Cell by Stephen King (Book Review)

October 1st begins like any other ordinary day in Boston. Clayton Riddell has turned a corner in his graphic art career, but his good mood is soon to be cut short. While waiting in line for the ice-cream truck at around 3pm, the people ahead of him suddenly go berserk, violently attacking each other.

All across Boston everyone with a cell phone turns violent and aggressive, harming both themselves and everyone else around them. At first Clay can only watch in horror as the spectacle unfolds before his eyes, however once he realises that the problem is due to some sort of subliminal message being carried by cell phone signals, his thoughts soon turn to his young son, Johnny.

Although Clay and his recently estranged wife Sharon don’t own a cell phone, their son Johnny however, does. When Clay is unable to contact his family via a landline telephone connection, he vows to brave the chaos and find a way home to Maine, before his son decides to use the little red cell phone in his possession.

Will Clay find his family before they transform?

 

Favourite Quote:

“It’s like the fucking Night of the Living Dead.” – Officer Ulrich Ashland. (p31)

 

Cell is a bizarre story from master of horror Stephen King, in which an electronic pulse is sent out via the cellular telephone network in America to all cell phone users turning them violently insane.

As if that basic concept wasn’t already creepy enough to have you destroying your phone, vowing never to touch the abhorrent device again, the story gets even spookier when those individuals that are unaffected all have the exact same nightmare. The crazy people seem to be able to communicate telepathically, both with each other and also with those still sane, influencing people while they sleep.

The crazies don’t remain dumb, blank-faced idjits but gradually develop psychic powers as they flock together, thinking as one mind.

Let’s not forget that King’s novel was released back in 2006 before the rise of the smartphone, so let’s just take a short moment to consider the myriad ways that phones can now be manipulated, and the ramifications of a real-life hacking event if anyone were to obtain control of smartphones worldwide. Doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?

At 4 out of 5 stars, Cell is an enjoyable, thought-provoking novel, although rather disturbing at the same time. The only fault is that it ends a little abruptly.

 

2016 sees the movie release starring John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson and Isabelle Fuhrman.

 

I was extremely excited to finally watch the story come to life however Cell is an absolutely atrocious film.

The director has taken a number of liberties when it comes to the details of the adaptation which distorts the story. It becomes a jumbled mess which doesn’t flow very well resulting in a movie that is difficult to understand.

With bad acting, poor dialogue and very short, clipped explanations Cell is a film that no-one can relate to and which doesn’t make much sense. With so many details from the book being changed and warped it almost comes across as an entirely different story altogether.

Cell is up there on the list of terrible Stephen King adaptations, but while the film is a waste of time, the original novel is a recommended read.

 

See also:

The Shining

The Shining: Book 2 – Doctor Sleep

Four Past Midnight Collection

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (Book Review)

Although not previously acquainted with the authors work, I took an interest in reading Agatha Christie’s mystery novel And Then There Were None after watching the TV adaptation.

The story revolves around ten guests who are seduced by nefarious means to visit a private house on Soldier Island, off the coast of Devon. Once they reach their destination however, circumstances take a very mysterious turn when their hosts are nowhere to be found.

It soon becomes apparent that the guests were not chosen at random, but rather have been selected specifically due to a particularly disturbing incident in their past.

The mastermind behind the rather odd situation at this secluded, seaside house wishes to impart his own rather unusual form of judgement, upon the unsuspecting guests.

One by one, the ten occupants of the house begin to drop dead, but which one of them is actually the murderer?

 

And Then There Were None is a gripping mystery novel from Queen of crime, Agatha Christie. It is a very unique tale that does incredibly well to keep the reader guessing all the way to the very end.

Loaded with bewildering twists and misdirection, And Then There Were None is most definitely one of the VERY best mystery novels to cross my bookshelf, and while it is not a genre that I usually tend to lean towards, I feel that I may be inclined to delve a little more deeply into Agatha Christie’s immense catalogue in future.

