Cell by Stephen King
April 9, 2007 by Wulf Forrester-Barker
It seems that almost everyone has a mobile (cell) phone. If you could transmit a message that would be picked up by those phones, it would reach a lot of people. If that message could re-program the listener’s brain in a way that would “zombify” them, then the effect on society would be widespread and devastating. Figure in the number of people who would turn on their phone to call the emergency services when they saw the early signs of the disaster and that gives you the apocalyptic premise of Cell by Stephen King
King writes with typical page-turning skill. The hero, Clay Riddell, is a graphic novel artist who is celebrating a career breakthrough when the madness starts. Clay does not have a phone but, as realising the common factor in what he sees around him, he knows he has to get back home to his young son before the child makes a call. Pages turn easily as Clay witnesses the first few hours of cell-insanity, gathers companions and sets off on the journey home.
The plot continues through twists and turns. For fear of spoiling the surprises, I cannot say much more than that it continued to be a gripping read. Unfortunately, I found the ending disappointing. Like a previous horror novel I reviewed (Candlenight by Phil Rickman), it seems to stop before coming to a proper conclusion. King almost gets there but, for my tastes, still seemed to fall at least a paragraph and perhaps a chapter or more short of an end.
I felt let down, which was all the more galling because the last few pages were given over to an extract from King’s next book rather than finishing the one at hand. I had been willing to accept the premise of the scenario and let the storytelling carry me along but it felt like the train terminated before reaching the destination platform. If you are willing to live with that, you will probably think I have scored the novel too low; if you want a strong ending (or a bit more science with your fiction) there are better things to read. Perhaps I should give Mr King a call…
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