Sunday, February 19, 2006
I just finished Cell, Stephen Kings new book. In it, everyone carrying a cell phone goes mad when they answer a 'pulse' that is sent out through what we assume is the entire cellular network.
When I first heard of the plot of King's newest novel, I immediately thought of it as a Bachman book. For those who may not now, King wrote several books as Richard Bachman, both to prevent a 'glut' of his work on the market and to publish some of his back - list stuff that he wrote around the time of Carrie. Once his pseudonym came to light, he wrote a few more as Bachman, and they tended to be the ulta-violent, go for the gore type of novel.
I was not wrong. Here, King certainly does not avoid the blood. Bodies fly apart, humans munch on each other, and the 'pulsed' zombies rule all.
One thing I had a hard time doing initially was throwing away my disbelief. Most horror novels have some kind of premise where the reader has to think 'yeah, that could happen." In this case, I never did. I never bought into "The Pulse", and I never bought into the final climactic scene between the main characters and the "Pulsed" zombies.
However, King drew me in anyway through his hallmarks of characters I cared about thrown into extreme situations. In this case, King is dancing on the end of the world again, and it works. Not because I really believed anything, but because I cared about the people that were stuck in the mix.
The action in this novel is relentless, moving the plot along at a rapid pace. There are the obligatory "And now we pause for exposition to explain of few things" moments, but they are fewer and farther between than in other King novels.
Just when I thought I had things figured out, King did a good job of throwing in a twist that I had not foreseen.
There's quite a bit of controversy over King. Is he our Dickens, or a hopeless hack who merely appeals to the masses? Or perhaps both at once? The bottom line for me is that the masses don't care. King is our treasure, for our time, and that's what matters.