On October 1, God is in His heaven, the stock market stands at 10,140, and most of the planes are on time. Clayton Riddell, an artist from Maine, is almost bouncing up Boylston Street in Boston. He’s just landed a comic book deal that might finally enable him to support his family. He’s already picked up a small (but expensive!) gift for his long-suffering wife. He knows just what he’ll get for his boy Johnny. Why not a little treat for himself? Clay’s feeling good about the future.
That changes in a hurry. The cause of the devastation is a phenomenon that will come to be known as The Pulse, and the delivery method is a cell phone. Everyone’s cell phone. Clay and the few desperate survivors who join him suddenly find themselves in the pitch-black night of civilization’s darkest age, surrounded by chaos, carnage, and a human horde that has been reduced to its basest nature…and then begins to evolve.
There’s really no escaping this nightmare. But for Clay, an arrow points home to Maine, and as he and his fellow refugees make their harrowing journey north they begin to see crude signs confirming their direction: KASHWAK=NO-FO. A promise, perhaps. Or a threat…
There are one hundred and ninety-three million cell phones in the United States alone. Who doesn’t have one? Stephen King’s utterly gripping, gory, and fascinating novel doesn’t just ask the question “Can you hear me now?” It answers it with a vengeance.
Title: Cell | Author: Stephen King | Publisher: Scribner | Pub. Date: 24 January 2006 | Pages: 355 | ISBN: 9780743292337 | Genre: Horror | Language: English | Source: Purchased | Starred Review
I am not experienced at reviewing Stephen King books. For the past 30 years, I’ve read his books to escape; to be delighted and disgusted at the same time. As far as reviews go, I didn’t really start until about 4 years ago, and at (now) 42 years old, I have limited time and choose to usually review authors who don’t automatically end up with thousands of reviews in mere days. I suppose this is more like commentary about my history with this book than a “review”, but here’s hoping you’ll stick around.
I first read Cell upon its publication in 2006. At 27, I had only recently obtained cell service (a flip phone just like the one on the cover above) about 5 years prior. I wish I could say I remember a lot about this first read, but marriage, a baby, a graduate degree, another baby, and a teaching job since then means my memory only has so much room. This is not to say the book is not memorable, it’s just…life.
I do remember tearing through these pages and finishing in a day or two. January in 2006 in central Ohio means I was scrambling for anything that could take my mind off the bleak, grey weather. Cell certainly did the trick. I just started re-reading this last week, and I can imagine that 27 year old me was captivated from the beginning. Because Cell wastes no time getting to the tension and the gore…so much glorious mayhem.
Revisiting this book has been a great decision. In fact, as I write this, I still have 100 pages to go. I am not tearing through it this time, mostly because I am thoroughly enjoying following Clay, Tom, and Alice journey through a world filled with phone crazies and unknown terrors. The wild thing is, that except for the style of the phones, not much would need updated in order to make this book just as relevant for 2021 as it was for 2006.
You see, these cellular contraptions are even more prevalent and have such a wider reach: Clay at one point mentions that his son usually leaves his laying in his room, uncharged. Probably not the case in today’s world. In fact, I imagine King would have to make some allowances for the number of people that prefer to text instead of call (raises hand), smartwatches, Alexa and other “smart” home devices (oh my – what if smart lightbulbs joined in), and more. I think. perhaps, this world would have less of a chance of surviving The Pulse.
Cell tends to have a bad reputation with Constant Readers. I’ve never really understood why. There isn’t a lot of extra fluff or description, the action starts almost immediately and doesn’t let up, and the ending (I know, I know, insert pithy remark about King’s endings), to me, is spot on. I am really excited to finish the re-read in a day or two to see if that end really does hold up. Have you read Cell? What did you think? Let me know in the comments and let’s chat.
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Tracy joined Sc-Fi and Scary in September 2018. She reviews horror books for the site and bemoans our general lack of grammar, but puts up with us because she loves us anyway. Feel free to reach out on Twitter and Instagram at @tracy_reads79, or on Goodreads as well!
Tracy is also part of the Ladies of Horror Fiction crew.
I read it quite a few years back, and I remember enjoying it as well. I wouldn’t say is my favourite novel by King, but definitely a good read.