Stephen King's CELL

Anyone read/reading this? I usually don’t fork out for exorbitant hardback prices and I’m not really a King devotee (the last book of his I bought was On Writing, which was great), but I do love me some zombies so I’m intrigued to read his take on the genre.

The whole idea of people being turned into zombies by their cell phones strikes me as a bit on-the-nose, but I’m still curious. So, what’s the word on this?

I haven’t paid full price for a Stephen King hardback since…IT, I think. Ever since CostCo/Sam’s Club/Half Price Books stocked new copies of the book, I’ve always managed to find a brand-spanking new copy for under 10.00, hardback.

I read the excerpt in Entertainment Weekly, and it struck me as just some more latter-day King: the hallmarks of his style are there, but they seem strained and unnatural compared to his halcyon days. It did make me curious about the full book, but not hardcover curious.

Same here; I’m airport curious.

We talked about it a bit in this thread: scroll to the bottom of pg 1 and also on pg 2

Summary: it’s okay but not great.

I’d concur with the “Okay” assessment. Here’s the mini-review I wrote on my personal website:

I’ve mentioned that one thing Stephen King does well is build up a slow burn and then have things explode towards the end of a book. In Cell, he does just the inverse. You open up the book and immediately see that King has his arm cocked way back and he’s holding that proverbial pile of you-know-what that he immediately flings into the fan. By the end of page 7 the world is ending in violence and madness as cell phone users are infected with a kind of insanity-provoking thought virus. Unfortunately, the energy doesn’t hold up and book ends abruptly in an unsatisfying sputter.

One of the other things King usually does really well is develop characters that you feel that you know and sometimes care about. Not so here, as all the characters are pretty uninteresting and not very well developed. For example, one reviewer noted that if you replaced half of the “Clay said” with “Tom said” most readers wouldn’t notice the difference. King is also flagrant in his over reliance on a know-it-all 12 year old to narrate key plot points that the boy should have NO way of knowing. The kid sees like one or two things and then immediately infers a host of truths about the world’s conditions just because King apparently can’t think of a better way to communicate them to the reader. It’s quite annoying, made doubly so because of the ineffective techno babble that makes no sense, even in the context of a horror novel.

I won’t say much about the ending for fear of spoiling it for anyone who does read the book, but suffice to say that it’s extremely open ended and doesn’t resolve much. We’re left completely hanging as to the fate of the principle characters or the nature of the Pulse that kicked off the end of the world in the first place. My guess? King just got tired of writing and decided to wrap this sucker up.

On a side note, while reading the book I kept thinking that King was trying to make some points, or at least parallels, about the Iraq war but from a point of view that you might not think of. The heroes are, in effect, insurgents fighting against an occupying force of “phone crazies.” They use guerill tactics and improvised explosive devices like car bombs. The phone crazies, on the other hand, start their occupation of the world with extreme --and overpowering-- violence, but then take on the role of liberators who want to free the “normals” from their perceived insanity by organizing an event where they are brought into a collective (pure democracy?). Only toward the end the phone crazies start to unravel and the situation deteriorates. Ah, maybe I’m really reaching here, but these kinds of parallels just kept coming up.

I paid full price for the last Dark Tower book in hardcover. King will have to come to my house and read his new book to me aloud before I buy it.

Saw it at Costco… twenty bucks. And it’s thinner than the Clearview phone book. What a bargain!

That said, the premise of the book intrigues me, and I’d like to read it. Library, here I come. Someday.

I think Thrrrpptt! is spot-on, especially regarding the kid.

Most horror tales - and many sci-fi ones as well, have a ‘Van Helsing’ whose job is to explain to the others (and us) what is going on.

King has always relied heavily on Vans, going right back to Salem’s Lot and the old English teacher who summons the others to his hospital bedside for a tactical briefing on vampires and how to kill them.

Whereas an older man who’s spent a life in books could plausably know that stuff, however, the kid in Cell is so jarringly unlikely and unbelievable that his Van Helsing moments come across as sheer laziness on King’s part.

I could’ve also done without the floating Phoners. Jesus.

I’m with Thrrrpt!, too. Although I don’t think the 12-year-old know-it-all stuff was that bad. I also think King left the origins of the Pulse open-ended because he was stuck in “ripping off War of the Worlds” mode (dates in the book indicate he started writing it right after the movie premiered) and decided it would be best to leave things unexplained. He does, however, make so many little references to anonymous religious fundies from another part of the world that it’s pretty easy to just assume that Islamists likely did this.

BTW, Gary, the zombie stuff pretty much wraps up in about the first 50 pages. The only serious zombie action takes place during the chaos of the pulse, when everybody with a cellphone goes batshit. After that, the zombies develop goofy abilities and soon can’t be considered zombies anymore. There is no “OMG! They’re going to fucking eat our brains! Run!” stuff.

Basically, Cell starts as a straight rip-off of War of the Worlds, right down to the guy trying to prove he’s a good dad by getting home to his estranged wife and kid, then turns briefly into a zombie flick, then turns into a pile of shit. Save your money.

There was speculation in alternate reality gaming circles that this is an “I Love Bees”-like site that is being used to market Cell.

I haven’t read the book, but I’m curious for those who have read the book, would it connect with the book in any way?

I don’t see a connection. The phones in Cell just made people go crazy (and violent) at first, then made them into members of a massive collective mind. there was no “make yourself irresistable to the opposite sex” hook involved and I don’t recognize any of the names/places/companies from that website. The source of the Pulse was never directly addressed, in fact.

We should also, I suppose, distinguish the Phoners from actual, you know, “zombies.” They’re more like the Infected in 28 Days at first, then become something closer to the controlled people in Heinlein’s Puppet Masters.

Overall, I agree with the others here. CELL is not worth the money - esp in hardback. I recommend Brian Keane’s THE RISING instead.