At 5 out of 5 stars I promise that you won’t be able to stop turning those pages, or prise this book out of your hands, until you discover the intimate confession that awaits you at the novels conclusion.

 

 

As previously stated And Then There Were None is also available on DVD as a 3 part TV adaptation, featuring top performances from Charles Dance, Sam Neill, Miranda Richardson, Burn Gorman and of course the delectable Aidan Turner.

The Forest (Movie Review)

Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell from Game of Thrones) stars in the horror movie The Forest as Sara Price, a young woman who travels to Japan in a bid to find her twin sister Jess, a school teacher believed to have gotten lost during a routine school trip.

Aokigahara Forest is a real place in Japan, lying at the base of Mount Fuji. A place that suicidal people tend to visit when they no longer wish to continue living, and is therefore known as the Suicide Forest. Legend also has it that if you enter the forest with sadness in your heart, supernatural forces can drive that person to despair.

Despite protests from the locals, Sara is convinced that her sister is still alive due to their special spiritual connection and wishes to scour the forest in search of Jess. When she meets Aidan (Taylor Kinney – Chicago Fire), a writer who intends to journey into the forest the following day, he volunteers to accompany her to ensure that she doesn’t get lost.

When they discover Jess’s tent deep inside the forest just as night is closing in, Sara refuses to heed the advice of their guide and leave to continue their search in the morning. Instead she stays and as darkness falls, she endures strange sounds and terrifying visions.

 

When I first clapped eyes on the trailer for The Forest, I was excited to see this movie. With Natalie Dormer and Taylor Kinney, two actors that I admire from Game of Thrones and Chicago Fire respectively, coupled with an intriguing storyline surrounding the suicide forest, I thought ‘this looks really creepy with plenty of ghost filled jump scares’.

Oh how wrong I was. The film was definitely not the tense and scary ride that I had expected, instead being a mediocre trot around a fairly ordinary looking forest, during which time very little of interest really happens, except for an overuse of jump scares.

However, kudos to Natalie and Taylor for making The Forest a little more watchable, but by the time I reached the end and the inevitable twist, I had mostly lost all interest. The conclusion is a bit confusing and also a bit implausible. There are holes in both plotlines, regardless of whichever one you decide to believe.

The main niggles I have with the movie is that her injured ankle healed itself fairly quickly, and let’s not forget the smartphone batteries that last for well over 24 hours, despite being used as Dictaphones and torches?

This was a great idea, just very poorly executed.

At 3 out of 5 stars The Forest is worth a watch if you enjoy plenty of scares, just don’t expect too much from it.

 

See also:

World’s Scariest Places: Book 1 – Suicide Forest (Book Review)

The Body by Stephen King (Book Review)

The Body is the third of four novellas in Stephen King’s short story collection Different Seasons.

It follows the adventures of four young boys as they embark on one final journey together as children, before taking the leap into adolescence and beginning High School.

 

In this coming-of-age story from Stephen King, a young boy named Ray Brower goes missing in 1960 while out picking blueberries three days before Labour Day weekend. Vern Tessio accidentally overhears his brother, Billy discussing the dead body of the boy with his friend, Charlie Hogan.

It transpires that the friends had stolen a car and driven out to a deserted dead end road, where they inadvertently discovered the boy’s corpse lying near the train tracks. Afraid of the authorities discovering that they have broken the law, Billy and Charlie vow to keep their discovery quiet, after all the poor kid was dead and nothing was going to change that so there was no point in getting into trouble over it.

When Vern informs his best friends, Teddy Duchamp, Gordie Lachance and Chris Chambers, the youngsters soon figure out that poor Ray Brower must have been killed by a passing train, as he walked along the tracks. Curious in a rather morbid sort of way, the young boys decide to hike out along the train tracks to see the dead body of Ray Brower.

