Steve's Reviews > Cell

Cell by Stephen King
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Mar 26, 2010

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bookshelves: fiction, horror
Read in April, 2007

There have been many who have compared Stephen King's Cell with his earlier Apocalypse-Now effort, The Stand. And there are some good reasons, End-of-the-World setting, the survivors polarized into two camps, one camp, arguably no longer even human, a big bang ending in an arena like setting, etc. But there are differences as well. When King wrote The Stand, it seemed to mark a moment in that writer's life where he was becoming overt in things religious. The Stand is a battle between good and evil, darkness and light, King's Book of Revelation if you will. Cell is more ambiguous. The zombie like creatures that inhabit the novel are, through no fault of their own, zapped by the "surge," which pretty much wipes out anyone's human hard drive if they happened to own and use a cell phone. No choice there. To some extent, as animal like as they can be, the zombies of Cell are pitiable. Meanwhile, King's little band of survivors are just trying to get somewhere, find some human traction in a world that has been blasted. In particular, there is Clay Riddell, who in his previous pre-Surge life was a graphic artist, and probably something of dreamer. His marriage is probably on the rocks, but he loves his son dearly, and when the deal goes down, he can only think of one thing: to get to him. In King's universe, we now see the Manichean Good and Evil from the Stand being replaced by Cell's Love and Duty. To some extent Cell is similar to Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Both are Father and Son stories; both look beyond the End, to what must remain if we are to survive as a species: Hope. The ending of Cell has bothered some, but I think this is unwarranted. In many ways, it's one of King's most powerful endings, and shows the mature writer that he has become. There is no need for a sequel, and I would be surprised if King wrote one.

Cell is a fine effort by King, and one that will be viewed, as time goes by, as one of his best efforts. It has as an effective leanness and nastiness to it that will remind some of Thinner, but also a suggestive depth to it that carries it beyond merely Pulp Fiction.

* Note: I think King totally ripped off Simon Clark's Blood Crazy. I still like what King did with it, but I'm dropping a star (from 4 to 3) as a result. Comparing the two, I also think Clark had the better story.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Henrik (new)

Henrik My opinion of Cell is less favorable than yours, Steve, but I appreciate your thoughtful and insightful review. Thank you very much.


Steve Thanks, Henrik. I'm definitely in the minority on this one. Actually, I think "Leah" in the reviews area makes a better argument than me for it being "good" King. She probably won't convince you, but it's a good, well thought out review.


message 3: by Henrik (new)

Henrik Thanks, Steve. I've now read Leah's argument and clicked that I liked it. You're right--I am not convinced ("converted," hehe), but it certainly is a fine review.

I liked Cell fairly okay, btw, but didn't think it was among King's best efforts.


message 4: by Shelli (new)

Shelli I just dug this out of the paper bag containing my last library sale haul, and will bump it up on my to-read queue. I implicitly trust King-related opinions of anyone who loathes The Tommyknockers! :-)


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