It was a normal day in the city…cabs ran to and fro, dogs ran in the parks with their owners tossing Frisbees for their enjoyment and people lined up for ice cream and sno-cones to alleviate the oppressive summer heat. Clayton Riddell took this all in, watching as a well-dressed lady in front of him in the line chatted away on her cell phone and a teenager nearby made use of her phone as well. Everything was perfectly bright and normal. In a park nearby an owner grabbed his dog around its neck…and tore its ear off with his teeth. Before Clayton’s eyes the lady and teenager suddenly lock in tooth and nail combat as cars crash on the road and crazed drivers come running out to attack the first thing they come to.
This was the occurrence often referred to as the pulse…as far as anyone can tell it’s some sort of virus that comes out in the cell phone signal making everyone who uses it into a mindless rabid animal. You can imagine the scenario now…first just a few that happened to be talking at the moment the signal was first broadcast, but then as people get into car accidents or see crazed people running down the street attacking others they call emergency numbers and are themselves infected. The country quickly becomes a shambles.
Clayton has another problem; his young son is in the care of his ex-wife that he must get to…and he remembers with a sickening lurch that he gave his son a cell phone for his birthday. As he tries desperately to track down his son and fights down the hopeless feeling that it’s already too late there’s a bigger problem. The infected people aren’t just staying as mindless murdering shells, they’re changing into something far more sinister.
It’s been a while since I’ve read any Stephen King so it was almost like discovering anew just why this author is so popular in the horror/thriller genre; if you’re good at suspense you’ll be good with these stories and Stephen King is the master of suspense. At the beginning of the story it seems like it’s going to be a story along the lines of a traditional zombie flick but what he evolves it into is something far more unique and terrifying.
If you enjoy having villains akin to Star Trek‘s Borg yet even more numerous and sinister here they are…they’re the human race turned into a societal structure similar to bees and their only goal is to make sure that everyone turns out just like them.
Be warned that this book is pretty bloody and graphic with lots of violence and some well-described scenes of the aftermath of explosions in populous areas so for my active imagination it was definitely intense. Obviously there’s a good reason King’s works aren’t anywhere near the Young Adult section in the library but that’s a good reason why they’re certainly not suitable for younger readers or those that aren’t fans of violence.
King’s writing is the type that heats up very quickly (within the first couple of pages) and doesn’t let up until the end. The thing I like most about the endings to pretty much all of his books is that in the last few pages there’s always either a sudden kick at the end that you didn’t see coming or it leaves you presented with a hopeless situation to think about for the several weeks or so after reading…I’m not going to say which this one is because that would spoil the whole thing but suffice to say that it’s a traditional King ending.
Overall this is one of my favorite Stephen King novels that I’ve read so far (and I have read a few) with suspense equaling that of works like Cujo only on a much wider scale and, while not so realistic as a rabid dog, involved the same kind of hopeless danger and the desperate lengths a parent will go to protect their child.