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CELL by Stephen King : Book Discussion • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

CELL by Stephen King

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wdarcy
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CELL by Stephen King

Postby wdarcy » Thu Aug 22, 2013 7:06 pm

I just finished reading this, and I must say I was disappointed. Usually King keeps me flipping the pages to see what happens next, but here I had to force myself to keep slogging along.

The premise is inherently interesting: a mysterious signal called "The Pulse" turns everyone who uses his or her cell phone into a maniac. Essentially it wipes their minds clean until only the aggressive instinct remains. There follows an orgy of killing, burning, and general mahem as humankind descends into a dark age. Only those who lacked access to cell phones remain normal and try to survive. Meanwhile the phone-crazies begin to "reboot," developing flocking instincts, as well as telepathy and the ability to levitate (!).

Well, okay. In a sense this is King's zombie novel, even though the phone-crazies are not dead, simply insane. And in 2006, when the book came out, the zombie apocalypse scenario had not yet worn out its welcome. But this story has a distinct sense of deja vu about it. Been there, done that, and done it much better (as in THE STAND).

But what bothered me about this book was not the premise but the characters. Characterization has always been King's strong suit. Remember all those great characters in THE STAND or 'SALEM'S LOT or THE SHINING? Not here. King concentrates on a small band of "normies," none of whom are inherently interesting, and all of whom talk the same. The 12-year-old boy speaks like a 35-year-old man. If one were to remove the dialogue attributions, it would be impossible to know who was speaking. Also, King writes in third person limited, which is fine, but unfortunately he sticks with the same PoV throughout the entire novel. And the character in whose head we are locked (appropriately named "Clay") is one of the blandest, least interesting characters King has ever created.

The writing itself lacks that King "punch." It's as bland as his characters. Oh, it's grammatically correct: every sentence would pass muster in the HS English classes King used to teach. But I got the distinct feeling that King did not enjoy writing this, that he kept churning out the pages simply because he had to. Even the gore, of which there is a decent amount, is described in a matter-of-fact manner that barely raises an eyebrow and certainly does not horrify or scare.

The book does have the virtue of being relatively short, at least for a King epic. No bloat here. But it seemed much, much longer than some of his novels that have twice as many pages.

I'd be tempted to suspect that King has lost his touch, had I not just read "Full Dark, No Stars," a recent collection of four novellas. Here is King at his absolute best. Terrific. Even better than his early stuff. So go figure.

I'd be interested in what others think of this book. Judging from the rave reviews on Amazon, I may be in the minority. But I'm going to clear my mental palate by re-reading THE STAND--this time in the longer version.

Sorry, Steve, but in my opinion you simply phoned this one in.

(ducking!)

--Warren
"Wagner's 'Das Rheingold'" (Oxford 1993). Winner of the Society for Music Theory's Wallace Berry Award, 1995.

"Elements of Sonata Theory" co-authored with James Hepokoski(Oxford 2006). Winner of the Society for Music Theory's Wallace Berry Award, 2008.

TerryRodgers
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Re: CELL by Stephen King

Postby TerryRodgers » Thu Aug 22, 2013 9:23 pm


James A. Ritchie
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Re: CELL by Stephen King

Postby James A. Ritchie » Fri Aug 23, 2013 4:21 pm

I love most of King's stories, but I've always thought the writing itself was a bit on the bland side. I have mixed emotions about Cell. I like, then I don't like it, then I do like it.


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