Leah Heard's Reviews > Cell

Cell by Stephen King
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Jul 07, 07


Literary critics can moan all they want about Stephen King's "penny dreadful" oeuvre, but his mastery at the craft of storytelling is indisputable. King writes his novels like a seduction, the story unfolding delicately and deliberately. As any Stephen King fan knows, his coy expository chapters often take up the first hundred pages or more. In Cell, however, the reader is brutally dragged into the main action--unspeakable, senseless violence--within the first seven pages. Cell is by far King's most brutal, transgressive work to date.

Many have compared Cell to his earlier epic, The Stand. On the surface, the novels are quite similar: an apocolyptic event threatens the very existence of the human race as a band of survivors struggle to come to terms with the carnage and avert further catastrophe. Cell, however, is the far more mature novel of the pair. The Stand was, in many ways, a novel by an idealistic youth, whereas Cell is filled with the trenchant and world-weary observations of an adult. The subtext is laden with so much chillingly apt futurist rhetoric that it is as though the author had Marshall McLuhan whispering plot devices and metaphors into his ear as he labored over his typewriter. King manages to explore several of the major sociocultural conflicts of our time, most persuasively the end of the era of individualism and the rise of collectivism, here symptomatic of heavy reliance on technology. Whereas many dystopian novels are almost comically blunt when expounding upon the dangers of collectivism, King's horrific plot and action give his metaphors a sort of subtlety that renders his subtext much more graceful and easier to stomach than the work of Ayn Rand.

As the epigraphs indicate, it is also a meditation on the intrinsic violence of the human race. King clearly feels as though the world is out of control and wants to find out why. His preferred genre, horror, is an excellent one with which to consider the depravaties of modern life. The Stand was a novel that, if not upbeat, was at least optimistic--a reflection of the times in which it was written. There was also violence, but it had its own biblical logic, if violence can ever be called logical. In Cell, the violence is senseless, oppressive, and omnipresent. There seems to be little promise for a better world... at least not one inhabited by human beings.

Many reviewers took issue with the unresolved ending. Considering the subtext of the novel, however, the reader will find that the ending's abruptness actually informs the sense that Cell, besides being an excellent horror yarn, is a meticulously painted portrait of the horrors of global culture. The many crises of our time are still developing and mutating. The end is not yet, it seems, in sight.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Steve (last edited Apr 15, 2009 05:27AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Steve Great review. I really liked Cell, and felt it had the kind of energy and edge of the earlier King (or Bachman), but also some of the seasoning of the older King. The ending is well done, even "literary." Sometimes it's best not to tie up all the loose ends. In time, I feel this will be considered one of King's better (and leaner) efforts. No bloat with this one.


Steve Stanley Great review! I just finished Cell last night. As a fan of Stephen King, I feel like this is definitely in the better half of his collection. I think its an "easy out" for a critic to take issue with the unresolved ending. Although I felt a sinking in my stomach when I realized it was unresolved, I felt like it was appropriate. If the book had a positive ending, it would be unrealistic due to the very nature of book. If it had a negative ending, it would leave too much devastation and would be more of a Camus work than a King novel. This was the most appropriate ending for the book.

Kudos!


message 3: by Nick (new)

Nick What a great review! I'm in the middle of Cell right now, and it reminds me greatly of his work under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. Edge of your seat and in your face, its the King of horror at his best.


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