The Stephen King kick brought on by re-watching Stand By Me and reading 11/22/63 continued as I put paid to another King book. Cell.
Cell returns King to spooky ground. Or rather returns me to spooky King ground as it was written before his Kennedy time travel story.
The book opens casually but ominously enough, if you read the blurb on the book you know something bad is going to happen, and happen quickly. And it does. It’s fast, bloody, violent, and was mind-numbing on the movie screen in my head.
Our lead character Clay, is a graphic novelist in Boston, having just pitched and secured a contract for his story and its sequel. As he’s wandering back to his hotel, things go sideways pretty quick, when people answer or make calls on their cell phones.
The Pulse happens.
It strips the memories and abilities of everyone who hears it via their cell, reducing them to their primal selves, instinctive, violent and uncaring. A Stephen King zombie… kind of.
The body count starts climbing rapidly as Clay flees to his hotel, where upon he is joined by two fellow travellers, short, moustached Tom, and a young girl named Alice.
Clay is determined to head north, to find his estranged wife and young son, hoping against hope to find them untouched by this new cyber plague.
King moves the story along quickly and with a master’s pace as we trail this trio, who are forced to travel at night, as the Phoners as they begin to be called have claimed the day, and start to travel in flocks.
This imagery is disturbing in itself but grows more so as you see the flocks developing into something more, something worse or perhaps, if given the chance evolving into something better.
But in King’s world things never go easy, nor as planned, nor happily, and this story is no exception, because eventually even the days, when they sleep are no longer safe for them. They are haunted by a giant flock of phoners in their daymares, led by the Raggedy Man.
The book takes you through a society that has crumbled, destroyed itself with its own technology, and given birth to something new. But man isn’t the kind to live and let live.
Cell was a great read by an author that I had drifted away from for awhile, excluding my recent foray a year or two ago through the Dark Tower series which was fantastic, especially when you read the series as a whole. It served, along with 11/22/63, to remind me how good a storyteller King is. I may be revisiting some of his novels that I haven’t read since my teen years, you know, when everybody read King – it seems reading Stephen King is, or was for me, a rite of passage through high school.
But I’m happily welcoming him back into my mind to tell me stories again.