two-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
22-May-June-2006
By: 
Stephen King
user_rating: 
0

A-CellBoston, October 1, 3:03 p.m. An otherwise uneventful day, until "The Pulse" instantly transforms anyone using a cell phone into a homicidal zombie. Those able to resist the Siren call of wireless technology—including the story’s protagonist, Clayton Riddell, a graphic novelist who has renounced his right to carry a cell phone—are spared. At least for the time being. Clayton, along with unaffected companions Tom, a gay man, and Alice, a teenager forced to kill her mother in the aftermath, searches for his estranged wife and his son as the "normals" battle the "phone-crazies" for control of King’s latest apocalyptic nightmare.
Scribner. 384 pages. $26.95. ISBN: 0743292332

Ft. Worth Star Telegram 4 of 5 Stars
"King remains the master of taking the mundane and turning it into something viscerally jarring. … Savvy as ever, [King] is already working another connection: the generation of feverishly text-messaging cellphone kids who weren’t even born when he was wowing their parents with Pet Sematary and are ready for more dark magic than little Harry Potter can muster." Jeff Guinn

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars
"With its disturbingly accurate atmosphere of dread, reflecting that of modern America, its underlying sarcasm about those enslaved by technology and its finely rendered scenes of horrific violence and human compassion, Cell truly captures the tenor of fear and paranoia that has pervaded the beginning of the 21st century. Even without the benefit of hindsight, it’s already clear that King’s latest will have to be shelved beside such classics as The Stand, The Dead Zone, Pet Sematary, and Misery." Dorman T. Shindler

New York Times 3 of 5 Stars
"Once the pyrotechnics of The Pulse are over and the exodus from Boston begins, much of Cell is a literal trudge. … In a final round that is worth the whole game, Mr. King suggests a form of salvation that could exist only in an eerily computer-connected and privacy-free world." Janet Maslin

USA Today 3 of 5 Stars
"Cell is more than a litany of spilled intestines, oozing wounds, and eyes dangling from sockets. It’s a soothing balm to the world’s technophobes and a disturbing send-up of what the world can be reduced to in an ‘us against them’ situation." Carol Memmott

Boston Globe 2 of 5 Stars
"The book is cacophony without a clear signal. … Diehard King fans will be pleased to find Cell populated by the author’s trademark characters … although this cast, while promising, stays two-dimensional." Erica Noonan

Los Angeles Times 1.5 of 5 Stars
"King … fails to create a world in which we can settle, or characters about whom we truly care. … Because things happen here so fast (the entire book takes place over a couple of weeks), his feelings are never fleshed out, leaving Cell rushed, more an extended treatment than a fully realized work." David L. Ulin

Wall Street Journal 0.5 of 5 Stars
"Too often, Cell rides along on clunky expository dialogue instead of compelling action. And the characters’ witless attempts at graveyard humor—which suggest a horror of the red pencil on the part of Mr. King’s editor—do as much as their moral hand-wringing to deflate the story’s urgency." Kyle Smith

Critical Summary

Fans have offered their horror-fiction idol unfaltering loyalty since the publication of his first novel, Carrie, three decades ago. More than 50 books later, Stephen King’s stock-in-trade remains stinging, darkly humorous social commentary. His latest effort, a nod to gore-meisters George Romero (Night of the Living Dead) and Richard Matheson (I Am Legend), among others, is no different. The result, though entertaining, is uneven. Some reviewers appreciate King for his prodigious imagination and his storytelling abilities, while others take issue with his two-dimensional characters, scattershot plotting, and the too-obvious echoes of past novels. For longtime fans of King’s work, Cell may bring to mind a more compact (though ultimately less satisfying) version of the author’s epic The Stand.