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Cell    by Stephen King order for
by Stephen King
Order:  USA  Can
Scribner, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, CD
* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Stephen King has a deserved reputation as an adept spinner of scary tales. Although I am not normally a fan of horror, I was intrigued by the description I read: a horrendous catastrophe is delivered via cell phones, rendering their users insane and devastating modern society. Like many others, I have been irritated (I suspect the author as well) by the indiscriminate and often discourteous use of cell phones in any and all situations ... so of course I had to read this.

King creates sympathetic characters. A few of the survivors those who did not have a cell phone glued to the ear at the critical moment band together. The protagonist, Clay Riddell, is desperate to get back to his home in Maine to see what has become of his estranged wife and young son. Accompanying him are Boston native Tom McCourt and teenaged Alice Maxwell, whose mother fell victim to the cell-phone madness. All three are wise enough to realize that Boston is on its way to becoming a charnel house.

The story opens with a chilling description of the bloody chaos that ensues after the pulse, then becomes an engrossing account of the survivors' trek toward a problematical haven. Along the way they encounter new allies and friends, again appealing characters. If logic sometimes seems to wear a bit thin, the suspense of their plight overrules such quibbles. The zombie-like phone crazies are everywhere, but mercifully go dormant with the fall of night. (Here I also have to admit that George Romero's Living Dead movies are a guilty pleasure.) An eerie mutation or evolution of the phone crazies is making them far more than zombies, and complicates the situation of Clay and his friends. The tale reaches a nail-biting climax that pits them against a literal horde of enemies.

Cell is a great thrill-ride. The author plants sly darts in society's complacency without sacrificing plot action and demonstrates again his skill at engaging the reader.

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