King’s apocalyptic cautionary tale suggests that cellular communication could be as pernicious as it is pervasive.
Artist Clay Riddell has just traveled from his native Maine to Boston to sell his first graphic novel when all hell breaks loose. Vehicles crash at random. Language turns to gibberish. Bystanders devour the flesh of strangers. As King (From a Buick 8, 2002, etc.) describes this urban meltdown in gory, graphic detail, it becomes increasingly obvious to Riddell that all who have suddenly become crazy were talking on their cell phones. Some sort of simultaneous transmission has transformed the city’s citizenry into mindless zombies. The author taps into the collective dread of a society battered by 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina as he depicts a battle for survival that pits “normies” such as Clay, the few who didn’t have cellular access, against hordes of “phoners,” who quickly develop a flocking instinct and telepathic communication. The plot can’t sustain the sizzle of its sensational opening: More concerned with the effects of this cell-phone terrorism than its cause, the author never indicates what’s happening beyond Clay’s immediate vicinity. Yet the hero’s odyssey remains compelling as he attempts to return home to estranged wife Sharon and beloved son Johnny, and the surrogate family of refugees he attracts along the way adds a human dimension. Clay doesn’t have a cell phone, but his son does, and he has no idea in what form he might find Johnny if he manages to find the boy at all. As King acknowledges in his dedication, he owes a debt to zombie-flick director George Romero and horror/fantasy author Richard Matheson.
The revenge of a cellphone-hater.