Cell by Stephen King

Cell

Witness Stephen King's triumphant, blood-spattered return to the genre that made him famous. Cell, the king of horror's homage to zombie films (the book is dedicated in part to George A. Romero) is his goriest, most horrific novel in years, not to mention the most intensely paced. Casting aside his love of elaborate character and town histories and penchant for delayed gra...

Title:Cell
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:1416524517
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Mass Market Paperback
Number of Pages:449 pages

Cell Reviews

  • Leah Williams
    Jul 01, 2007

    Literary critics can moan all they want about Stephen King's "penny dreadful" oeuvre, but his mastery at the craft of storytelling is indisputable. King writes his novels like a seduction, the story unfolding delicately and deliberately. As any Stephen King fan knows, his coy expository chapters often take up the first hundred pages or more. In Cell, however, the reader is brutally dragged into the main action--unspeakable, senseless violence--within the first seven pages. Cell is by far King's

    Literary critics can moan all they want about Stephen King's "penny dreadful" oeuvre, but his mastery at the craft of storytelling is indisputable. King writes his novels like a seduction, the story unfolding delicately and deliberately. As any Stephen King fan knows, his coy expository chapters often take up the first hundred pages or more. In Cell, however, the reader is brutally dragged into the main action--unspeakable, senseless violence--within the first seven pages. Cell is by far King's most brutal, transgressive work to date.

    Many have compared Cell to his earlier epic, The Stand. On the surface, the novels are quite similar: an apocolyptic event threatens the very existence of the human race as a band of survivors struggle to come to terms with the carnage and avert further catastrophe. Cell, however, is the far more mature novel of the pair. The Stand was, in many ways, a novel by an idealistic youth, whereas Cell is filled with the trenchant and world-weary observations of an adult. The subtext is laden with so much chillingly apt futurist rhetoric that it is as though the author had Marshall McLuhan whispering plot devices and metaphors into his ear as he labored over his typewriter. King manages to explore several of the major sociocultural conflicts of our time, most persuasively the end of the era of individualism and the rise of collectivism, here symptomatic of heavy reliance on technology. Whereas many dystopian novels are almost comically blunt when expounding upon the dangers of collectivism, King's horrific plot and action give his metaphors a sort of subtlety that renders his subtext much more graceful and easier to stomach than the work of Ayn Rand.

    As the epigraphs indicate, it is also a meditation on the intrinsic violence of the human race. King clearly feels as though the world is out of control and wants to find out why. His preferred genre, horror, is an excellent one with which to consider the depravaties of modern life. The Stand was a novel that, if not upbeat, was at least optimistic--a reflection of the times in which it was written. There was also violence, but it had its own biblical logic, if violence can ever be called logical. In Cell, the violence is senseless, oppressive, and omnipresent. There seems to be little promise for a better world... at least not one inhabited by human beings.

    Many reviewers took issue with the unresolved ending. Considering the subtext of the novel, however, the reader will find that the ending's abruptness actually informs the sense that Cell, besides being an excellent horror yarn, is a meticulously painted portrait of the horrors of global culture. The many crises of our time are still developing and mutating. The end is not yet, it seems, in sight.

  • Chris
    Jan 02, 2008

    I don’t know where to start. I don’t know what to say. I own about 30 Stephen King books, I believe I have read them all. Strange enough, it seems like just as I started getting into the King of Horror, his talent began to dwindle. I think it was when I was in sixth grade that I started digging him and becoming a fan, and at about that same time he began to put out books that pretty much anyone with a brain will concede are not nearly the clean-up hitters that his first works were. Carrie, Pet C

    I don’t know where to start. I don’t know what to say. I own about 30 Stephen King books, I believe I have read them all. Strange enough, it seems like just as I started getting into the King of Horror, his talent began to dwindle. I think it was when I was in sixth grade that I started digging him and becoming a fan, and at about that same time he began to put out books that pretty much anyone with a brain will concede are not nearly the clean-up hitters that his first works were. Carrie, Pet Cemetery, Christine, Cujo, The Stand, The Shining…..esteemed and awesome for the most part, only to be replaced with the likes of Gerald’s Game, The Woman Who Loved Tom Gordon, Insomnia, and the Green F@cking Mile.

    There’s something wrong in that, I was always under the belief that the more experience you have in your craft the better you will eventually get, unless you’re an absolute nimrod. Well, Mr. King proves me dead-fricking wrong, especially with the release of Cell, a novel I can’t quite find a word for. Disappointing? No, I was expecting about as much. Poor? Too rich for this trash. Feeble? Getting warmer.

    I want to put this to bed rather quickly, after all, Stephen King has written more than a few badass books and I’d rather not dwell on the poor bastard's dwindling talents as he progresses in age and rocks out in his crappy band, “Bookwyrm”. Ok, so his band isn’t called Bookwyrm, but it ought to be; it shows that in one second I came up with a more powerful and awesome name than he ever could. His band doesn’t matter here, what matters is that King had the great idea of making a back-to-the-basics horror novel, and what better subject matter than zombies! Flucking zombies man! Maybe Steve is the only one who hasn’t realized it, but zombies have been beat to death (no pun intended) in recent media via horror films and video games. Not to mention that the Zombie King, the venerable George Romero, has produced some rather slick zombie films in his “Dead” series recently, one example is Land of The Dead, which King liberally rips off with the idea of zombies evolving in this novel, although Romero isn’t gay enough to consider having them evolve super powers including levitation, thought-control, and telepathy. Thank god.

    King, however, is down with this wishy-washy, flimsy shit, and it’s not surprising that the novel starts to nosedive about the time the undead begin using their newfound powers. Like all King novels that center around droves of mindless minions of evil, there is one badass leader zombie that seems to be running the show, and he’s the only character that I can really even recall from the book, how f@cking pitiful is that, especially since the only reason I can imagine the dude is because he’s such a archetypical figure that this is his only real intent.

    The story plods along after all cell phones receive some sort of ‘pulse’ which leads to the poor f@cker on the phone becoming a zombie. If I recall correctly, that’s the only thing which turns people into zombies, the Pulse. Now, I understand King is trying to make a point on society through the sheer number of zombies, but let’s face it, the number of people this would effect is not that fucking catastrophic. In Cell, it is, almost 75% of the world seems to either have been zombified, or is in immediate danger due to someone else’s transformation into a zombie. This sheer mathematical impossibility annoyed me throughout the course of the story. Adding to my troubles, the main character, Clayton (of all fuggin names), is hell-bent on finding his family, he’ll do anything just to see if they are alive or dead, blah blah blah. I think another character was a homo and of course there was the ever-present Crafty Child. All dicking around while the zombies grew more powerful through their unnatural cerebral enhancements. Boring.

  • Stefan Yates
    Feb 02, 2012

    For some reason, I had seen quite a few bad reviews on Cell before I read it. Not one to usually dislike a King novel, I did go into this one without the highest of expectations and ended up being very pleasantly surprised.

    The story centers around a mass event that turns anyone who happens to be on their cell phone at the time into a zombie. Mass chaos ensues and a small group of survivors bands together and tries to figure out what is going on and how to stop it. Some of the plot-line does have

    For some reason, I had seen quite a few bad reviews on Cell before I read it. Not one to usually dislike a King novel, I did go into this one without the highest of expectations and ended up being very pleasantly surprised.

    The story centers around a mass event that turns anyone who happens to be on their cell phone at the time into a zombie. Mass chaos ensues and a small group of survivors bands together and tries to figure out what is going on and how to stop it. Some of the plot-line does have some similarity to The Stand, but the characters are fairly unique, the dialog is good, and the action keeps rolling along at a fairly brisk pace.

    I really liked this novel. I knew that I probably would, but it was a nice surprise that it was as good as it was. I am of the opinion that not everything that Stephen King writes is destined to be a classic, but the majority of his work is well above average and I feel that one day he will be given his long overdue kudos and be placed in the literary canon with the other greats of modern literature.

  • seak
    May 25, 2012

    Stephen King does zombies! Well...kind of. We'll get to that in a bit.

    But first, here's how I think this book came about:

    "Wow, cell phones have really gotte

    Stephen King does zombies! Well...kind of. We'll get to that in a bit.

    But first, here's how I think this book came about:

    "Wow, cell phones have really gotten popular lately. Everyone seems to have one."

    "Yeah Dad, come on, get with the times already, man."

    "Well, at least we'll never get rid of these landlines right? Both are VERY necessary. [useless joke probably not in King's character, just wanted to make fun of how we used to still had landlines when everyone was switching to cell phones]

    "But seriously, I am SO sick of people being on their cell phones all the time. You can't even have an honest-to-goodness conversation with a person without someone bombarding you with a call.

    "Can't we just have real conversations with human beings anymore? Instead, we talk to electronics and let them control everything we do, sacrificing our humanity.

    "If only there was a way to put an end to this nonsense...I've got it!"

    Cell starts out as your basic zombie book. People are going about their normal business when suddenly lots of people start going crazy and attacking other people while a few people escape unscathed for a while until they get attacked.

    Well, Stephen King made a couple of changes to the normal zombie mythos (I think we can call it mythos now). Here, the zombies are created by a pulse that occurs through cell phones. All the people using their cell phones at the time of the "pulse" (as its known throughout the book) are immediately changed into what is essentially a zombie. Those without cell phones or not on them at the time are saved.

    It's not exactly clear whether they are (or have to be) dead or not, some are, but not all, but they all have the same traits, which are pretty zombie-like. They go crazy, they attack people including their own kind, and make survival the number one priority for those who weren't turned.

    They are known throughout the book not at zombies, but as "phone crazies." Boy did I hate that term after a while. It's just so dumb. It's also descriptively appropriate, but meh. Call them walkers, call them phoners even, but "phone crazies" just bugged me to no end.

    In addition, the zombies only come out during the day and therefore leave the night to the survivors.

    Cell follows Clayton Riddell, a survivor of the pulse who happened to be in Boston at the time of the "pulse." He lives in (you guessed it) Maine (but he's not a writer, he's a comic artist, completely different), which is where his family is located at the time of the pulse and provides the impetus for Clay and his group of survivors to head north.

    I did enjoy this book, but to talk about why I didn't enjoy it enough to even reach the 4 star threshold, I'm gonna have to get into some

    . These aren't huge, ruin-the-book spoilers, just possibly ruin a part of the first 200 pages/quarter of the book. You've been warned.

    /Begin mild spoilers

    I could go more into Clay's group because they do play a large role in the novel, but I just don't have the time nor the energy at the moment. Know they're there and they are some great characters.

    The reason I wasn't a huge fan of this particular zombie book is that King almost immediately kills the whole reason I read zombie books. I read them for the constant suspense and scare that the people we've grown close to are going to get eaten, turned, die, whatever.

    King introduces telepathy into the zombie mythos.

    While it's an interesting and unique take, I realized toward the end that it pretty much killed this particular zombie novel for me.

    Because the zombie apocalypse occurred through the pulse, the phone crazies (bleh) are connected somehow, they can even communicate in a way telepathically. It begins through large gatherings where they sleep during the night while getting essentially reprogrammed telepathically.

    While they are communicating telepathically, they begin to flock just like some types of animals (birds in a "v" for instance). While they flock, they don't attack humans. It just stops.

    There's more that happens and they do begin to do some much more devious things, but the survivors, and especially our little crew we follow, are essentially immune from the day-to-day zombie attack.

    Bigger Spoiler, for the novel

    as well: While I'm still within the spoiler section of my review, I also wanted to add that I totally thought he was going to go I Am Legend with the zombies, making the zombies the new society and the survivors the outcasts. It seemed to be going there, but didn't in the end.

    /end spoilers

    I enjoyed this book, it had great characters (as expected) and a good enough story to keep me enjoying it. It also had an interesting take on zombies that, while I applaud King for his creativity and boldness, kind of killed the zombie part of this zombie novel.

    3 out of 5 Stars (Recommended with reservations)

  • Paul
    Mar 29, 2013

    I suddenly realised half way through this book that it is really a zombie novel. After a shower I felt better and rationalised that this was occupying my "wouldn't normally read this" slot in my book consumption; sigh of relief.

    I must admit that I did enjoy some of King's early novels, but this was so far fetched and ridiculous (Am I really saying "It" wasn't?). The plot is simple. Somehow, someone sends a pulse through the mobile phone system which wipes clean a person's mind and sends them ba

    I suddenly realised half way through this book that it is really a zombie novel. After a shower I felt better and rationalised that this was occupying my "wouldn't normally read this" slot in my book consumption; sigh of relief.

    I must admit that I did enjoy some of King's early novels, but this was so far fetched and ridiculous (Am I really saying "It" wasn't?). The plot is simple. Somehow, someone sends a pulse through the mobile phone system which wipes clean a person's mind and sends them back to basics and they become unreasoning killers. Those that survive the bloodbath begin to flock together and develop a sort of telepathy. Meanwhile those that didn't hear the pulse and survived the bloodbath also group together and a struggle for survival begins.

    Sometimes books like this are good mindless fun and I do enjoy well written thrillers. King does write well and is a natural storyteller; but there is something insidious at the heart of this. Basically (and this is actually said in the book), when everything is stripped away from men and women; what is left - MURDER. This, quite simply, is the Doctrine of The Fall (not Mark E Smith's rather good Manchester band), as found in the Old Testament. We are born in sin and are wicked at heart; our first instincts being to kill rather than care for each other. That is the problem with this book; that premise. Nature and nurture matter not; we are hard-wired to Murder.

    In my more depressive moments I realise we have created an economic system which destroys the weak and poor rather well and we regularly elect governments that play and build on xenophobia and the evils of those who are different. However, in my heart I believe we all have that spark that would rather care for others than destroy them. That's the problem with this book.

  • Edward Lorn
    Apr 26, 2013

    Five stars for the first half. One star for the last 200 pages, wherein King drags his ass like a dog infested with roundworms.

    is a five-star read all the way up to the halfway mark. You got crazies running around,

    on tender bits, and a likable crew of misfits trying to stay alive. Underneath it all, King is stoking the fires of 9/11, trying to keep the fear alive a full five years after the towers fell in a half-ass attempt to scare you with real-world issues. The Phonies

    Five stars for the first half. One star for the last 200 pages, wherein King drags his ass like a dog infested with roundworms.

    is a five-star read all the way up to the halfway mark. You got crazies running around,

    on tender bits, and a likable crew of misfits trying to stay alive. Underneath it all, King is stoking the fires of 9/11, trying to keep the fear alive a full five years after the towers fell in a half-ass attempt to scare you with real-world issues. The Phonies (I do not type that word with a straight face) speak in a garbled, almost-arabic language. Slap turbans on King's version of zombies and you have a strong argument for racist propaganda. Did King do this on purpose? Mayhap he did. Mayhap he didn't. Either way, 'MURICA!

    There's this climax that takes place around midway through the book. King shits the bed after that. What action you do find on the downhill side of this novel is tired, rehashed bullshit from the first half of the book. It's honestly like reading two different books. King even repeats the big scene in the middle further down the road, but by then, the cool factor has disappeared. You can't have barbecue every night, friends and neighbors. It's fucking great on Friday, especially when beer's involved, but more of a pain in the ass on Saturday because you're still hungover from the night before and that goddamn grill is making you sweat pure ethanol.

    This is either my second or third read through of

    . Can't remember, but it's certainly not my first. Because of this, I let Campbell Scott read it to me. He does a fine job at the narration, but the production quality is iffy at times. Sounds levels are fucked. He'll be really low one minute (not whispering, just low) and then he'll be loud (not yelling, just loud). Sometimes, the tone of his narration changes, as if he's started reading as another character. I still don't think this is his fault. I think it's the quality of the recording, which, in my honest opinion, is utter dogshit.

    Before we hit the Conspiracy Theory section of our program, I must say that I firmly believe King got in way over his head with this book. There's a reason why

    is 1200-pages long and

    is only 450. Maybe

    started as a short story or a novella and it just kept on going, or maybe he always meant for it to end the way it did. Either way, the final product makes it seem as if King just got tired of writing this particular book and stopped. I can dig open endings, but to follow Clay on his hunt only to receive the ending we get here... I don't know, man, that's kind of a dick move. Oh well, it's Uncle Stevie. Whatcha gon' do, right?

    Here there be spoilers for all of King's books. Only click on "view spoiler" if you've read through King's entire catalog. I take no responsibility for your sadness and despair at having something spoiled because you can't take instruction, ya muppet.

    In summation: I was hoping the sudden stop at the end would be eased by the knowledge of what was to come, but it didn't happen.

    is still a three-star read and I'm sure it will remain that way for all my days. Especially since I see no reason for me to ever read this again. This one is fine for a first read through, as the ending can be a little shocking in a "Wait... what???" kind of way, but the novel definitely doesn't withstand the test of time, nor does it withstand a second read through.

  • Carol
    Jul 12, 2016
  • Johann
    Dec 05, 2016

    "What Darwin was too polite to say, my friends, is that we came to rule the earth not because we were the smartest, or even the meanest, but because we have always been the craziest, most murderous motherfuckers in the jungle."

    Cell is an apocalyptic tale about mobile phones that wipe the user's brain, getting rid of any humanity and leaving behind only aggressive and destructive impulses. The story focuses on the main character, Clay, who is on a mission to find his estranged wife and son. Now l

    "What Darwin was too polite to say, my friends, is that we came to rule the earth not because we were the smartest, or even the meanest, but because we have always been the craziest, most murderous motherfuckers in the jungle."

    Cell is an apocalyptic tale about mobile phones that wipe the user's brain, getting rid of any humanity and leaving behind only aggressive and destructive impulses. The story focuses on the main character, Clay, who is on a mission to find his estranged wife and son. Now living in a post-apocalyptic world and unable to use mobile phones for fear of becoming crazed maniacs, Clay and his group must navigate their way in an attempt to find out what has happened to his family.

    Okay, so, I actually really enjoyed this book. I loved the premise of it, and found it terrifying to even consider what it would be like if such an event occurred in real life. I loved how it was the use of mobile phones that created these crazed "zombies", especially because if something like this did happen, your first thought would be to call your loved ones to check they're okay. So I kinda loved that detail, added an extra layer to the story I thought.

    The characters were so-so. Clay was fine, but I think I actually preferred Tom. I also really liked Alice, so I wasn't overly happy with her storyline. The "zombies" or "phonies" as they were called in the book were downright horrifying! I really liked their behaviours and how they were used within the story. The fact that they were only active during the day and then "rebooted" at night. It felt like a unique portrayal of zombies.

    I thought the story moved at a great pace, especially at the beginning. It was non-stop terrifying. The pace did slow down a bit, particularly towards the end, but I was still very much interested and eager to see how it all panned out. But then that ending. THAT GODDAMN ENDING. Left me feeling so infuriated and angry. I absolutely hate endings like that...I was so annoyed by it that I felt like deducting a star, but then maybe in hindsight I will look back and like the ending (similar to how I feel about The Sopranos), so it can keep the star... for now. I thought it was a great read (apart from the ending) and very much underrated in the Stephen King universe.

    If I ever meet Sai King I will slap him across the face for that ending......but then hug him and declare my undying love.


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