Ever since George A. Romero set the world alight with `Night of the Living Dead' in 1968, screen writers and novel writers alike, have tried to match the originality and brilliance of that story. Some have come close, but no-one has ever matched it. (Even George A. Romero has tried and despite some excellent attempts, he has failed.) The Cell is Stephen King's attempt and again it fails to hit the mark.
It's a brilliant premise - something as ubiquitous as a cell phone, being used by an unknown enemy, to turn the population into frenzied, inane, killers. Think about it - everyone has a cell phone, from your eleven year old cousin to your eighty year old grandmother - they are everywhere! So, if they were ever were to turn against us, we would be in trouble!
Unfortunately, the brilliance ends with the initial premise and does not radiate throughout the book. King's ideas are original; all the usual zombie clichés are missing, there are no gung-ho ex marines ready to kill anything that moves and in King's book when you die, you die, you are not resurrected as a flesh eating, groaning, monster. Even though this is true, I kinda miss these old unoriginal cliché's!
'The Cell', unfortunately, never seems to warm up, firstly, it jumps straight into it. The first zombie appears on the fourth page, giving the reader no time to get to know the characters. (Surely, we have to learn a bit about the characters in order to decide if we want them to get killed in grotesquely horrible ways, or we want them to survive to the end?) But Clayton is the only character we are introduced to before the book launches into the action and we only get to know him in the books dangerous and stressful situation. (I realise that books these days have to capture the reader from the first page, but King, is such a popular writer that surely he can afford to spend a few pages letting us get to know his characters.)
King does have interesting ideas, the zombies or the `phone hordes' are all guided by some higher intelligence and communicate telepathically or through dreams, they are not the brainless, flesh-eating zombies we have come to expect from this genre, but like the premise, he never seems to capitalise on these good ideas. The book is definitely worth a read, if you are a massive King fan you will probably love it and any book that contains the line "Homeland Security's been cancelled due to a lack of sanity" has got to be worth consideration. However, this reader prefers, some of Stephen King's other work, like Shawshank or the Shining, both of these are as near perfection as a novel can be!!!
I have no doubt Stephen King will return to form and impress us all again! After all, he is the brain behind such classics as Carrie and The Stand. So I am disappointed for the moment, but I am eagerly awaiting his next book, hoping it will match the novels previously mentioned.