Author: Stephen King
Number of Pages: 473 (Paperback)
Published: 12th May 2011 by Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Post Apocalyptic, Horror
The event which propels civilization into its second dark age is known as The Pulse. The virus is carried by every cellular phone operating in the world. Within hours, those receiving calls will be infected.
Clayton Riddell, a young artist, knows he has to reach his son before the young boy switches on his phone. And time is running out…
Cell was my first read of this year and I think I picked a good one. I chose this book mainly because I watched the film recently and by the end I had questions which left me curious as to what happened in the book, so I thought I’d give it a try.
I’m going to try my best to write this without giving too much away (please forgive any minor spoilers; when I really enjoy a book I end up wanting to write far too much about it).
I’ll probably end up mentioning something about the ending of the book vs. the movie ending so read on with caution…
Cell begins as a totally ordinary, unremarkable day descends into violence and chaos during the Pulse. The Pulse affects cell phones, and everyone using one during the event loses all sense of self. Their minds are apparently wiped clean, leaving only a primal instinct towards violence and destruction. The action starts almost from the first page, as Clayton Riddell, an artist who has just signed a deal for his graphic novel and cannot wait to share his good news with his family, witnesses the world around him descend into madness. His thoughts are for his young son and estranged wife, and he decides to try and get home to them.
He encounters various people along the way who also had the good fortune not to be using a cell phone at that crucial moment, and some of them join together to journey through this dangerous new world.
The characters make the story. Clay and Tom are thrown together as they witness the initial chaos just after the Pulse. Apparently two of the few sane people around they decide to travel together as Clay wants to find his family. I also I really liked Alice Maxwell, thee teenage girl who joins the group after losing her mother during the Pulse. She’s understandably afraid but strong too.
Jordan, the schoolboy who joins the group during their time at Gaiten Academy is another great character.
I felt really invested in their survival, and hoped they would all make it to the end of the story.
Cell is an interesting take on the zombie story, and I enjoyed the way the phoners became more intelligent as time went on; their mindless violence and instinct to attack and kill was replaced by an eerie hive-mind, causing them to move in sync and en masse. They developed telepathic powers, which grew in strength until they had enough power to actually influence the survivors who had escaped the Pulse, which was pretty frightening.
The phoner group is personified by the Raggedy Man, who appears in the dreams of the survivors, dreams in which they are paraded and exhibited and branded insane.
Imagine the horror as the group realise they’re all dreaming about the same character, and then that character appears before them with vengeance in mind.
Cell delivers some wonderfully creepy scenes, including the aftermath of certain events at the Gaiten Academy. Clay’s instinct to depart was spot on, but staying behind leads to one of the creepiest moments in the story, starting with the mass of phoners lining up outside the school building, moving in unison, to the violent and sad conclusion which sees the departure of one of our main characters.
From that point on the vendetta against the survivors becomes personal, with an ominous sense of ‘what is going to happen when they finally get to Kashwak’, an apparent safe zone towards which the group are pushed, which only grew as the story progressed.
The ending of the story seems to divide people but I liked it. I don’t think it’s giving too much away to say it’s an open ending, and that’s part of what appealed to me. It gives the reader chance to fill in certain aspects, and you can make of it what you will to some extent.
I think I liked this more as I watched the recent film version of Cell and let’s just say the ending to that was very different and I found it pretty grim. Also, I don’t think I’ll ever hear that song they played at the end without feeling slightly creeped out.
I can’t believe how quickly I read this book, I just couldn’t seem to put it down, and every spare moment was spent following Clay and his group on their dangerous travels. I was sad to reach the end, and ended up with that feeling you get when you’ve read something really good and could have read more in that world.