Fear and terror comes in many guises and forms, it’s sheer force is hard wired into our animal bodies of old. But rather then getting our fix of fright through the danger our ancestors faced in daily life or listening to the legends of ghosts and monstrosity’s passed down throughout time, modern man is forced to seek out his desire to be frightened in movies and books. And no name says horror like Stephen King.
Ideal storyteller’s have versatility and King has always had a knack for attacking various angles and genres, the better to keep us on our toes and sleeping with the bedroom lights on. Cell is a novel by King that almost seems like it would feel more at home in a darkened movie theater as it’s visually gory style and graphic nature are the tricks employed by films of the horror genre, giving us a mixture of plot and visual madness that serve each other well, never making the other side of the coin seem too contrived or well tread.
It also draws on the modern day era of cell phones and turns these now common everyday items into weapons of unknown forces perhaps residing deep in us all, taking an all too familiar object and turning it on it’s head to shake us up. The fact that cell phones are indeed everywhere (I’m even writing this from a cell phone, which seems odd given the subject matter.) only makes it really take your sense of what is possible and stretch it to it’s limit.
As with most Stephen King novels, the strength is in the characters. The small band of survivors that are thrown together after a pulse sent to every cell phone makes a good portion of the population change into violent zombie like creatures are real people with lives that are destroyed with everything else, you feel their losses and it strikes you in all the right area it needs to to have the reader feel empathy and compassion for four main characters that come to be the main focus of the story.
No self respecting horror story would be caught dead without a scary hook to keep you reading and keep your fear level high and King triumphs with the creatures he has created here, converted Humans that at first appear violent and mindless even to each but develop a pattern and purpose as the story moves on, the sheer oddness of it all drawing you deeper into it’s world that was once our own but now belongs to the strange creatures that stalk the once busy streets and cities.
A post apocalyptic world is nothing new for King, a subject he has tackled before in his excellent novel The Stand, but this is not really too much of a deterrent and for those who have not read Stephen King’s back catalog it’s not a problem at all.
All in all Cell is a tremendous modern novel by one of the true master’s of horror fiction and a perfect book for scares on a lonely night.