In Cell King taps into readers fears of technological warfare and terrorism. Mobile phones deliver the apocalypse to millions of unsuspecting humans by wiping their brains of any humanity, leaving only aggressive and destructive impulses behind. Those without cell phones, like illustrator Clayton Riddell and his small band of "normies," must fight for survival, and their journey to find Clayton's estranged wife and young son rockets the book toward resolution.
The Pulse, a cell phone transmitted virus, turns people who answer their cell into psychopathic killers and suicidal maniacs. Luckily, Clayton doesn’t have his phone but unluckily for him he has to witness the event unfold and Stephen King’s does not hold back on the blood splattering violence and mayhem, painting a graphic scene of carnage which gripped my interest and had me both terrified and engrossed.
Clayton Riddell is a comic book illustrator who thought he had hit his lucky break and signed a contract which would remove all his money worries. A divorcee and father, he then finds himself isolated from his son, surrounded by the total bloodbath and collapse of civilisation caused by the Pulse. He is not alone, Tom McCourt is another survivor, as is Alice a young teenage girl. All three are utterly shocked by what they have witnessed and together they travel to find some form of refuge from the chaos unfolding around them. As with all of King’s books that I have read, I am always in awe of his ability to create these characters that are so real and believable it’s hard not to feel sympathy and care about them.
With Cell Stephen King uses our current fears of technology and terrorism to create a plot which is intriguing and terrifying and when providing a background to the Pulse creates a sense that such an event might one day become possible. After the immensely traumatic and bloody opening scene, Clayton, Tom and Alice travel across the devastated landscape in search of Clayton’s young son. Only able to travel at night as the Phonies flocking behaviour during the day is too unpredictable and dangerous.
“Three days ago we not only ruled the earth, we had survivor's guilt about all the other species we'd wiped out on our climb to the nirvana of round-the-clock cable news and microwave popcorn. Now we're the Flashlight People.”
This section is one I would describe a slow going but it’s because of King’s attention to detail and narrative of human behaviour that I was glued to the page. Each location is expertly depicted creating an almost cinematic read. In addition King slowly unveils the evolution of the virus and its victims which also creates suspense and a compelling storyline. It definitely picks up at the end, which is gripping and had me racing through each page, yearning to find out how the story concludes for each character.
A compelling and thought-provoking read, a zombie apocalypse novel like nothing I have ever read. Stephen King touches on our underlying fears and brings them to life with expert storytelling and absorbing characters and locations. It will also be interesting to see this translate to screen later this year with leading roles belonging to Samuel L. Jackson, John Cusack and Isabelle Fuhrman.