There's a reason CELL rhymes with HELL," touts the liner notes of Stephen King's new book, in a grim preview of the terrible writing to come. Clearly yearning to put his own stamp on the already-fading zombie genre resurgence, Cell revolves around an unknown evil power that has commandeered the world's cell phone satellites. On a normal, sunny afternoon in Boston, graphic novelist Clayton Riddell watches as everyone talking into a cell phone around him spontaneously transforms into a crazed, jibbering maniac. Chaos and carnage ensue as the "cell phone crazies" attack everyone and everything, ripping out jugulars with their bare teeth in a frenzy of classic King gore-filled violence.

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If that sounds bad, it gets worse. Riddell and some other pieces of cardboard (like Alice, the tough, young, pretty girl; and Tom, the loveable gay guy) who escaped the cell phone "pulse" join together and move toward Maine, fending off crazies and looking for Riddell's wife and kid. Horrifyingly (to them), the crazies seem to be getting smarter; at night they band together and sleep, and during the day they fuck shit up with increasing efficiency, as if ruled by a single hive mind. One night, Riddell and Co. figure out a way to kill a whole bunch at once—and that's when the crazies get really mad. But instead of just killing them, the hive mind starts subtly controlling their brains, forcing them to migrate toward a rural location in Maine, where something truly sinister awai—

... Jesus, am I still trying to explain this stupid story? It's almost definitely King's worst, and that includes Christine, which is about a demonic car. Even King seems tired of it by the end; his dialogue loses all life and individuality. Old people sound like children. Men sound like women. Every line exists only to advance a tiresome, terribly conceived plotline. It's awful, and yet King's prose, even in this enfeebled state, has the same hypnotic pull it's always had, but without any of the guilty pleasure. There's only guilt. Like the other (fondly remembered) King books I devoured greedily as an adolescent, I couldn't stop reading Cell—but this time, I wished I could. JUSTIN W. SANDERS