Magpie's Grade: B- / C+
What can I say? It was a Stephen King novel. The premise: a mysterious "Pulse" wipes the brains of anyone who is talking on a cell phone across the Northern US (and presumably across the world). Only those Luddites who are not chatting on the infernal devices are left unscathed among the wreckage of society. Because, of course (this being Stephen King) those unfortunates whose brains are sent back to Go are reduced to their most animal instincts. Bloody, gut-churning chaos ensues - I believe there's someone chewing a dog's ear off in the first three pages.
Our fearless technology-deprived hero, Clayton Riddell, along with a not-so-merry band of fellow travelers also in their right minds, must make the trek between Boston and Maine to rescue Clay's son Johnny-Gee from the evil clutches of the "phone crazies." Though the crazies are not quite crazy for long because apparently the Pulse also "flipped a switch" in the zombies' minds, setting in motion an Evolution in Overdrive that renders the phone people....well, you'll just have to read it.
It's a quick read, which was good, given that I felt compelled to stay awak until 4:30 in the morning to finish it. It wasn't particularly scary, but it was gruesome in parts. The whole "that which Man hath wrought will destroy Him in the end" idea has been done many times before, and this is nothing new. We even get fun zombies out of it! Stephen King does play with the idea that humans are, under the trappings of civilization, essentially crazy. I think my favorite quotation is:
"At bottom, you see, we are not Homo sapiens at all. Our core is madness. The prime directive is murder. What Darwin was too polite to say, my friends, is that we came to rule the earth not because we were the smartest, or even the meanest, but because we have always been the craziest, most murderous motherfuckers in the jungle."
Something I've been saying for years, to my sorrow.
The plot devolves into running from the phone zombies. There are some clever parts, but not enough to call this high literature. I was frustrated with the end (let's just say it sets itself up neatly for a sequel). There are also unexplained gaps - for example, King never bothers to turn his attention to the mass-murdering idiots who started the Pulse to begin with, other than to mutter vaguenesses about "terrorists whose plans went awry." It is what it is - a Stephen King novel. Overall, not a bad airplane book. Just make sure to turn your cell phone off when the nice flight attendant asks. We have enough zombies in the world.