Captain Trips is 99.4% communicable and 100% fatal. Those who contract the disease die, period. Those who are immune simply don't contract the disease, and no one knows why, as we're shown with the experiments done on Stu. Yet late in the story, we see Fran's child by Jess (who had died of the disease) fighting it off. It's explained as the baby inheriting half an immunity, and so while he's not completely immune, he's able to "shift" his antibodies to match the shifting antigen of the virus. Setting aside the fact that the human immune system does this normally, hereditary immunity does not work that way! You can't inherit "half" of an immunity. Either you're immune, or you're not. Furthermore, this baby is treated as completely unique, which means that there were, previously, no children with one immune parent and one vulnerable parent? Not even from before the disease hit?
The baby isn't so much treated as unique, more so the first one born (and then survive) in Boulder. Other children may have been born, but its heavily implied that he still needed a hell of a lot of medical care to survive, and a lot of those born would probably been birthed by amateurs in small groups, which makes it unlikely that they would get the proper care needed. Also this is more WMG but I always took it that the survivors weren't immune as such, but more that their immune systems were especially strong or suited to fight that particular kind of disease, and this was passed, in part, to Peter (or Abagail depending on your choice). Anyway, WMG over!
The most likely answer, out-of-universe, is that King didn't really understand heredity or genetics, and since the book was written in the 1970s, the understanding of genetics was probably much less than it is now. In-universe, though, it always struck me that the immunity seemed to be somewhat magical in nature - the only distinguishing feature of the totally-immune is that they have intense dreams (convenient for the battle of Good vs Evil in the book).
In-universe, the baby would have received a protective supply of Fran's own antibodies through the placenta and her milk. This could have provided just enough time for its half-immune defenses to kick in, that plague victims didn't survive long enough to have happen. No such protection was available for half-immunes born before the plague, because their disease-immune mothers hadn't yet encountered the superflu and didn't (yet) have a supply of antibodies against it.
If immunity to Captain Trips is genetic in-universe, then why were there no cases of more than one person from the same family surviving the initial die-off? In fact, several of the immune people were shown to have at least one parent die of the superflu, showing they couldn't have inherited immunity from both parents.
The story doesn't give any great answers. My personal theory is that it's equal parts God did it and Lamark was right. Captain Trips is at least partially supernatural so the survivors were likely hand picked by God and Satan (or Gan and Randall Flagg or the Crimson King) but once it was added by them or they acquired it they were able to pass it on. Chalk it up to the average person in 1970 knowing virtually nothing about DNA as is mentioned repeatedly here.
One thing that bugs me is how Captain Trips remains lethal for so long. The usual trend with viruses is that they tend to mutate towards longer-lasting but less lethal versions fairly rapidly, because that ensures that they hit more hosts. Captain Trips seemed to do some of that - it shifted from a "near-instant killer" to a longer-lasting form with incubation - but how come the lethality of it didn't change?
It's a rule, not a law? Alternatively, if that doesn't work for you, it ran through the available population of susceptible hosts to fast?
Plus, it's a manufactured virus...
Well no, that's not right. Yes, it was bred by scientists, it's essentially a hodgepodge between HIV and influenza, but that doesn't really change its properties in terms of mutation. This is something a lot of people don't understand about virus's, their one and only purpose is to reproduce and survive as a strain, not to kill. A deadly virus is not a successful virus as it KILLS its only mode of reproduction; man made or not a virus will mutate in order to survive, especially a virus capable of rapid and effective antigen shift (mutation) like HIV and Cap'n Trips and if survival means mutating to become far less deadly, then it WILL do that especially once hosts become scarce.
In that vein, how was CT an 'instant killer'? It's a virus, not botulism. If I recall correctly they said it killed them in 12 minutes or something in its original form. The fastest death for a viral infection was a little under 12 hours, and that's for very rare, very specific meningitis related encephalitis (swelling of the brain due to viral infection, so it's not even a direct killer). It is literally *physically impossible* for a respiratory virus to multiply fast enough to kill its host in less than a day let alone less than an hour.
"Near-instant", not "instant". "12 minutes for a kill" is extremely fast for any disease, never mind a virus.
12 minute lethality is effectively instantaneous for anything besides suffocation, nerve gas, and trauma.
The lethality changed almost as soon as it was released. One guy died almost immediately, his face falling into the bowl of whatever he was eating, while two scientists had enough time to have sex and then commit suicide.
I always assumed the victims inside the base died from a "containment measure," i.e. something like a poison gas released to prevent anyone from leaving if the virus was released. There's no description of the dead scientists showing any Captain Trips symptoms.
