes up in the first half of the book, so it’s not a huge issue, but still a little irritating.
The second is the problem I had initially with the book. Cell phone rage zombies? Awesome. Hive mind cell phone rage zombies? GAAAAH still awesome but GAAAAAAH. The zombies have telekinesis and can levitate…what? The idea of the hive mind is terrifying and I can buy the telepathy, but once you get into flying zombies, it’s honestly a little silly when you think about it. Sounds terrifying in practice, but really—flying zombies. (And the speaking Latin is a “wut” moment too.)
I still consider this on the lower end of my Stephen King rankings, but I don’t have the knee-jerk reaction of “omg it sucks” as much anymore. There are some good parts—I still love that first half to death—but ultimately, my lack of connection to the characters is what kills it for me.