Clay Riddell has just scored the deal of his lifetime, one that he thinks will put things right with his strained family. No more worries about finances, no more arguments about his “silly hobby”. With presents in his hands for his estranged wife and twelve-year-old son, Clay stops for a treat for himself, too. Mind firmly focused on his dreams finally coming true, Clay steps into a line for ice cream behind a woman on her cell phone, and in just a few short minutes finds out how quickly dreams can turn to nightmares.
They call it the Pulse. Some signal sent over cell phones that causes people to lose their minds and become little more than zombies – aggressive creatures who are more than likely to bite the throat out of the person standing next to them. Now Clay, far from returning home with the triumphant news that he has finally made something of his long-time passion for drawing, just wants to get there to make sure his family hasn’t been infected. Only this journey might prove to be harder than even Clay thinks it to be – because unlike the movies, these zombies are changing, evolving, and eventually, they will be gunning for him.
I have to admit that I am wary of King’s newer fiction; I much prefer his older works to what he writes now, aside from his short stories. I picked this up on a whim, both because it was a dollar and because I still rather like zombies still, even if they are starting to go out of fashion in some circles. Now, I picked it up without reading the inside flap, so when I finally did all I could think was the Pulse? Seriously? I saw that movie already, and it was horrible. But then it turned out to be different from the movie, so that was a relief. Probably my favorite thing about the book is that it had very little to do with the supernatural element of zombies – these people didn’t come back from the dead, and they weren’t starved for braaains. No, they simply (if such a thing can be simple, that is) had their brains wiped completely by a virus – a man-made virus at that. The real issue I had is that most of it felt like a rehash of King’s other works – the migration and dreams like The Stand, and the telepathy and the need to create more ‘phoners’ reminiscent of The Tommyknockers. All things considered it was hardly a bad read, but it also didn’t convince me that my decision to stay away from the author’s latter works was the wrong one, either.