It's a bio-weapon, though, not a "natural" virus; it's specifically engineered to kill, not reproduce.
Don't forget that the virus is essentially just God's tool for bringing about the Rapture. Maybe it has such an insane kill rate because God wants it that way; Captain Trips is just supernatural enough to convince the faithful, but not so out there that it completely reveals His existence, which would defeat the whole "faith without proof" thing that He puts such stock in.
Oh boy, where to start... How did Charlie Campion contract CT? He was a gate guard, he sat around in a separate kiosk outside and 150 meters above the actual lab! Was the virus so contagious that it ghosted through hundreds of meters of dirt and concrete to dust some hick patrolling the gate? In the same vein, how did it even get to the whole facility? Bio-weapon labs are independent of the building for this very reason. (.2.) Shifting antigen virus's cannot become airborne, the protein shell necessary to survive being outside a host body for more than a few minutes by its very nature excludes the possibility of a virus being of the shifting antigen variety; a bulky protein shell is basically a 'grab me' sign for T-Cells. (.3.) How is Captain Trips still around to infect shut-in survivors and newborn babies? Is it just floating around in the air? It killed all its possible hosts well into 99.4%, how is it still around? Viral residue? After a month? Has no one gotten around to giving the *maternity ward* a once over with Lysol? 4.) Who would side with Randall Flagg other than those who were strong-armed into it? 'Oh yeah, he's great! A good leader, very charismatic. A slight hiccup though, he may be SATAN!' People are wetting themselves whenever he smiles and the grass dies wherever he walks! Um... Red Flagg?
1.) Any kind of breach could have a security guard end up with the virus. Either the containment facilities started leaking, or maybe a patient escaped and infected a ton of people, not just guards, and Campion was the only one to actually escape. With point 3, it can be assumed that the survivors become carriers of Captain Trips. And for 4, look at the type of people in Las Vegas during Flagg's chapters: you have outcasts, outlaws, and a lot of maladjusted people, to say nothing of the ones who aren't religious and don't see the supernatural element (or explain it away). Finally, you have a ton of people who get the Nevada dreams and just want the security of civilization.
2.) Going back to point 3 above, those immune to captain trips were not carriers. In the complete uncut edition of The Stand, on page 166 it is specifically stated that Stu Redman's immune system KILLED the virus when he was injected with it. If a subject kills a given virus, then by definition it is not a host since they cannot infect anyone else.
Thank you! The fact that the guard somehow got sick bugged the hell out of me.
Possible answers to four: The two people we see him actively recruit - Lloyd and Trash - he treats with more kindness and respect than anyone has treated them in their whole lives. It's only later that the abuse begins. As for the rest, they're a bunch of scared, lonely, traumatized people in a post-apocalyptic world. He gives them direction and leads them to a place where they have fellowship (on the surface, at least) and all the things they've come to depend on for survival as residents of 20th-century America. If nothing else, they think he's going to win.
Plus, Flagg's society is built on people being active and working together. He makes a bunch of scared, confused people do things to keep them busy, while maintaining a (relatively) logical 'be the best that you can be' philosophy, as is evident when he crucifies a man who takes drugs since he can't function while on them.
Is this really that hard to believe? People have been following evil, horrible leaders for time out of mind. Lots of people don't care whether someone nice is in charge as long as they believe he's a) powerful and b) on their side.
Campion was stationed in a tower on the complex grounds; not the main gate. Hermetically sealing off an underground base is a damn good way to asphyxiate anyone that might have to work inside of it. Not to mention that CT seems to make its way through the CDC's filtration suits in fairly short order.
Campion is only a gate guard in the series. In the book, he is assigned to a tower which is part of the main building.
In the miniseries at least, there are slow, lingering shots of the vents and pipes presumably releasing air from below before the release. Presumably CT was sent up through there as well as part of the containment breach.
Also, had Campion ran directly off the base, he probably wouldn't have contracted the virus. However, he ran back to his quarters to get his wife and child, so ran across the release area of the facility's vents.
The nuclear bomb. One, nukes do not emit sufficient radiation when standing idle to actually be a threat to those around them. Two, a nuclear weapon will end up inert (due to lack of external cooling systems which prevent heat from breaking down the core) if separated from the maintenance infrastructure for more than a day or so. Three, it takes a whole hell of a lot to set off a 70's era nuke, due to them being manufactured with countless safety devices which prevent accidental triggering.
Exactly - while not "from a machine", it basically is God in action.
