Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Cell Review

I finished Cellat the end of last week, but I have been too busy to post a review. Until now! I think how you feel about this book is going to be a question of expectations. Are you hoping for something as classic as Salem's Lot, It, or The Shining? If so, you will be disappointed. I think that Stephen King is just not ever going to write on that level again. But if you approach Cell as a horror book you're just hoping is good, it's a hell of a read.

The story is simple: a pulse transmits over cell phones, turning everyone who hears it into the equivalent of a living zombie. You can imagine the possibilities. The book starts fast, with only a page or two of build up, and right there you can see the difference from Mr. King's saggy middle period, where pages would be spent detailing such irrelevancies as the history of a toaster or the variations on a dog's middle name. So that's good.

The apocalyptic scenes recall The Stand's epic beginning, but fortunately the rest of the book does not mirror The Stand's degradation into crap. Part of that is the dramatic difference in length between the two books. This one did get a little slow once the initial tidal wave of violence began to recede, but just when things are getting a little repetitive, Mr. King spiced things up with some pretty dramatic changes.

If the characters are a strength of this book, and they are, the plausibility of the premise is a major weakness. I could imagine reviewers carping about the lack of an explanation of exactly what happened, but my reaction is "who cares?" Mr. King dealt with the question in sufficient detail to allow the reader, or this reader at least, to suspend disbelief.

Frankly, I think he didn't go into any further detail because there really wasn't a good explanation for what needed to happen to make the story go. And, I really don't care. It's hard enough to find horror books with good characters, a fresh feeling story, and some nice scary parts without carping about "realism." I mean, if you're willing to read a story about ghosts or vampires, is a deranging cell phone signal really that much of a stretch? And if you don't like these kinds of stories, you shouldn't be reviewing horror anyway.

I strongly recommend Cell for fans of the genre and/or Stephen King.


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