Friday, September 01, 2006

Review: Cell.

I listened to Cell, by Stephen King, on CD for the trip west. I've seen a few movies made from his books, and I read his detective story (which I hated) and a short story called The Raft. So I figured I'd give old Stevie a try.

This story started off with a bang. It had a terrific first chapter, exciting and genuinely terrifying in a modern tech fashion. From there, it went straight downhill. Intensely introspective, in a bad navel-gazing way.

For those who might have read Cell... is this a bad Stephen King story? Or a good one? Cause if this is a good one, I don't want to read any more. It was full of cliches and pop culture references that seemed to say, "This is where I stole this plot idea."

Reviewers loved these references, and there were many more to other books King had written. Many reviews were thrilled to see King come back from retirement, and seemed to cut him a lot of slack for his wooden characters and stilted dialog. I don't know how you can say, "It was a great book, despite the lousy characters." Great books don't have lousy characters.

A plot driven book with a lousy story poorly told and boring as hell. The protagonists did much more watching the plot happen than doing something. Characters were minimally developed, and I didn't care who survived and who didn't.

I said to LWC at the rest stop, "If I were one of the people in this story, I'd shoot myself in the head." When I got back to the CD, somebody did. Unfortunately, I hung on until the end. The book did its job I guess, it kept me interested (infuriated?) until we got to Colorado.

Maybe I don't like zombie stories. Maybe I'm spoiled by tight plotting and terrific dialogue with wonderful characters, like I'm finding in Gaiman, Gibson, Leonard, Chandler and my new favorite, James Ellroy. At any rate, I think it'll be a long time before I give King a tumble again.


Hayden said...

I feel your pain. I've read a number of his works and seen many more on TV and they for the most part all have great premises, but then completely fall apart by the ending. It's almost as if he gets progressively more tired as he writes and then just gives up. This came up in a discussion with his son (who went to my college) and his son said he will bring a new (better?) type of writing to the King name. So far he's published one book (We're All in This Together: A Novella and Stories) and it has gotten good reviews.

Tom said...

You could probably tell that I thought about warning you off. I agree pretty much dead on with your review. I kept hoping the "heros" would do something.

Read 'Salem's Lot next time you think about King. Maybe The Stand, though I think you might not be the biggest fan of the ending. I am also a huge fan of The Gunslinger, but mainly because it reminds me of a Spaghetti Western. But SL is actually scary, and the heros are heroic.

Aussie Askew said...

As I recall many years ago, I loved "The Raft". About that oily monster eating kids, right? I think I even remember the sex scene pretty clearly, must have been formative at the time!

I think that was the first piece he wrote that made him money, right? Enough to pay off a fine he had collected for stealing witches hats (you know, those pointy orange things on road work sites)...

Damn.. I dont know which subterranean memory vault that came from... but the brain is a marvellous thing.