Sunday, March 25, 2007

Book Review: "Cell"

Cell, written by horror master Stephen King, tells the story about the end of the word via cell phones. A message, unknown in intent and origin, is broadcast one day turning listeners into telepathic zombies. They aren't dead, but they aren't quite human anymore. One man, a father, embarks on a journey from Boston to Maine to see his son and wife. Along the way, he meets up with other people, runs afoul of "phoners" and seeks a happy ending.

King has done the Apocalypse saga before, in The Stand. Unfortunately for Cell, The Stand does it better. King's description of the chaos caused by "The Pulse" pales in comparison to his work in The Stand. It seems like King couldn't decide between describing the anarchy or moving the plot forward and the first half of the book suffers for it. Also, the main character, Clay, worries about his wife and son in every other chapter in the first half of the book. The repetitive nature grates as the reader gets the point. Also, the dynamic King assigns to the relationships Clay has with his wife (they recently separated) and his dear son makes the ending apparent after reading the first description.

However, the book does pick up in the second half, with a Randall Flag character emerging and more of the "phoners" background is explored. The plot feels like it is actually heading somewhere, and some of the cliches that King uses feel excusable. Clay and his band of survivors committ a "sin" and become outcasts in a rather predictable circumstance, but after that, the story heads into high gear. The story never becomes a bone-chiller, a story you are afraid to read at night, but it does fall in line with recent King works that are more about the characters than the horror.

One problem I had with Cell and I had the same problem with Brad Meltzer's The Book of Fate is the use of short chapters. King divides his novel into main sections with "sub" chapters. However, these sub chapters are only a few pages long and can start in the middle of the page. It causes a little chopiness when trying to read and doesn't allow for a good jumping off place if you want to stop reading for a while.

This isn't a masterpiece and as said, Cell is a cheaper version of The Stand. However, it was far from horrible and is a good light read.

2 1/2 Ringtones out of 5.

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