Thursday, May 12, 2016

Book Review: Cell

A Fair Trade Book 

Title: Cell

Author: Stephen King

Date: 2006

Publisher: Scribner

ISBN: 978-0-7432-9233-7

Length: 350 pages

Quote: “Don’t use them. Tell the others. Don’t use the cell phones.”

According to the back of the book jacket, Stephen King is still living with Tabitha King in Maine. He does not own a cell phone. And one day, it seems, he was really ticked off by people who were using cell phones. You don’t want to think about what happens when people tick off Stephen King...except that, in a sneaky unconscious way, you do...and what happened this time was that he wrote a horror novel in which a small group of terrorists discover an electronic code that destroys the human mind. All the cell phone users become violently insane.

But that’s not the end. Even Stephen King couldn’t get 350 pages out of that. The signals mutate. The surviving “phoners” go into a zombielike phase during which they kill as many “normals” as they can. Then, without recovering human intelligence, they develop a psychic bond, convincing “normals” who resist them to kill themselves.

You know how a Stephen King plot develops. An Unlikely Band of Heroes will form, and will avert the threatened apocalypse with a mere ordinary disaster in which only some of the heroes will die.

For those tracking what they hope will be King’s evolution toward Christianity, this novel contains another ambiguity. The Unlikely Band of Heroes will exclude a church-lady type who tries to tell the teenaged girl in their group that she’s not safe travelling with grown-up men. (None of the Unlikely Heroes gets much opportunity to think about sex, although there is a married man who misses his wife, a Stephen King trademark, and another man who the other characters think is probably homosexual.) The church lady seems like a fan of the other horror novels that challenged King’s for bestseller status at the turn of the century, Left Behind. However, when the first of the Unlikely Heroes dies, the others recite a Bible passage at the funeral; later somebody prays for help and gets it.

I think I’ve read most of Stephen King’s novels—once; usually at a friend’s house, or at a library. I prefer the realistic danger in The Girl Who Loved Tom Hanks and Gerald’s Game to the science fiction motif in Cell; then again I prefer Cell to the gross-outs in Salem’s Lot. The unifying principle in the Stephen King universe is that every human mind contains a cesspool of filth and brutality, and it’s good for us to ventilate our inner cesspools every year or two. If you feel a need for a fictional bloodbath, here’s one that’s logical, free from occultism and sex and overt preaching, and written with more suspense and less yuck than some of King’s earlier books.

And yes, I still think a cell phone is a valuable safety device...provided, of course, that you resist the temptation to shout into it in public places and cause others to wish the thing could be programmed to kill you.

Cell is not hard to find, and you may find better prices elsewhere (possibly even by clicking on the photo link to buy it directly from the seller who photographed it). To buy it here, as a Fair Trade Book, you send our minimum price of $5 per copy + $5 per package to either address at the very bottom of the screen. (If you buy several books in one package, the price becomes more competitive.) From this total of $10 per copy, even if you buy two copies for $15 or four for $25, we'll send $1 per copy to Stephen King or a charity of his choice.