Synopsis: One October afternoon a pulse is sent out through everyone’s cellphones which makes them turn violent and mindless. Clay, a graphic artist, leads a small group of survivors trying to make their way from Boston to Maine. On their way they run into a flock of the “phone-crazies” sleeping in a field and decide to blow them up. This proves to be a bad idea and they soon realize the full power of the not-so-crazy “phone-crazies.” The small group of survivors is prodded along both physically and mentally to a town where they believe they will be murdered by the “phone-crazies.” The mental power the flock holds over the band of survivors makes it impossible to fight their prodding. Clay hopes that he will find his son when they arrive and that they can find a way to escape.
My Opinion: I heard that Stephen King had written a zombie novel so I figured it would be worth a shot. I’m not a huge fan of his, but I live in Maine so I feel somewhat obligated to read his stuff, especially when he is tapping into a genre that I really enjoy, like zombies. It took me awhile to get into the book. I actually picked it up three separate times before it finally stuck, but once it did, it was interesting enough for me to stick with it.
At first I thought Cell was going to be a pretty straightforward zombie story but after about 150 pages things really started to get weird and by the time I was about 2/3 into it, I knew I was reading a Stephen King novel. There was levitation and dreams and telepathy and intuition and all that stuff that his books are normally full of. One of those things, which annoys me whenever I see it in his books, is the intuition of the main characters explaining how things “work.” What I mean by this is that a character gets a hunch about something, like in this book the hunch is about how the “phone-crazies” are rebooting at night like computers, and then building the whole explanation of what happened off of that surprisingly accurate guess. It seems unrealistic and kind of lazy, like he can’t think of a better way for them to figure things out, so they just end up making perfectly accurate guesses.
Aside from that annoyance, which is pretty common among the stuff I have read by Stephen King, I would say that this book had some pretty cool stuff in it. I am always interested to see how someone can take a very popular subject and put their own spin on it. King certainly did that. The idea of the cellphone pulse was pretty cool, especially now when everyone has a cellphone. I also liked the idea of the flock mentality. I read something similar in the Monster series by David Wellington, but that had more to do with magic and mummies and stuff. In Cell the pulse and the group mind all seemed to be the result of some kind of terrorism. I thought that was also an interesting angle. I liked that he tied the outbreak to two things that are in the spotlight right now: cellphones and terrorism.
While I appreciate the angle that King took with Cell I would say that he went so far as to make you ask if you were reading a “zombie” novel at all. The “phone-crazies” shared many traits with the typical undead: lack of motor skills, lack of independent thought, lack of pain sensation, a propensity toward violence … but they were still alive, they ate, they could think as a group, they could levitate, and they seemed to have higher objectives than simple violence. So Cell borders on being a zombie novel, but for a real undead purist this is NOT a traditional zombie novel, and these “zombies” will break most of your “rules.”
FYI: One of the characters, Ray, was based on a charity auction winner who’s sister paid $25K to have him appear in the book.