Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Wrong Number, Bad Connection

Somewhere in Cell's 350+ pages, a character refers to the Cuban Missile Crisis having occurred in October of 1963. I'm not a historian per se, but I immediately knew that something was wrong here--the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred in 1962, and Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Sure, Stephen King can argue that the error was made by the character, not by him... but the simple fact is, that minor sloppy detail is indicative to me of the relative lack of care that went into this tedious novel.

I had great hopes for this book; the premise sounded almost as apocalyptic as The Stand, but on a smaller, more technological level. A computer virus/worm spreads via cell phones, infecting all who are using the devices as the virus unleashes itself; the end result is a country filled with homicidal zombie-like lunatics, stripped of all self-control and incapable of higher thought.

So what goes wrong? Nothing, if your idea of complex, thought-provoking storytelling is Night of the Living Dead. Unfortunately, the book never manages to move beyond that level; it's a "run from the zombies" tale from beginning to end, with little set-up, minimal character development, and a skeletal plot.

One other complaint: for some reason, King seems fascinated with fonts in this book. He finds it essential to set some words in different fonts at different sizes, as if this somehow adds an impact or verisimilitude to the story. The end result is that sort of "ransom note" look that student papers had once the author discovered he had a plethora of fonts and sizes at his command. It does nothing to enhance the impact of the story, and just becomes darn aggravating after a while.

I had hopes that Cell would be the Next Great Stephen King Novel. Instead, it's the "Let's Hope the Next One Is Great" Stephen King Novel...


Doug said...

Don't you LOVE when writers start thinking they're typesetters or designers?

cliff said...

It's just embarrassing... It reminds me of all those compositions I would grade in the early days of the home computer age--papers filled with varying sizes, fonts, and accentuations of text with no sense of style or purpose, and no idea as to how it negatively impacted readability.