Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Written Word Wed. - I Always Suspected the "Can You Hear Me Now?" Guy Was Up to No Good . . .

I've been in a bit of a reading mood recently, which is always nice; as usual, the reading has also prompted a few story ideas as well, although I've yet to fall into full-on obsessive writing mode . . . yet.

If all goes as planned, next week I should have a review of the full Liveship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb, unless I get too distracted by the final book of Crown of Stars (currently winging its way to me courtesy of or finally hit that reading wall which pops up way too frequently nowadays. We shall have to wait and see.

Cell by Stephen King<

King's latest venture into horror centers on Clayton Riddell, an aspiring comic book writer/artist, whose business trip to Boston had proven to be very successful, up until the Pulse hit, turning cell phone users everywhere into mindless, bloodthirsty creatures. Escaping from the city with the help of fellow "normies" Tom and Alice, Clayton sets out north with his new friends, determined to make it back to his home and reunite with his ex-wife and teenage son. While dangerous, the predictable behavior of the "phone-crazies" makes the trip manageable . . . until, that is, their behavior begins to change. It's not long before Clayton and his friends discover that the cell phone users, who had become little more than beasts, were now becoming something more than human.

Stephen King has been referred to as a master of the "storyteller" form of horror, starting with the real world and slowly building tension before unleashing the full force of his ideas. While this might generally be true, Cell starts out more like a "visceral" horror story, with the Pulse spreading murder and mayhem within the first ten pages of the book. But while the gore starts early, the main thrust of the book is chronicling how Clayton and his friends deal with changes to their world; although there is plenty to satisfy gore-hounds early on in the book, once the company has escaped the confines of Boston, the violence is fairly well spread out.

Cell contains echoes of several other works: for King fans this post-apocalyptic landscape can't help but conjure up images of The Stand; the initial behavior of the phone-crazies is reminiscent of Romero's Dead movies; the journey of Clayton and his fellow refugees through the post-Pulse devestation, trading tales of what they've seen as Clayton travel inexorably home put me in mind of War of the Worlds. And yet, through all of this, Cell remains its own unique creature.

When I first heard the concept of Cell, I wasn't all that enthused; I had faith that King would put forth an entertaining story, but I thought the plot sounded like a warmed-over zed-word novel. Once again, the danger of assuming rears its head; King takes the novel down paths I never would have guessed from the book-jacket blurb. Now, if you're someone who has to have every single question answered when you read a book, you might be a little disapointed here; the exact origins of the Pulse are left up to conjecture. Personally, that didn't bother me, but I know there are those out there who like to have everything spelled out. Cell may not rank up there with King's best works, but all in all, I found it to be a fun ride.


Zinger said...

For anyone who wants the Cliffs Notes version: