If you enjoy the horror genre, give this bad boy a spin...
Cell by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"Cell" is the first time I've seen Stephen King return to his pre-Delores Claiborne splendor. I listened to the audiobook version of the novel, which I found well-paced and hard to put down. The characters are sympathetic and engaging without bogging us down in endless backstory. The first third of the book is fairly gory, but it's suitable to the plot, and the plain-talking, level-headed protagonist (Clayton) keeps the situation from spiraling off into absurdity.
Speaking of absurd... You may find the premise, that a "pulse" sent through the cellular phone networks of the world can essentially wipe and reset the human brain, a bit over the edge. In this, I think King might have borrowed a page from Michael Crichton and stocked his characters with one more scientist and one less humanities professor. Instead, we get most of the technical meat from a pubescent nerd named Jordan. Jordan is likable and ultimately critical to the story, but his role as an information source is a bit strained.
You come to "Cell" for zombie action, and King delivers grandly. The uber-zombie, the Raggedy Man, is gratifyingly creepy and menacing. Seeing the nature of zombies change over the course of the book is an interesting twist on the genre. As other reviewers have noted, the levitation bit toward the end is a bit odd and excessive. It strains the credibility of the fictitious world without actually adding anything to the story or being necessary in any way.
My only serious complaint with the book is its last page. I find myself comparing it to the closing seconds of the movie "Inception." When you look back over the story, you realize that the premise of the book boils down to one thing. The hero is on a quest to accomplish something. In "Inception," that something is personal redemption, and at the end of the movie, as the scene cuts to black, you realize that the answer to the question literally on the table (will the spinning top fall?) is irrelevant. The real question of the story has been answered. With "Cell," I don't feel that central question was answered cleanly. The reader is left to decide on his or her own what happens in the next few seconds. Whereas I walked out of "Inception" thinking that the end was perfect, I finished "Cell" and got increasingly angry because I felt the central question of Clay's journey remained unanswered. And I cared. I wanted an answer. It's a testament to King's artistry and the strength of the book that I cared this much. "Cell" is worth reading. It's a great, thrilling adventure. Just steel yourself for that last unresolved question.
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