A Story by Wulfstan Crumble

A review of a book by Stephen King.




      The brain is made up of millions of tiny relatively simple cells. It is also, according to Stephen King, able to be reprogrammed by an encoded message sent via Cellphones. King attempts to mix our fears of cellphone related damage, computer viruses (think young spotty kids in their rooms) with a good old Zombie yarn.


      The book focuses on the story of Clay Riddell, a less than successful Graphic Artist on a trip to Boston. The mayhem begins early into the book and seems clunky and badly written. Quick asides and random bits of information serve to throw the story off pace. There is also a total lack of mystery over the cause of the problem which also makes the prose look bad.


      Yet as the novel wears on the story builds nicely. The characters are nicely ignorant of the sciences but able to make guesses; especially school kid Jordan. There are plenty of zombie deaths and variations on the zombie themes though at times it does seem a bit George Romero. Especially as the only character-zombie is a black guy (Harvard) much like the intelligent zombie in Day of the Dead.


      The book builds to its inevitable climax with a sense of inevitability. This results from the motive-less abilities of the zombies to control normal minds as well as levitate, group think, project music and use telekinesis. These are presented as base abilities encoded within our minds. They are concentrated in the 98% of the brain that remains unused. King projects the idea that a virus that wipes out the mind can regain these abilities as it attempts to reboot itself.


      Here comes the science. A wiped clean brain would theoretically loose all abilities, all control of the body and the body would simply die. Therefore the book makes a mistake to differentiate between wiping the consciousness and wiping the brain. If the brain retains base functional commands like existing then the body would not be in a zombified state. This would likely be because natural instincts would take over.


      There are certain evidences of this in the book but leaves out many things that would be retained such as self-preservation, reproduction and memory. If the brain is wiped it is like wiping a computer; the computer parts are still functioning but they are without data. For example if the hypothalamus is destroyed then the brain cannot create new memories but might not loose all the old ones which are stored elsewhere in the brain. However, if the brain is wiped clean the hypothalamus is still functioning so while the brain has no memories it will quickly make new ones.


He also neglects the influence of hormones which are directed by the subconscious but affect the conscious parts of the brain. The body and mind, if wiped, would still be human because the DNA coding, wiring and so on are all still human. What would happen would be an erasure of personality, memory and acquired habits. There is a potential for the deletion of genetic habits also.


      Overall the book is enjoyable enough with a healthy dose of suspension of belief. It will make you think about the effects of hypnosis, subliminal messaging, viruses and how we would cope in an apocalyptic world. The ending leaves things hanging a bit and was a little frustrating. It would have been nice to know what happened. Whether Clay’s final experiment worked or not.

© 2008 Wulfstan Crumble

Author's Note

Wulfstan Crumble
This is my first attempt at a book review.

My Review

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Yeppers, I agree to what you suggest, Wulfstan. Science can no longer be eliminated in any storyline dealing with science fiction, unless we do not know much about it; or the laws of science fiction are permitable to the audience. Zombies for example in itself are very "unscientific". Yet we still hold storylines about it. I write about them myself. Ha ha! But if you can hold, or sustain some validity then more power to the story. Also, the hypo, is where neurogenesis occurs, cell replication, and hopefully memory is somewhat stored for a while till it ends in the cerebellum. :) Great, write, book review, you held a great topic, Wulfstan! ---mishel aka mimi

Posted 14 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Wulf, I was going to ask you if you wrote reviews for a living!
Until I read your Author's note, just now.
THAT should tell you how good you are. :))
It professional sounding at the utmost.
I am apt to think your review might be much better
than the book! ha. Very entertaining and informative.

Posted 15 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I hated 'Cell'. I love Stephen King's work, and it felt too Shaun Hutson-esque for me. Or George Romero, like you say - exciting plot with 2-D characters.
Stephen King's haracterisation and his ability to get you into other people's heads has always been one of the things I liked most about his stories, and I felt that was really lacking in 'Cell'.
The only thing I liked about it was the mobile phone twist on the zombie idea; it might make some people think twice about becoming reliant on those fecking things.

This is a decent book review: clear, thoughtful and critical. It seems like something that might appear in the review section of a sci fi-literary magazine, if that makes sense; something where readers would be interested to know about the believability of Cell's science as well as storyline.

You got me thinking a little.
I only read it once and haven't bought it. Maybe I should read it again with your scientific commentary in mind, see if I have any revelations.

Good write.

"A wiped clean brain would theoretically loose all abilities" (lose)

Posted 15 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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3 Reviews
Added on March 9, 2008


Wulfstan Crumble
Wulfstan Crumble

Cirencester, England, and Kishiwada, Osaka, United Kingdom

Wulfstan Crumble is a 27 year old Englishman. He is currently working on a plethora of pieces for various anthologies and magazines (hoping not all will get rejected). He really hopes that some o.. more..