Reviews: The Stand

An American Epic

After The Dark Tower books, The Shining, Carrie, and his short story collections, I've pretty much solidified myself as a fan of Stephen King's writing. It's immersive, compelling, fascinating stuff really. Almost poetic at times. And fun, that especially.

I had spent a day or two as a little kid watching The Stand miniseries with my brother. I still like that and found myself very much entertained. Remembering that and my father's wisdom regarding King: movie is nothing compared to the book, I decided that would be the next King book I'd read. It's also the longest book I've read.

King has a gift for giving characters not only depth but a true presence, bringing them to life in very realistic ways. I imagine it would be difficult to write the perspectives of Nick Andros, and Mother Abigail Freemantle. Characters such as Larry Underwood, Harold Lauder, Frannie Goldsmith, and Lloyd Henried are all so wonderfully written, very relatable. Glen Bateman, Randall Flagg, Trashcan Man, and Nadine Cross were my favorites to read about.

The characters are one of the things that irk me about this book, however. When focused on a few characters, I think King truly shines. When there are a lot I think he tries to write them so that all of their individual idiosyncrasies have the same level of emphasis, to the point of personality overdose. The worst case is Fran Goldsmith, who seemed almost bipolar at times.

As for story, many tend to look at The Stand's the same way I do: as one story that leads to another. The first is more intriguing and scary than the second: a deadly biological weapon escapes into the world. How King describes the effect of this virus and the downfall of civilization and humanity is just haunting. Frankly because it seems like what would really happen.

The second part involving the reconstruction of society and the supernatural fight between good and evil was also very engrossing (if not a bit hammy as King can be), but not as engrossing to me. Even great books get tedious if read long enough.

The Stand is a brilliantly constructed adventure across a shell of America, delving into the grim nature of both society and humanity.

Didn't live up to the Hype

I'd heard a lot of good things about this book, but, not being a King fan, never bothered to give it a try. However, I came across a couple of issues of the recent Marvel comics series and was instantly intrigued, so I decided to skip the rest of comics and go straight to the "uncut and unabridged" prose version.

It started out awesome. King established and laid out his characters with a detail that's never seen in today's literature. The story felt somewhat like The Walking Dead meets The Lord Of The Rings - how could you NOT love that? The Conspiracy, The Plague, The Nightmare Fuel, The Big Bad, I enjoyed all of it. Nick Andros was my favourite.

And then the endless God-praising fatalistic bullshit started. Follow God. Don't Question God. Trust In God. God's Plan. The Will Of God. The Hand Of God. (at least LOTR was set in a magical, there isn't even any "Destiny" veil: it's basically, "Mother Abagail says God wants you to do that so go do this." Kind of a dumb way to move the plot forward - especially considering the ending). Then, Nick being my favourite character, of course King went and Dropped A Bridge On Him. I see on the main page that this was caused by Chandlers Law and I'm not surprised. All right, did we at least get an Ultimate Showdown Of Ultimate Destiny? Nope. The bad guy was Hoist By His Own Petard and got blown up by a nuke (actually, he wasn't, so we didn't even get that.) Not only did the entire thing come off as a Shaggy Dog Story, IMO the Pinball Protagonist trope stands - they didn't do a damn thing.

All in all, the book's first half was awesomely entertaining, then it middled to a very slow pace during the meet-up with Mother Abagail and the establishment of the BFZ, and then rolled and tumbled headfirst into a very hurried, Because Destiny Says So ending that didn't make much sense and left a bad aftertaste behind.

I Love this Book

Having read and enjoyed a few Stephen King novels before, I somewhat begrudgingly set out to tackle The Stand (the Complete and Uncut Edition). I expected it to take me a month to read the book. I actually finished it in about five days. It was addictive and engrossing, and while some complain about the strong theistic undertonesP, I felt that whatever your religious views, it's an integral part of the plot and worked well. While King told a great story, in my opinion his greatest accomplishment in this book is making me care so much about the characters. I do empathise with characters, but I have never felt as strongly about any characters as I do about Nick, Stu, Fran, Larry, Tom, and the rest of the gang. I probably felt the strongest for Tom and Trashy. Mostly Nick. Oh God, where do I even start with Nick?  I played favorites, but ultimately I liked every character. I  even liked the bad guys. I love how even though King clearly showed who was a villain (for the most part), I felt sympathetic for them because they were portrayed as more than just "bad guys", but as actual people. I really mean this about the characters. At one point, I even felt stomach-sick for them. My only criticism is that I felt like the ending was a bit rushed. I would have liked to have more pages and a longer conclusion and climax. I've always loved apocalyptic fiction, and this has to be the best one I've read. I highly recommend this book. It has become one of my favorites.