“Cell” by Stephen King

Like cheap whiskey, it’s very nasty and extremely satisfying.” wrote Stephen King describing his 53 rd book and 44th novel, “Cell“.

no smartphone, no

If you have a cellphone you are doomed: the girl on the right might survive.

Cellphones are everywhere these days and that is the cornerstone of this apocalyptic horror story. As he usually does, King takes the reader straight into the action, on a pleasant October afternoon in downtown Boston everything suddenly goes crazy. The protagonist, Clay, a phone-phobe was down from Maine touting his graphic novel.  Suddenly people attack strangers, break things and speak in wild inarticulate cries (“Gluh“, “Rast”), all as a consequence of the brain zapping that the book calls The Pulse. It has been delivered via cellphone. Only the few not using a cellphone are spared. The plot is simple. The pulse delivered through the mobile phone system  wipes clean a person’s mind and sends them back to basics, like a computer rebooted and they become unreasoning killers. The phone crazies evolve, they begin to flock together and develop a sort of telepathy.

By using cellphones, which have become the dominant form of communication in our daily lives, you simultaneously turn the populace into your own conscript army – an army that’s literally afraid of nothing, because it’s insane –


My cellphone and the book

Those that didn’t hear the pulse and survived the bloodbath also group together and a struggle for survival begins. Clay joins up with Tom and Alice and heads north hoping to find his son in Maine (Stephen King’s home state). King keeps the number of principal characters  small, making it easy to follow. An antagonist emerges halfway through the novel as a leader of the phonies. Clay refers to him as the “Raggedy Man” another survivor band describe him as “the President of Harvard”, his first appearance comes in Clay’s dream, a dream he finds his fellow travellers have also had.

Tech satire or just another zombie tale? Stephen King gives a shout out to cyberpunk writers like William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, John Shirley and Neal Stephenson.

Jordan grinned radiantly.”Neal Stephenson’s a god.”

The phone-crazies do add an element of telepathy not usually found in the zombie genre. However, this is more a horror  novel than a cyberpunk offering and King is a master of the genre. Although, this novel isn’t in the same league as his earlier apocalyptic novel, The Stand, it is still a cleverly written tale crafted by a master storyteller, who knows how to keep the reader’s attention. Even a sub par Stephen King book is better than most novels on the market.


A film has been made of Cell but even actors of the calibre of John Cusack, Samuel L Jackson and Isabelle Fuhrman couldn’t save it from being awful, like many Stephen King adaptations it strays a lot from the book. The book starts in Downtown Boston, the film starts at the airport. In the film Clay (John Cusack) has a phone it just isn’t charged, in the book he doesn’t own a cellphone. I only managed to watch half of the film but I finished the book.

Cell Movie

Chaos in the airport

I would recommend the book with some reservations. There are better Stephen King books out there. I would recommend avoiding the film unless you are really into bad films.

My rating 3.5 out of 5



About jimholroyd365

Hi, my name is Jim, I am an Englishman living in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. I started this blog to share my interests, my photos and to make sense of my world. I take a lot of photographs of various subjects, some of which I intend to share here. I collect diecast cars and get the same thrill at 50 as I did when I was 8, when I find a car I'm searching for, Don't worry, I have a separate blog for this hobby. Please feel free to comment and ask questions on what I blog. I am quite new to this blogging, I was inspired by reading a book, which began as a blog of a London Ambulance Driver: "Blood, Sweat and Tea". I hope my blog will be entertaining and amusing, I did try stand up comedy in the UK and had seven gigs before I left to teach English in Georgia. I love reading and so the blog will include book reviews of books as I finish them.I don't know about which direction this blog will go, I am a great believer in serendipity...let the journey begin...
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