Review of Cell by Stephen King

SFFaudio Audiobook Review

Editor’s note: Our newest reviewer, a mysterious gent from the future known only as The Time Traveler, debuts on SFFaudio with this review of Stephen King’s latest. Be sure to sit down and read it before you pick up your cell phone.

Science Fiction & Horror Audiobook - Cell by Stephen KingCell
By Stephen King; Read by Campbell Scott
8 Cassettes or 12 CDs – 12.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio / Recorded Books
Published: 2006
ISBN: 0743554329 (Cassette), 0743554337 (CD)
Themes: / Horror / Science Fiction / Apocalypse / Zombies/ Journey /
Survivors / Terrorism

There’s a reason why cell rhymes with hell.

Stephen King’s latest book is a return to form for this master of horror. In it, everyone with a cell phone goes stark raving mad after they receive some kind of pulse through their cell. The pulse, likely sent by terrorists, wipes the victims’ minds clean. This story takes no time to get started. Within the first few minutes, you are drawn into this nightmare scenario, steeped in gore and horror.

The main character, Clayton Riddell, finds himself in Boston when the pulse drives the majority of people biting, scratching, and murderously mad. He is joined by a band of likable characters as they set off to get out of Boston. Meanwhile the victims of the pulse start behaving more like Zombies and start flocking together and evolving with even more unexpected behavior.

Much of this material is familiar ground for King. But the narrative drive is strong, and it doesn’t drag with shear verbosity as King’s writing sometimes does. Campbell Scott reads the audiobook. Scott is a very competent narrator who’s also a film actor and has appeared in movies like The Exorcism of Emily Rose. His narration is restrained and subdued which works well with the apocalyptic horror being described. His Boston accents are excellent without being overdone. He’s also the son of the late George C. Scott.

I’ve got two qualms with the audiobook. If it’s unabridged, shouldn’t it contain the dedication? I picked up the hardcover edition at the store and found it was dedicated to George Romero and Richard Matheson. George Romero was the director and writer of the Night of the Living Dead and it’s sequels. Richard Matheson wrote the seminal post-apocalyptic vampire novel, I am Legend, in 1954. There is no dedication on the audiobook. Doesn’t unabridged mean word for word? The dedication definitely foreshadows what kind of novel Cell is to be.

Also there are places in the second half of the book where the narrative voice totally changes. It sounds as if they needed some pick-ups done, to fix small mistakes, and Mr. Scott was not available so they plugged someone else in. Overall these are small distractions, and the audiobook is a hard to turn-off listen.

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