In horror mogul Stephen King's new novel, Cell, we follow a small band of characters through the hellish experience of surviving the breakdown of the world to preserve the human race. This time King's apocalypse is brought on by brainwashing cell phones that turn humans into maniacal killing machines. Cell feels a lot like The Stand, but with different characters and a slightly different scenario.
Surprising is the homage King pays to George Romero, zombie auteur and creator of the original Night of the Living Dead. King honors Romero in his dedication, but everything else in this book seems to steal from the filmmaker. King's creations aren't creations, rather living versions of Romero zombies. From flesh-eating to weird behavioral patterns, King's freaky phoners are nothing more than a written version of the Romero creep-out.
If King had the descriptive chops to pull off a written Romero flick, this book could have succeeded, but at times the man writes like an eighth grader. Rarely do his descriptions or dialogue rise up and catch the reader. Every bit of writing seemed stilted, existing only to push the brainless plot along. Aside from the blatant and largely unexplored metaphor that cell phones are destroying our culture, there is not one single over-arching metaphor about human existence.
George Romero finds depth in the horrors of his zombie tales, having taken on topics of racial inequality, consumerism and class differences in his movies; here, King is seeking no more than to tell a story with lots of violence and very little creepiness.
This one-dimensional tale is fast food from the publishing business. It might work for readers trying to pass time on a plane, but for people looking for a worthwhile King read, skip this one, it's just a paycheck book.
by Stephen King (Scribner, 355 pages, $26.95)