Cell by Stephen King — probably the best beginning I’ve ever read. That’s high praise. The best beginning? Yup. The action starts on page 2. Planes are falling out of the sky, the cities are crumbling, people are going nuts…
The premise is pretty cool. What if by merely listening on a cell phone, you went crazy — your identity stripped away leaving only murderous thoughts and impulses? Basically, you become a zombie. Why is it a cool idea? I like the thought of a super virus, and what is more ubiquitous than cell phones?
Wow, there’s an accident…better call the wife. Huh, some guy killed that other guy, better call the daughter to stay safe. Wow, the place is going nuts, better call 911.
It slowed after the initial ‘craziness’, then became quite similar to the Stand…and began to drag slowly. But then Stephen King changes gears and the phone-zombies begin to develop a new consciousness, one that is far deadlier than crazed zombies.
One of the criticisms I usually have of Stephen King is the endings. Usually they end with Deus Ex Machina — some improbable, and unsatisfying ending. The Stand was one such book. I remember thinking ‘I read 20,000 pages for that!’.
But Cell had a good ending…both in resolution and in hope.
From my understanding, Stephen King is retired. Since he’s been retired, he puts out a book a year. Cell is one of those books. While I’m no Stephen King scholar, I’d classify his works into three eras: the Golden Years (Shining, Stand, Dead Zone, Firestarter) which are all the classics, then the Bloated Years (It, Tommy Knockers) where the books simply became monstrosities…now I’ll add to that the Retired Years. If Cell is any indication, perhaps slowing down and writing better paced, tighter books will return him to the glory years.