Book Review: Stephen King - Cell
Being a fan of horror fiction and a newly converted reader of Stephen King in particular, I was excited when a copy of his recent work ''Cell'' was bought for me a few weeks ago. The summary of the book sounded chilling and horrifying; Indeed, this had all the makings of being a potential King classic. However, despite reading the book and being thoroughly entertained throughout, I couldn't help but feel let down a little at the end of it, though. But more of the negative stuff later.
Firstly, on to the plot. This concerns a fictional event known as ''the pulse'', an event where an electronic (or radio wave - don't ask me exactly how cell / mobile phones work!) virus is sent by persons unknown to each and every cell phone around the globe. Upon answering their phones and picking up this subliminal message, people are sent into an instant, crazed and violent frenzy of terrifying proportions, and attack anyone in sight. Cue mass bloodshed, instant traffic chaos (as motorists either receive the pulse, or are attacked by ''phone crazies'') and even plane crashes. All of this makes the first few chapters of ''Cell'' particularly gripping and good fun to read, if a little gratuitous in terms of instant action and gore. The story then settles down to follow the fortunes of a small group of survivors; Two older men (main character Clay, and his newly acquired friend Tom) and Teenager Alice Maxwell. As Tom lives alone and Alice's family have all died, the primary aim of the group is to reach Clay's ex-wife Sharon and son Johnny before it's too late. On the way, they bump into several more key characters, including a young boy named Jordan, and his headteacher at their local school, as well as a group of three other wanderers later in the proceedings. They also have to contend with some rather nasty enemies, as well as the so called phone crazies.
Gripping, apart from the end...
What makes the story all the more gripping is that King introduces some brilliant ideas into the plot. For example, the phone crazies evolving over a period of time from being totally crazed, to gradually working together with terrifying organisation and having newly evolved powers, such as telepathy. As the crazies become more and more intelligent, the more Clay and his gang realise that they have to take action to stop them, which in turn leads to big trouble and the group becoming phone crazy public enemy number one. Though the story has a few too many lulls in places, generally the ever evolving plot makes for some gripping reading as the book seems to build towards it's big climax. Unfortunately, I found the climax of the story rather disappointing. I won't give it away, but I found it to be a mixture of the rather bizarre but at the same time, a little predictable; something of nothing.
As far as the characters go, King has as usual done a pretty good job. The main three (Clay, Tom and Alice) are intriguing and somewhat endearing mix, from the artistic and intelligent Clay, lonely but good natured Tom, to the headstrong but also vulnerable Alice. My only concern was the over-use of their thoughts creeping into the narrative. King is a little over-keen in constantly letting you know what they're thinking, which becomes a little tiresome after a while.
In terms of writing style, this generally isn't vintage Stephen King. Only in places does the dark atmosphere and tenseness of it shine through. There is also an over-use of gore; some of which is necessary and effective, but at times a little too constant. After a few chapters, I'd found that I'd almost become numb to it, and the storytelling was far more effective on the occasions when King used mental rather than physical horror to shock.
My Final Verdict
Overall, this isn't a bad book, and I would recommend it to Stephen King fans and to the majority of readers of horror fiction alike. It's an interesting and at times gripping idea, and a pretty entertaining read. Stephen King's attempt to make us think twice about the merits of relying on our mobiles, and on the order of civilisation doesn't completely hit the spot, but is an interesting read nonetheless.
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