Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Book Review: Cell, by Stephen King (Plus a Rant About Braaaaiiiins)

Stephen King has done all the typical monsters: vampires, werewolves, aliens, robots, clowns. Until now, though, he hasn't done zombies. Cell is Stephen King doing zombies. Nothing more, nothing less.

He does, of course, add some twists to the genre, which I won't give away here. The twists are done in context though; it's obvious that King has seen a lot of zombie movies, and any deviation from the traditional zombie is done intentionally. His nods to zombie movies are subtle but effective (e.g. waiting for a tidy explanation of how the zombie outbreak began is missing the point). One twist sorta makes the idea of zombies less scary (for those who have read it, I'm talking about their cyclical nature), but it does keep the story moving in a believable way. The plot unfolds rapidly, almost feeling like a movie screenplay in both its pace and its visual style of writing. The bottom line is that Cell is an enjoyable read and hard to put down; that's the highest praise I can give a book like this.

[TANGENT] There is one thing I have to complain about. At one point, a character in Cell uses the "humans use only 10% of their brains" myth to explain something. Where the hell did this come from, and why do people continue to believe it? Does anyone really think nature (or hell, God, if you prefer) would create this freakish creature with a head containing a tiny functional brain surrounded by 9 times more useless brain-coloured goo? That makes no sense. Perhaps people really mean "humans only use 10% of their brain at one time". Closer to the truth, maybe, but the negative connotation is misleading. It's like saying "computers use only 10% of their programs" because you never have every program running at the same time. If we "used 100% of our brains" in this context, we'd be trying to do everything a human can possibly do at one time (probably ending up paralyzed, babbling incoherently, and going insane trying to deal with all memories from our lives simultaneously rushing into consciousness); or more likely, we'd have some kind of seizure and die instantly, not unlike the computer frying itself if you managed to run every program at once.

I think the main explanation for the perpetuation of this myth is that people want it to be true. They want it to mean that we are using only 10% of our potentials, and there's so much room for us to improve. That 90% holds the solution to all of life's problems; we can end war, discover the universe's secrets, and figure out the opposite sex, if only we try hard enough and dip into that 90% potential. Perhaps, though, it'd be more fruitful to realize that we're already running at 100% (if not more) of what our brains are meant for, and if such solutions to life's problems exist, they are already within our reach.

Oh, and another reason we want this to be true? Because if a zombie attacks and eats a chunk of your brain, chances are it'll be from that useless 90% and you'll walk away unharmed. [/TANGENT]


sarah said...

Stephen King writes his books with pacing that seems like movies. I really enjoy his 'prose.' I have not read the cell (NO TIME FOR LEISURE READING ARE YOU KIDDING!??), but probably will one day. His books are candy for my brain. :)

I have always heard the 10% of your brain quote in explanation of the stuff you are talking about. Often I hear that when people are explaining being psychic. They are all like, "THINK ABOUT IT! We only use 10% of our brains!! Imagine the unleashed brainage potential!!! mwahahahahahaha!" I didn't put too much stock in it, but I didn't realize it was a myth either... until now.

limpy99 said...

That 90% of brains = safe zombie food is the best explanation yet.

Dr. Zombie said...

I finished Cell and was kind of like, "Meh."

Am I the only one who thinks that King's style has become so culturally pervasive that he's almost become a parody of himself?

Don't get me wrong... I love Stephen King. He's written some of the greatest horror of the last 40 or so years.

I don't know, I was expecting more zombie goodness, you know? I mean I love zombies on the same order you do, Phronk (hello?! Look at my online persona!) - - and it started out so well.

But then it became so...Stephen King-ish...

Phronk said...

Sarah: Yeah, I like the WAY he writes even when the content of his writing isn't great. And yeah, even if we do have some psychic abilities, I think it'd be something we use subtly all the time (with occasional bursts of non-subtlety); not some dormant ability locked up in a dusty part of the brain.

Limpy: It's as good as any other. :)

Doctor: I do agree that it started better than it finished. The first few chapters were pure zombie goodness, and I did wish for more of that. But it still kept me reading and enjoying it, partly because of his addictive style of writing.

I was kinda embarrassed for King after that Simpsons episode where they make fun of him writing stories about any random everyday object becoming scary. Then he comes out with a novel about scary cell phones.

I maintain that he's fun to read, though, even if there is that underlying Stephen Kingness that sometimes gets in the way.

SharkBoy said...

I blame this book for starting me on reading novels again... I had stopped for awhile got tired of reading the same stuff by different authors... but as an ex-fan of King, I picked up this book and read the first few lines and was hooked right away... I liked the fact that reading it was just like watching a movie, you could almost feel the camera movement... and that the gay guy lived at the end... lol

Nölff said...

I bet it's better than that damn harry potter book. Hobbit books are retarded.

Mitzzee said...

I heart Mr. King....he was on The Hour with George other day and he's just divine.