 

Favourite Quote:

“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, did you?” – The inner musings of Gordon Lachance, directed towards the reader. (p374)

 

Told as a first person narrative from the main character, Gordon Lachance’s viewpoint as an adult, looking back at a significant moment from his childhood as an innocent twelve year old boy in September 1960, The Body is a touching story of friendship, as four friends must face the harsh realities that are to follow when they begin their transition from childhood, through adolescence and finally into adulthood. Coming from dysfunctional or rather abusive families, not all of them will survive the trials and tribulations that will face them as they mature.

The Body is one of the three novellas contained within Stephen King’s Different Seasons short story collection which was successfully brought to life on the big screen under the name Stand By Me.

 

Stand By Me has an outstandingly famous cast, which includes Wil Wheaton (best known for his stint in Star Trek), the now deceased child star River Phoenix, Corey Feldman (The Goonies, Gremlins, The Lost Boys – to name a few), Jerry O’Connell (Jerry Maguire) and probably the most well known of them all, Kiefer Sutherland (The Lost Boys, Mirrors, 24).

At 5 out of 5 stars both the novella and the film are personal favourites of mine, amidst the masses of horror novels, novellas, short story collections, TV adaptations and movies of Stephen Kings’ illustrious career,  although technically it’s not a horror story but rather an adventure drama.

 

See also:

The Breathing Method – Stephen King

The Martian by Andy Weir (Book Review)

Mark Watney is the lowest ranking astronaut on the crew of the Ares Program’s third mission to Mars. Less than a week into a month long mission on the surface of the red planet, a vicious sandstorm roars across the Martian terrain surrounding the Habitation quarters, damaging the communications network and placing the entire crew, and mission, in jeopardy.

Fearing the crew may end up stranded on Mars, Houston Mission Control orders an evacuation off of the surface of the planet, and has the crew abandon the mission and return home to Earth. As the crew fight their way through the storm to the space vehicle that will transport them off of the isolated planet, Mark Watney is involved in a near-fatal accident.

 

With the biological sensor on Watney’s spacesuit declaring him dead, there’s nothing the rest of the crew can do but flee to safety on the Hermes, abandoning their colleague to his unfortunate fate. However, Mark Watney doesn’t die that day, through a sheer stroke of luck he survives, only to discover that he is all alone on Mars with no way to communicate with either his crew on the Hermes, or mission control on Earth.

The Martian is a story of survival against all odds, as a lone man becomes the very first human to colonise Mars. Mark must find a way to adapt to his new surroundings, while waiting patiently for either rescue or eventual death. Will Mark ever return home, or will it be his fate to die on Martian soil after all?

 

There is a LOT of rather technical scientific facts within The Martian’s 369 pages, but don’t let that put you off reading this fantastic story of survival, as it contains some nice comedy quips to make you laugh and help tone down the seriousness and isolation of the situation.

We follow Mark Watney’s personal log as he attempts to remain upbeat despite facing impending death and an utterly hopeless scenario. He uses both his engineering and botany skills to persevere and problem solve in order to stay alive on the harsh and unforgiving terrain of Mars, although no matter how hard he tries the red planet continually attempts to kill him and sap his morale.

If you don’t mind the first person narrative, and can look past the slightly complex but well researched science jargon, The Martian is a very engaging read at 5 out of 5 stars, well worth all the hype that surrounded its transformation onto the big screen.

 

Film Adaptation

Andy Weir’s The Martian has also been adapted into a major motion picture from Twentieth Century Fox and Ridley Scott, starring Matt Damon, and Sean Bean.

The film can be a little slow in places, but draws on the viewer’s intrinsic fear of loneliness and isolation and is definitely one of those ‘must see at least once’ type movies.

 

See also:

Artemis by Andy Weir

The Langoliers by Stephen King (Book Review)

I wanted to share with you one of my favourite Stephen King horror stories The Langoliers, which I mentioned during a previous review (Slithers by W.W. Mortensen). Note if you like Slithers, you’ll probably enjoy The Langoliers, and vice versa.

