The Stand Paperback – August 7, 2012
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--Los Angeles Times
"[The Stand] has everything. Adventure. Roman. Prophecy. Allegory. Satire. Fantasy. Realism. Apocalypse. Great!"
--The New York Times Book Review
"As brilliant a dark dream as has ever been dreamed in this century."
--Palm Beach Post
“An undisputed master of suspense and terror.”
—The Washington Post
“King is one of the most powerful storytellers we have. His work satisfies on first reading and is even better the second time around.”
“Crackling . . . with explosive climaxes.”
—The Boston Globe
“[For] those who like their horror on a humongous scale.”
—Los Angeles Times
—The Observer (London)
About the Author
Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. Among his most recent are 11/22/63; Full Dark, No Stars; Under the Dome; Just After Sunset; Duma Key; Lisey’s Story; Cell; and the concluding novels in the Dark Tower saga: Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susannah, and The Dark Tower. His acclaimed nonfiction book, On Writing, is also a bestseller. He was the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and in 2007, he received the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. He lives in Maine with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.
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I won't give away anything, I'll only say take your time and enjoy the ride with King's epic. I loved every word.
It's totally engrossing, and very interesting in enough different ways that you just don't get tired of working your way through all those damn pages. A great premise, great plot development, interesting and believable characters, and a scope that constantly reminds how transient we all are. Great stuff that got ME so involved that when I went to hospital for a relatively normal visit, I was ACUTELY aware of everyone who coughed or sneezed, and though I snickered at myself almost immediately for my temporary transportation from reality to plot, the snicker wasn't quite as immediately convincing as it might have been. So, yeah, it was THAT engrossing.
Top international reviews
So as regards a review, I'm going to rip off the synopsis from Stephen king.com
One man escapes from a biological weapon facility after an accident, carrying with him the deadly virus known as Captain Tripps, a rapidly mutating flu that - in the ensuing weeks - wipes out most of the world's population. In the aftermath, survivors choose between following an elderly black woman to Boulder or the dark man, Randall Flagg, who has set up his command post in Las Vegas. The two factions prepare for a confrontation between the forces of good and evil
Go ahead and read it, if you like it, welcome to the throng of millions who also like it.
If you dont like it, well - maybe the best in the genre is not for you, try Swan Song by Robert R McCammon, similiar plot , characters and timeframe, or Earth Abides by George R Stewart written in 1948 - a gentler take on the theme .
Sorry, why am I writing a review now, borrowed out my dog eared copy of the complete and uncut edition to God knows who, was enraptured to learn the Kindle version is that version, so my 15th and subsequent rereads will be on my Kindle from now on.
The book tells the story of the end of the human race as we know it, brought about by a deadly flu strain, developed by the US military. The social science is a bit simplistic but the quality of the storytelling and character development are both excellent.
So if you want to be entertained with a story that has meaning then read on. Even if you don’t like anything else by the author (unlikely I know) then this one is worth it.
Unusually for a Stephen King book, The Stand was not too scary for me to read at bedtime, but this did not detract at all from the suspense. It kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish, and I feel like it tuned right in to my own fears about the future of humanity.
Maybe a few politicians ought to read this and then gave a long, hard think...before it’s too late!
A huge book but King manages to keep the reader interested for the most part. You have to wait quite a while before elements of the supernatural are introduced.
There are many different characters introduced along the way - many for just a short period. An index of characters would be really useful as it is easy to forget less important ones.
The plot boils down to good versus evil and it is ironic that one of the most destructive forces that man has created (surely an evil?) is used for good at the end of the book. However, King reminds us in the final pages that evil is never completely eradicated.
The author has drawn up an impressive ensemble cast for this epic work with the good folk led by a good ol' boy from East Texas, a feckless musician, a naive young mother-to-be, an aging academic and a deaf-mute drifter, all guided by seemingly messianic 108 year old woman. The dark side is mob of mostly not so bad types but under the thumb of a demonic terror who haunts the dreams of the survivors, aided by a reluctantly cannibalistic thief and murderer and an insane arsonist with an eye for the spectacular. Somewhere in between there are people disaffected with their lot and shift between the two sides. As such it's a story of hope, betrayal, friendship, love, loss and jealousy against the backdrop of seemingly deserted world where anything can happen as everything is just lying around waiting to be picked up, including food, booze, resources, houses, cars, toys, guns, atom bombs, etc. It's really rather good.
Stephen King effectively gives his cast the chance to wipe the slate clean and some characters do exactly seek to do that, but they tend to be the ones who turn to the dark side, whereas the ones who carry the past with them and acknowledge their failings and seek to atone for them are the ones who try to do the right thing. The male characters are better drawn than the female ones on the whole and I have to say that the female characters were a bit of a drag at times, but for the most part the characters are the real heart of this book. The empty sandbox world with seemingly familiar things in it presents as being threatening and full of dread and uncertainty. It also dawns on the reader that there's a lot of bad stuff out there which could do enormous harm in the wrong hands and I found myself jumping ahead as to what the "bad side" might be up to and you can immediately see how cold war paranoia is so addictive and unsettling.
