Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Books: Cell • Stephen King

• King is on the right frequency in Cell.

Genres: Horror, zombie, apocalypse
Published: Jan. 24, 2006
Verdict: &&&1/2

Cell finds Stephen King in familiar territory — as in The Stand, it’s apocalyptic, and, like a bunch of movies of recent years, it involves zombies, but in the context of a cautionary, almost anti-technology tale. If originality has never been King’s forte, good storytelling has, and he writes with a rare late-King period verve in this tale of a world gone mad because of a “pulse” sent out via cell phones, transforming the populace into frothing animals. The story follows a small group of survivors who band together and try to elude the dangerous “phoners.” King offers a likable core cast of characters, and the most compelling thread centers on Clay Riddell and his quest to find his young son. Cell builds to an ambiguous ending that is emotionally effective yet unsatisfying, and it is one of two missed opportunities here. Throughout the novel, King seems to lay the groundwork for a grand revelation of a sinister plot behind the pulse, but it simply never emerges, leaving the reader wondering what it was all for. Nevertheless, Cell is probably the best King novel I’ve read since Insomnia (granted, I’ve skipped many of them after The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon) — not up to his best work, but certainly not phoning it in.

// Factoid // What is this, 1987? In a throwback to his glory days, King publishes a second novel this year, Lisey's Story, on Oct. 24.

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