Apocalyptic stories are my favourite kind, and King has impressed me in the past with such tales as The Mist and The Stand. I listened to the hype surrounding Cell, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the book. I hadn’t felt this excited about a King novel in years. Mind you, I did think the idea of cell phones turning the populace into homicidal maniacs was a tad hokey (not to mention reminiscent of the film 28 Days Later), but not even that could deter my enthusiasm. Having read over thirty King novels, I had an inkling that he was going to do something unique and surprising with the idea. And what I was really looking forward to from King was a return to a more visceral and fast-paced form of storytelling than what he has been delivering lately. In that, at least, Cell does not disappoint.
The story gets right down to business, with an ordinary street turned into an instant bloodbath, as certain men, women and children turn on one another. No one knows why. And what do you do if you’re one of those watching, uninfected by the madness? Why, you reach for your cell phone, of course, to dial 911. And whoops! You’re instantly infected by something eventually referred to as The Pulse, and you become one of the “phone-crazies,” intent on as much bloodshed as possible.
The story was working a treat for me, and it would have continued working except that the phone-crazies don’t stay crazy. They evolve into some new kind of human being that gets along fine with others of its own kind, intending to infect (rather than kill) all those who remain normal. And they are aided by capabilities such as telepathy and levitation. When the story started losing touch with anything remotely down to earth, it started to fail for me. The wackiness reminded me of another King tale that suffered the same disease: Insomnia (where an unseen little imp went around snipping people’s auras off with scissors; King, man, what are you on sometimes?).
To its credit, though, Cell held my attention to the end. I loved the characters. I loved the idea of a journey across the country to find a little boy. But taking everything into consideration, I would only rate the novel above average.