The bomb is set off by the Hand of God. In the story, a hand-shaped fiery supernatural force literally appears and reaches for the bomb. I'm sure you're correct about all of these technicalities, but according to the story god literally made it go kaboom because he wanted to.
Not quite. The energy was already there, emitted by Flagg to kill the protester from the audience. It just is turned into a hand shape (or what looked vaguely like a hand to one character for an instant before he died, perhaps moved by the power of suggestion and by the fact that it all happened so fast) and directed into the bomb by something else, presumed to be God, perhaps the will of the Beam or the Tower (Gan, also speculated by some to be the same as God). But yes, that's what set off the bomb.
I've only seen the movie, but weren't those solar burns? From riding across the desert for at least nearly two days with no sunblock, hat, or roof? The fact that there was pale skin under the goggles was kind of a hint towards that.
They might have been sun burns in the mini-series, but the way the book describes them, Trash is obviously supposed to be suffering from radiation poisoning.
He might have received the near-fatal radiation dose in the base itself somehow, one can't tell what the dying soldiers did there.
For that matter, how the hell did his ATV hold enough gas to drive such a great distance across the desert?
It was electrically-powered, not gasoline-powered.
Glen mentions that all the weapons of the old world are just lying around, waiting for someone to pick them up and use them. We're given examples of fighter jets and nuclear missiles. How is it that, in a world so depopulated that Boulder's chief medical agent is a veterinarian, Flagg's group can find enough people so highly specialized that they can service military jets? The nuclear weapons issue is even more ridiculous because even if you were so lucky as to find a survivor who knew anything more than that nuclear weapons make big booms when detonated, they would also have to know how to circumvent the complex security systems installed on them which are designed specifically to prevent any but a very select few to ever have the capability of arming them. It would seem to me that a world in which 0.6% of humanity survives, the only weaponry lying around which could be of any practical use to anyone would be small arms and simpler heavy weapons.
The nuclear weapon is found by Trashcan Man, who has a God or Satan-given ability to find and use things like that. As far as the security protocols and accelerometers go, bear in mind that in the end a nuclear bomb is just a bunch of explosive lenses around a plutonium shell, if the thing can go boom without damaging the lenses, the shell will implode and fission will result. It may not be the optimal yield, but it's probably enough. As far as the jets, the current US Air Force has 300,000 active duty personnel (most of whom are enlisted technicians of some sort or another) and there's probably several million retired or separated, along with the aviation branches of the other services, commercial aviation mechanics, and "other". So there's probably several hundred to several thousand people out there with functional knowledge of aircraft systems. Glen mentions early on that Flagg is going to get most of the technicians, simply because they're going to go where they're wanted most.
Also recall that Flagg has tasked the tiny number of pilots he has with training new pilots, and Trashcan Man kills them all for making fun of him. So it clearly was an almost extinct knowledge base.
If you assume, as Mother Abagail does, that the survivors have been chosen by God to play a part, then God may have chosen (or allowed Flagg to choose) enough technicians to complete his part of the task.
It would have been Satan giving any such help on Flagg's side.
I never got what Glen meant when he called Flagg "the last magician of rational thought." Flagg and rational don't belong in the same sentence together. The guy causes pain and destruction based almost entirely on whim, starts using mystical powers without being much interested in where they came from, and every interaction he has with another person revolves around the inexplicable terror or magnetism his appearance inspires in them. If anything, Flagg's the champion of irrational thought.
Presumably Flagg's interest in using technology (including the sort that engineered the plague, presumably) to dominate and control society. To paraphrase Evil from Time Bandits, forget about committees, flowers and platypuses! Flagg would have started with lasers, eight o'clock, day one!
Been a while but I think he probably meant the last true wizard in the age of rational thought.
Indeed. Flagg is going to use the tools of the modern world to wipe out Boulder. That's why he was working on getting jets ready to fly, gathering weapons, and planning to cross the Rockies in spring and wipe everyone out. He's going for a secular solution, despite being a supernatural being. And when you consider Boulder's ultimate response(send out four men armed only with belief), the contrast becomes even clearer: the four men are opting for a supernatural solution.
Bateman is guessing that Flagg may just be a non-supernatural technocrat setting up a police state. He's trying to retain some vestige of his former atheist worldview. Mother Abigail later points out clearly that he's wrong, and that if he goes to Flagg still thinking like that, he'll fail completely.