The Stand is not a flawless novel by any means. The ease with which the overwhelming majority of the survivors seem to get over the loss of loved ones and society in general is a tad too easy, the female characters are fairly weak, outside of America nothing is mentioned of the outside world, there are only a very small number of children mentioned, etc. The story is also dated in that it was written pre-internet and modern social networking so the big plague cover-up would be harder to achieve now. That said, it remains a truly great story that involves the reader on an emotional and spiritual level as well as making for a mighty fine adventure story. If you only read one Stephen King book then let this be the one, so read it! M-O-O-N, that spells read it, laws yes!
So I wondered if the book would still have that effect upon me if I re-read it in electronic form all these years later. It did. I was quickly gripped. The characters are just beautifully real. The plot is interesting, with twists a-plenty. I again ended up becoming almost addicted to the book, so much so that I finished it in four or five days, as I did the first time 20 years ago. I can't think of any other book which has had that type of effect on me.
This is the best fictional book that I've ever read, and I'm now going to read three more Stephen King books (one another re-read (Tommyknockers) which I also really liked first time, one a film that I've seen without reading the book (Dreamcatcher) and one which is totally new to me (11.22.63)).
In The Stand, a superflu decimates the US population, leaving a small amount of the overall population alive. These survivors begin to dream of two people : Mother Abigail, the eldest person left alive, a woman of strong religious conviction and Randall Flagg, a man "whose name is Legion" and is coincidentally also the destructive antagonist of The Dark Tower Saga. In a classic choice between good and evil, the survivors have to decide whether they will seek the path to Mother Abigail and her group in Colorado or follow Randall Flagg, joining his new society in Las Vegas.
Since The Stand was first published in 1978, and re-released and re-set in 1990; (I had the 1990 version) post apocalyptic stories, which involve a virus of some kind decimating the population have become very popular. I've read several over the last few years.
Through the misfortune of reading a book which came first but proves similar to recent things, many areas of the plot feel samey, like tropes of what is expected from this kind of novel. Loss, confusion, banding together with fellow previously unknown survivors who become involved with each other, set backs on the journey, rebuilding a community. Yet this is unfair because King got there first, so others have imitated this, this and Day Of The Triffids. However, some writers have bettered this type of story, a particular example is Justin Cronin's The Passage.
For me, as is my general experience with King as a writer, I found the prose flat and felt no emotional connection to any of the imperiled characters which is a difficulty when it comes to enjoying a book. The Stand is 1,320 pages long which is a challenge for any reader, and it took me two weeks. But, it wasn't until page 700 that I engaged with the novel and started to get excited by what was happening.
In those first 700 pages there's a lot of inaction in terms of any kind of "Stand" between the two sides, just lots of council meetings and re-establishing law and order and government and utilities and stuff. Practical and honest, yet inactive: hardly a fight between good and evil. Flagg and Abigail for that they represent the polar opposites of morality are largely absent for massive chunks of the narrative.
In the second half things ramp up a bit, but the actual "Stand" between the parties ultimately amounts to a single showdown at which only a handful of the Colorado group are present. For all those pages it's a bit anticlimactical.
Though I generally dislike the tone he strikes with his prose, Stephen King does occasionally have his moments as a writer. I particularly liked these quotes :
"There is really nothing so comforting to the beaten of spirit or the broken of skull, than a good strong dose of 'Thy Will Be Done"
"God was a gamesman - If He had been a a mortal, He would have been at home hunkering over a checkerboard on the porch of Pop Mann's general store back in Hemingford Home. He played red to black, white to black. She thought that for Him, the game was more than worth the candle, the game was the candle. He would prevail in His own good time. But not necessarily this year or in the next thousand....and she would not overestimate the dark man's craft or cozening. If he was neon gas, then she was the tiny dark dust particle a great raincloud forms about over the parched land. Only another private soldier - long past retirement age, it was true! - in the service of the Lord."
However, controversially I don't concur this is his best book. Though I've only read seven (and a half) The Gunslinger, the first Dark Tower novel, is a brilliant book, a true 10/10, only disappointment is that the novels which follow in no way live up to it. I will never read the entirety of the man's output, I don't like him enough, but I also have Under The Dome on To Be Read at the moment, but of those I have read The Gunslinger is the best one.
It does ring true, how some people are likely to (mis)behave, and so is quite depressing. The characters are mostly well developed, so it becomes more than just about how it turns out.
I enjoyed it.