Sunday, 31 August 2008
Catching up with the past master
I stated in an earlier post that I used to be a voracious reader of Stephen King but gave up after failing to finish the Dark Half. But after reading his excellent, On Writing I thought I'd get back and discover what he's been up to while I was away.
The book starts off with Clayton Riddell, a young comic book artist, travelling from a meeting with his publisher. He notices several people answering their mobile phone and then all hell breaks loose. One guy bites the ear off the dog he is walking, a woman slams herself against a post repeatedly, a young girl attacks her friend, people start killing each other and quite often themselves. It soon becomes apparent that everyone answering their mobile phones were somehow turned into crazed zombies.
Nothing original there then - though King's use of technology to spark off a wave of zombies is at least a slight twist on the old theme. The aftermath of the apocalyptic event will be familiar to anyone who has seen a zombie movie, as survivors join up and try to survive in this not so brave new world while they figure out just what has happened.
I've read a lot of critics saying King is a bad writer but that's bullshit. Where King excels is in the sheer brilliance of his prose and the ability to create such likeable characters. I was genuinely moved during one scene where a major character died and the scene LITERALLY tugged at the heart. Also the fact that the zombie/phone people seem to be flocking together is creepy and there are some ingenious twists that keep those pages turning.
To sum up - The Cell may owe a lot to the zombie genre (King dedicates the book to George Romero and Richard Matherson so he's playing fair and saying this is a kind of homage) and it may be padded in several places, could have done with losing a scene or two, but it's still a work that anyone would be proud to have produced.
I guess I still love Mr King.
Posted by Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin at 10:07