Do Fran and Stu really think that moving from Boulder back to Ogunquit is going to be a good idea in the long run? They're going to be a tiny, isolated group. Nobody is keeping up the roads, dams, or ditches, so they're going to be a tiny, permanently isolated group. Eventually the machinery around them is going to run out of fuel and spare parts, so they'll be a tiny, permanently isolated group doing manual labor all day long. There aren't enough of them to allow for anybody to specialize in anything (such as medicine or making new tools)—even if they could find the books and equipment, there simply won't be any time to spare from day-to-day survival. And who are their kids going to marry?
To answer your question about them lacking specialization: they don't need specialization. There're three of them, and they have a ton of free stuff lying around. They can clothe themselves, shelter themselves and have all the tools and furniture they could ever want with minimal effort. Their only immediate concerns are food and water, and even that will remain plentiful for a few years until everything expires. Also, Fran says something about Boulder not really being "needed" anymore, and tons of people moving out of town, so it's not like they're the only ones. I agree, it's a dumbass decision if she's pregnant again (I can't remember if she was or not), but barring that immediate medical emergency she should be alright.
I always thought that it's ridiculously irresponsible. Stu brings up that they could get sick, and Fran says that there are "books and good drugs, we can learn to use them". Um... no, you can't. You can't learn medicine just from books. And this is a woman who have seen a man die from appendicitis, because there was no doctor around!
Agreed...you can learn first aid and some stuff, but not nearly enough to make it totally on your own, given they're without anyone else in the area...if it were really that easy, doctors wouldn't need years of medical school. It's true that our ancestors made it in the new world, but even they had communities to help, and most of us know from history class how high the death rate was during the Pilgrim days.
Add to that the fact that drugs only last a year or so tops, and then they lose their effectiveness. And it's not like they can make more.
Finally, Frannie's pregnant again. A vaginal birth after Caesarian is possible, but needs a doctor's supervision because there are still chances of problems.
The one theory I was able to come up with is that perhaps people would spread out fairly fast and more would come east, but even then, they're not guaranteed to meet up with anyone.
The other thing I thought of with Stu and Frannie is that not everyone in the country is in the Free Zone and not every single bad person in the country died in Vegas...they'd end up in trouble if they met a hostile group on their way East.
We're talking about a guy who was personally saved by God. He's maybe a little overconfident based upon that.
Think of Little House on the Prairie: a family with young children and possibly more on the way strikes off into potentially hostile Indian territory with no more than they can pack in a wagon and no specific destination. There were other people in the region, but no one close enough to help in an emergency. No doctor or pharmacy, no expertise other than their own. If they'd gotten there and found stores full of canned food, empty houses ready to live in, and every kind of tool and toy just lying around waiting to be used, they would have considered that to be luxury. Most pioneers had it far worse, but they went anyway, by choice.
So, life for most settlers was less isolated than we've come to think of it as being (outside the inevitable isolation that comes from being on any farm without phones and powered transportation). Most settlers set out and settled in community groups (think of those big wagon trains) and even the Ingalls had neighbors around them, including medical assistance. Then too the Ingalls were a bit unusual in that they were moving not just for economic opportunity (a crucial distinction because most 19th century settlers were taking on hardship for an economic opportunity which has no correlate for Stu and Frannie) but because they found their surroundings "too crowded". So maybe Stu and Frannie were also just trying to get away from other people, which would make them more like hermits than ordinary settlers.
If one of the major themes of the book is that the works of human hands inevitably turn evil, why are the dogs all heroes and the wolves villains? I would expect to find junkyard dogs following Randall Flagg and wolves staying the hell away from him.
Why does the disease have the nickname 'Captain Trips'? I'm British so this may be an American cultural reference I'm not familiar with. Can someone explain it to me?
We're just as lost as you, my friend from across the pond. Another name for it in the story is "Tube Neck", which seems like it would fit better considering the symptoms. The closest I can come to an explanation is that the term "Captain Trips" originally came from a short story King had previously written about a disease with the same name which had affected the entire West coast of the United States save for a few teenagers in California(I think).
"Captain Trips" is/was Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead's nickname. Stephen King, we can only imagine, liked the band and decided it sounded cool as a disease.
From my searching (I'm an Aussie, so I'd never heard the phrase either), it appears that "Captain Trips" is a drug hangover (or something), ie. the bad morning you have after a night on what illicit substances ails you. That's mainly urban dictionary though, so no idea how reliable that is.
Nicknames for things don't always make sense. Someone at some point probably had a reason for calling it Captain Tripps, and the name caught on 'cause people have gotta call it something.
Why can't Flagg remember who he is when he wakes up on a island at the end of the book?