It is one of four novellas which make up the Four Past Midnight Collection, and it has always left me with goose bumps, ever since reading it as a teenager. It opened up my mind towards things that we normally take for granted and don’t tend to think about.

Quote from the ‘Introductory Note’ by Stephen King himself:

“Time, for instance, and the corrosive effects it can have on the human heart. The past, and the shadows it throws upon the present – shadows where unpleasant things sometimes grow and even more unpleasant things hide . . . and grow fat.”

 

During a routine flight from Los Angeles to Boston eleven passengers awake to discover themselves immersed in a rather disturbing situation. While they were peacefully sleeping, the rest of the plane’s passengers and crew have mysteriously vanished.

The Langoliers is a science fiction, horror and mystery novella all rolled into one. The surviving passengers must now band together and solve this complex mystery. Thankfully they happen to have a competent pilot amongst them who can both fly the plane and land safely, but will Brian’s skills be enough to save them from this odd situation?

As mentioned before, this spine-tingling story always creeps me out, and Stephen King does a terrific job building up the suspense and terror as you follow this terrified group of survivors seeking only to return to normality. It is a little longer than most novellas at just shy of 300 pages, however it keeps the reader hooked, with such themes as severe mental illness under stress, childhood nightmares that come to life, and of course its locked room mystery.

 

It has been a long time since I read any of the other three novellas in the Four Past Midnight collection, however if memory serves me right The Langoliers remains my personal favourite at the full 5 out of 5 stars.

 

One final note to this review is that there was also a two part TV adaptation of The Langoliers back in 1995. It seems a little dated now, especially since it doesn’t have all of the fancy CGI special effects that we usually have nowadays, but I think the story probably works best in print rather than on a screen.

 

The Woman In Black by Susan Hill (Book Review)

The second festive book review for this week is creepy horror The Woman In Black by Susan Hill.

Arthur Kipps is a London lawyer recounting a true ghost tale from his past.

On a foggy London day in November Arthur is tasked by his boss Mr. Bentley to attend the funeral of Mrs Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House to ensure that her estate and documentation are all in order.

During the church service and burial in rural Crythin Grifford, Arthur witnesses a gaunt young lady in black paying respects to the deceased, but his companion Mr Jerome acts a little strange when Arthur mentions her presence.

On Arthur’s first visit to Eel Marsh House, home of the late Mrs Drablow, isolated from the mainland by a low causeway, he once again witnesses the odd lady in black, perched amongst the headstones amid the ruins of the old chapel at the rear of the premises. The malevolent expression he witnesses upon her face begins to scare him, penetrating deep into his bones.

As the spooky events at Eel Marsh House continue, Arthur decides that one day in Crythin Grifford is more than enough and vows to return home to London leaving Mrs Drablow’s estate in the hands of someone else, however the bright sunshine chases away his troubles and despite the unease emanating from the town’s residents he soon changes his mind.

Determined to see the task through Mr Kipps returns to Eel Marsh House, accompanied by Samuel Daily’s dog, Spider and once again the spooky events return as the ghost haunts the isolated house and its surrounding town.

Rescued by Samuel Daily, Arthur believes his terrible ordeal to be over as he embarks on a brand new period of his life with wife Stella, alas it is not.

 

At 3 out of 5 stars The Woman In Black is a creepy winter’s tale and traditional gothic ghost story that strikes hard at our deepest fears, chief amongst them, isolation. It is the pent-up anger and rage that drives a malevolent spirit to exact revenge upon the innocent.

A short novel that can be read within the space of an afternoon or evening and while creepy in a number of places it doesn’t quite pack enough punch to be truly scary.

 

However the film, released in 2012 and directed by James Watkins (who’s  film debut was the fantastic horror Eden Lake),  starring Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame is a much more terrifying depiction at 4 out of 5 stars, although a bit different to the book.