Stephen King is the undisputed master of horror. He’s written about everything from rabid dogs to aliens, to plagues that wipe out most of humanity; he’s covered ghosts, vampires, serial killers, and the visceral terror of evil manifested as a clown. Hell, he’s even covered machines coming to life with murderous intent. He’s done it all. But it took until 2006 for him to cover zombies?
Especially considering that the real villain here doesn’t seem to be the zombified denizens of New England, but the cellphones that created them. One day, for reasons that are never particularly explained, a “pulse” is emitted through cellphones, which re-set people’s minds. Everyone affected is turned into what amounts to a zombie. There’s a real, “get off my lawn” feel to this book that seems laughably quaint, even though Stephen King returns to this well three years later (warning: disparaging comparisons to Trump to be found here).
Anyway, this is a largely effective novel for King, and it covers well-trodden territory for him. So much of this is familiar, in fact, that I can’t help but wonder if King uses a checklist to write his books.
1. Average Joe from a small town in Maine.
2. Bad/ mysterious/ supernatural things happen.
3. Average Joe connects with a group of random strangers.
4. They encounter religious zealots at some point.
5. Character dies.
6. Dark Tower tie-in!
Unlike many King books, I found this to have a fairly solid ending. Not a great one, by any estimation – but I feel like it worked. His books so often don’t seem to end satisfactorily. Perhaps because he almost never writes with a particular ending in mind, I don’t know, but I think it’s one of his biggest weaknesses as a writer.
My last point is objectively a minor issue, but I feel like it’s something we don’t talk about enough. Why are we all giving Stephen King a pass on his terrible book titles? I mean, Cell? Really? Far be it from me to question a recipe that has made him literally tens of millions of dollars over the last 40 years, but man does he have some terribly generic titles.
The Dark Tower
Am I picking nits? Sure. But, come on…for someone’s whose writing is a warm embrace, you’d think his titles would be more inviting.
Surprisingly, this book hasn’t yet been reviewed for the CBR (that I’ve found).