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, ch