What a great start to the new year!
I set out to read this at the start of the pandemic, some time in spring, 2019. It was a weird mix of wanting to read a book about the world ending due to a super-flu (wonder where I got that idea), finding the book on offer (way to take advantage of the situation, King’s marketing department?), and reading somewhere that The Stand inspired Justin Cronin’s The Passage series.
I loved The Passage and the two sequels, and I’ve struggled to find anything that compares since I read the first book ten years ago. The last few years I’ve been on a Stephen King binge, and I’ve managed to get through The Dark Tower series, IT, The Shining, Pet Sematary, Carrie, Doctor Sleep, Dolores Claiborne, The Dead Zone, and now finally The Stand. It was just what I was looking for, and it’s fantastic.
It took me about three months to get through it. I read the “complete and uncut” version from sometime in the ’90s which I think comes in as his longest book ever, slightly overtaking IT. When I first started reading it, I thought I’d never get through it, and as I neared the conclusion I wanted it to never end.
One of my problems with King (and every other author out there) has always been length. His books are just too long. Not because they take too long to read, but because they lose momentum. The story goes off on tangents that seem to never lead anywhere. I understand the need and want to add backstory to characters and sub plots, but there’s a fine line between adding to the story and choking up the natural tension of the story. I felt like this was very noticeable with IT and the whole of book #4 of The Dark Tower seemed like a side track. I used to say that I’ve never read a book that’s too short, but plenty that are too long.
I’ve never read a book that’s too short, but plenty that are too long.
But The Stand is the book that has turned me onto long books.
For those of you who don’t know: The Stand is an apocalyptic thriller about the world ending due to a viral outbreak. We follow the paths of multiple characters as groups of survivors settle in Boulder, Colorado and Las Vegas, Nevada, and a battle between good and evil ensues.
At first it felt like a bit of a slog to read. There’s a lot of people to get to know and stories to understand. From right before the disease breaks out, to when it ravages through the U.S. But as we stumbled out into the wasteland that remained, I found myself getting lost in those stories. Every little resting campfire between travels, every memory from before, and every dream about what the future might bring. It was magical. I read the book faster and faster, thinking (and eventually hoping) it was never going to end. Then suddenly it all disappeared between my fingers.
Now, with The Stand gone from my shelf and permanently engraved in my mind, I’m going to try and get my hands on the TV show from the ’90s and then stream the new series that came out last year. I’m not done with these characters yet.
If you like apocalyptic thrillers, are looking for your next favorite book, if you want to start reading King, want to get lost in a book that seems to never end, and haven’t already read The Stand I highly recommend it. If you, (weirdly), find yourself drawn to books about the world ending in this strange time we’re living in, this is a really good one. And don’t worry, there’s hope in there too.
I wasn’t able to read as many books as I wanted last year, but I’ve read a lot of great things. I hope to read as many amazing things this year, and starting the year with The Stand has motivated me. I might be done with King for a while (though I haven’t picked up Salem’s Lot yet), but I look forward to losing myself in some new adventures. I – like every other reader out there – of course have a long list of great reads I want to get through.
What are you planning on reading this year? Let me know in the comments below! And please, if you like psychological thriller, check out my books!
King wrote a book in The Stand which was out of control. It was structured scene-by-scene, without consideration of where the plot was taking him. The title is a misnomer. There was no Stand, no clash of armies, of good versus evil; there was just one entertaining scene following another, meandering along.
. . . . . . . So why was it so great? Because of the volume of great components, the scenes that constituted the book. He gave himself a large cast of characters to work from. King gets easily bored, and he needed to shift from viewpoint to viewpoint, and setting to setting, to interest himself in what was going on. He typed from a Deep South jail cell to a Federal plague center, from an abandoned Maine town to a man lost and losing his mind in the big city of New York. He encompassed America.
. . . . . . . In a way, there is a theme to the book. That theme is we are all alone and separate and we need each other. The characters are constantly reaching out to one another to form a bond. Even a deaf man and a retarded man find common cause and purpose in each other, and a number of scenes are dedicated to the two of them. King reaches out, making radically different characters. I know it’s been said that King can’t create realistic woman characters between the age of 12 and 100, but that’s not the case in this book. Frannie is a well-rounded, fiercely independent pregnant woman dealing with the ticking time bomb of a newfound baby in her belly. As she yields her independence over the course of the novel, you see other characters responding to her.
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