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Cell: A Novel Hardcover – January 24, 2006

3.6 out of 5 stars 1,427 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Witness Stephen King's triumphant, blood-spattered return to the genre that made him famous. Cell, the king of horror's homage to zombie films (the book is dedicated in part to George A. Romero) is his goriest, most horrific novel in years, not to mention the most intensely paced. Casting aside his love of elaborate character and town histories and penchant for delayed gratification, King yanks readers off their feet within the first few pages; dragging them into the fray and offering no chance catch their breath until the very last page.

In Cell King taps into readers fears of technological warfare and terrorism. Mobile phones deliver the apocalypse to millions of unsuspecting humans by wiping their brains of any humanity, leaving only aggressive and destructive impulses behind. Those without cell phones, like illustrator Clayton Riddell and his small band of "normies," must fight for survival, and their journey to find Clayton's estranged wife and young son rockets the book toward resolution.

Fans that have followed King from the beginning will recognize and appreciate Cell as a departure--King's writing has not been so pure of heart and free of hang-ups in years (wrapping up his phenomenal Dark Tower series and receiving a medal from the National Book Foundation doesn't hurt either). "Retirement" clearly suits King, and lucky for us, having nothing left to prove frees him up to write frenzied, juiced-up horror-thrillers like Cell. --Daphne Durham

From Publishers Weekly

What if a pulse sent out through cell phones turned every person using one of them into a zombie-like killing machine? That's what happens on page six of King's latest, a glib, technophobic but compelling look at the end of civilization—or at what may turn into a new, extreme, telepathically enforced fascism. Those who are not on a call at the time of the pulse (and who don't reach for their phones to find out what is going on) remain "normies." One such is Clayton Riddell, an illustrator from Kent Pond, Maine, who has just sold some work in Boston when the pulse hits. Clay's single-minded attempt to get back to Maine, where his estranged wife, Sharon, and young son, Johnny-Gee, may or may not have been turned into "phoners" (as those who have had their brains wiped by the pulse come to be called) comprises the rest of the plot. King's imagining of what is more or less post-Armageddon Boston is rich, and the sociological asides made by his characters along the way—Clay travels at first with two other refugees—are jaunty and witty. The novel's three long set pieces are all pretty gory, but not gratuitously so, and the book holds together in signature King style. Fans will be satisfied and will look forward to the next King release, Lisey's Story, slated for October. (Jan. 24)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (January 24, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743292332
  • ISBN-13: 978-0739464335
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,427 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #339,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By B. McEwan VINE VOICE on April 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This novel has a great underlying premise: The human brain is an organic computer that has a basic operating system, which is capable of being erased. In the case of this novel, the erasure is triggered by a "pulse" that is sent out to millions of people through their cell phones. Those who do not happen to be using their phones at the time of the Pulse are spared. Those who are using their phones turn into zombie-like creatures who maim and kill one another and appear to be driven only by hunger and anger.

The twist comes when the "normies" realize that the "phoners" (aka zombies) are sort of evolving over time. They appear to be developing more sophisticated traits that are, in some cases, superior to those of normal humans. For instance, they communicate via telepathy and move around by means of levitation.

I would have liked to see this evolution idea further developed, perhaps even all the way to the point where the once inferior zombies become the next step up in human evolution, with the "normies" ultimately ending up in the same relationship as the Neanderthals may have been to Homo Sapiens. But, alas, that never happens. In fact, nothing close to that happens because King leaves readers in the lurch by not bringing the novel to a satisfactory conclusion.

I know that King often leaves the ultimate endings up to the readers' imaginations, and I appreciate that technique. But in Cell he really should have taken us a bit farther down the road, at least so we knew whether or not the "old" human programming could be rescued from some area of deep memory so some phoners could be restored to their former condition.
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Format: Hardcover
The wonderful thing about King's new novel, Cell, is that he takes a relatively ordinary phenomenon of contemporary life and turns it into a shocking horror fest. This is King's great talent, and no one does it better. From the pet cemetary in the woods to the nice family doggie (who now has rabies), King populates his middle-class American landscape with familiar things that have now turned nightmarishly psychotic. In Cell, King jams an urban myth into the highest gear. What if cell phones didn't cause cancer? What if they did something much worse? What if they turned the user into a zombie killing machine? From the first page to the last, you're hooked. It doesn't matter if the reading calories are empty; you can't stop reading. That's why King, above everything else (and perhaps in spite of everything else) has remained the best selling author in the world. You can't stop reading him.

Donald Gallinger is the author of The Master Planets
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And I, for one, am glad King is still writing--even if I was nervous about picking up my cell phone for a couple of days!

The editorial reviews tell you everything you need to know about the plot, so I won't repeat it here.

When I read this book I saw comparisons to two novels; one of those books is Dean Koontz's "The Taking." Although the plots are superficially the same--a trip through a nightmare world--the books are very different in style, in tone, and in the "whys" underlying them. [Depending on your point of view, by the way, you'll find King's explanation either inspired or exasperating.]

The comparisons to the zombies of George A. Romero's movies are fairly obvious, but the descriptions of human life after the Pulse, for Clay and his band of struggling "normies," and of non-human life, if you will, for the "phoners," reminded me of a more classic novel, Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend." [King has noted his admiration for Matheson in the past, and, in fact, "Cell" is dedicated to Romero and Matheson.] What scared me most about this novel, as with "Legend," was the fact that everything in the book felt like it really *could* happen here.

And that plausibility carries through to the ending. It's difficult to write an ending for a book like this one, but King managed to write one that makes sense without false optimism (as the book's prologue notes, most of America is dead by the time the book ends) *or* unnecessary pathos.

All in all, King fans will be thrilled by this book; as an added bonus, it also includes an excerpt from King's next novel, "Lisey's Story" (due out in October 2006), which I am now eagerly awaiting.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If for no other reason, I thank Stephen King for taking those five words which haunt tv commercials:, "Can you hear me now?" and turning the phrase into something more than merely annoying..and into the realm of the truly ominous. While it might seem obvious to some of us that cell phones are horrible little devices, it still takes a pretty talented writer to write a book about evil spread by cell phones...and to keep readers riveted the entire time. I was one of those readers. Like King, I refuse to have a cell phone, an "electronic leash". No thanks.

But I'm really digressing here. Back to The Cell . If you think you don't like King's "supernatural" or "horror" style, I'd urge you to give The Cell a chance. I read it from cover to cover in one sitting.
I can't say it is the best book he's written but it was still a fine read and had many of the trademarks of King's superior writing - excellent characterization, an unpredictable plot and just enough plausability to make me think, "WHat if?" What if there WERE some way to use cell phones to affect people's brains, to create insanity in our population, with results leading to the brink of civilization's collapse?

It is to King's credit that he not only raises these questions but kept me wanting to find out what happened next, to see what happened to Clayton, a guy who happens to be away from home when all hell breaks out. By the time it does, I was already intrigued by this guy, someone who was trying to figure out a way to curry his estranged wife's favor, who had the usual worries and imperfections of the average man. He was no hero, just an ordinary guy, just trying to get by, thinking about his career and the next step in his day, the usual stuff..
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