Picks and Pans Review: Cell

updated 01/30/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/30/2006 AT 01:00 AM EST

By Stephen King

Cell has everything you might expect from a Stephen King novel: Something innocuous goes kerplooey, and suddenly almost everyone is either dead or transformed beyond recognition. In this case, cell phones start turning their users into “phone crazies”—killers who can levitate and read minds. Artist Clayton Riddell tries to escape the onslaught while fleeing from Boston to Maine, hoping to find his son and estranged wife. He and others hypothesize about why the phones turned evil. They guess it was terrorists or a government program gone wrong, but the real reason may be this: King hates cell phones and doesn't own one. (“It wounds me to be called a technophobe—I Google with the best of them,” he recently told PEOPLE. “Can I help it if cell phones bite the big one?”)

Isolation and transformation have long been two of the horror master's favorite themes. His attempt here isn't as strong as 1978's The Stand, or scary enough to have you sleeping with the light on, but it will give you pause the next time someone asks, “Can you hear me now?”

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