For a guy who was planning to take a break from publishing, Stephen King sure has been busy. His "break" lasted all of fifteen minutes. It included FAITHFUL, a fine book about the 2004 Boston Red Sox, co-written with Stewart O' Nan; THE COLORADO KID, a deceptively low-key work that may be the penultimate mystery novel; and now CELL, the topic of this discussion. If MISERY was --- as King indicated --- a love letter to his fans, then CELL is arguably the bouquet of roses, the one in which the nest of spiders lies waiting, venomously and patiently.
CELL had little advance fanfare; I had read that it was "old school King," but how many times have we heard that line before? In the case of CELL, however, it's true. If you have a Stephen King bookcase you'll want to put this one on the shelf next to THE STAND, SALEM'S LOT and THE SHINING (to name but a few). It will scare the daylights out of you, give you nightmares, and make you check the kids at night. Above all, you're definitely going to hesitate before answering that cell phone of yours.
The "cell" of the title refers to cellular phones. In this case, cell phones are the instruments by which civilization as we know it dries up and blows away within 24 hours. CELL jumps right out of the gate with carnage and brutality, all based on a singular premise: on and after a particular moment, which becomes known as "The Pulse," everyone talking on a cell phone gets their brain fried.
Readers get to see what happens in Boston through the eyes of Clay Riddell, an aspiring comic book artist from Maine who has just made the deal of his life. One minute people are feeding ducks, buying ice cream, driving to and fro; they all, of course, are talking on cell phones while doing so. The next minute the "phoners" are mindlessly tearing each other apart. Riddell, who is unaffected, concludes through the process of empirical observation that cell phones are the culprit. He doesn't own one, wasn't