He was just hit by a nuclear warhead. I think it's fair he was a bit disoriented.
Keep in mind, he shows constant forgetting of who he is, as well as multiple names and 'selves', throughout the entire book; the nuke was enough to cause him to go to another persona with the RF initials.
Why is Mother Abigail's age changed from 108 to 106 in the miniseries? Seems kind of arbitrary.
I always thought it was a Throw It In—maybe the actress flubbed the line (or it was a typo in the script) but no one cared enough to fix it.
Possible Fridge Brilliance: Mother Abigail was born when they didn't really have good record keeping.
Why does Flagg have an alias with the surname "Freemantle" and no one notes that?
Most of the characters in the book only seem to know him as Randall Flagg or RF (or The Dark Man or the Walkin' Dude), not by any of his other aliases. Perhaps the Freemantle alias (he joins up with a Black militia-type group during his "back story," as well, although no one notices he's not Black) is meant to show him as a sort of dark side of Mother Abagail.
Stu dooms America to destruction when he shuts off Hap's pumps!
Of course, Campion had already made it across a huge swath of America by then. Arguably, he'd already infected enough people to doom the world.
Exactly; when the EMTs load him into the ambulance at Hap's Texaco he says that his wife and daughter had woken up sick two days earlier in Salt Lake City. I somehow doubt that Campion and his family did not encounter a single person between the base in the middle of the California desert and Arnette, Texas, especially with a stop over in Salt Lake City.
This is noted in the miniseries when General Starkey says that any chance of containing the outbreak was doomed the moment he sat down for his first fast-food burger. Also, the expanded version of the novel has a chapter devoted to characters interacting with other characters and spreading it en masse (the sheriff from Arnette pulls over an insurance salesman who stops at a diner and infects the woman at the next table and so on).
And honestly, even if Campion had had no dealings with anyone between Project Blue and Arnette, his car's had three people coughing, sneezing and vomiting it in for days; it's going to be swamped with viruses. What are the chances of a gas explosion sanitizing it sufficiently that no first responders, cleanup crews or people autopsying the corpses get infected? Not great, IMO.
I realize it's sort of silly to ask about the thought process of the Satan analogue who's slowly losing his mind, especially when the question is essentially, "Why was he such a dick," but...why did Flagg kill Harold? Lauder's a smart guy, very clever, and would undoubtedly prove useful in Vegas. Nadine made clear from the beginning of her tryst with Harold that Flagg was her ultimate goal, and Harold was OK with it. And by the time Harold and Nadine leave Boulder the former isn't really that fond of the latter. So it seems odd to worry about any jealous fits from Harold, especially considering that Flagg could snuff one out real quick. Killing Harold just seems like needless betrayal for the sake of needless betrayal.
Flagg himself stated that the reason he killed Harold was because Harold was "too full of thoughts". You said it yourself: Harold Lauder was a smart guy, and very clever. A smart and clever enough guy, who wasn't anything close to pure evil (more angry and sad) and in the end revealed that he was genuinely sorry for all that he had done wrong, would probably figure out what Flagg was and what he was doing rather quickly, and would probably do his damnedest to try and stop him. He was also, much like The Kid, unstable. Combined with his intellect and that bit of goodness in him, that made him hard to predict. In short, Flagg killed Harold because Harold was a dangerous and intelligent Wild Card that he probably couldn't maintain control of for very long, and thus needed to be dealt with before he could do any damage to Flagg's empire.
If Harold had been promoted to the council, Flagg would be reminded every day that this little twerp put his hands on his woman, regardless of his supposed intellect or other qualifications. Even if he didn't outwardly appear to be the jealous type, Flagg still considered Nadine to be his possession, the one 'promised to him'. Just because he 'loaned' her to Harold so that Harold could be convinced to go through with planting the explosives at Boulder doesn't mean Flagg liked the situation or was willing to forget about it. Harold needed to die for that alone, in the same way that he would if Harold had say needed to borrow Flagg's sports car for a special mission, and then left a scratch on it. Also Harold could always spill the beans or brag to Flagg's other followers that he was the only other man that got to sleep with the Big Man's 'queen,' and that would make Flagg look weak. Something that couldn't be allowed.
Why exactly is the US government being so obstructive in the face of Armageddon during the plague? If a virus breaks out, manmade or not, you don't conceal it and hide the very existence of it. You warn everybody and quarantine the world. You don't shoot up anybody who has the plague. Is this only because Stephen King wanted the US government and the rest of the world out of the way as quickly as possible to tell his story about the survivors?
It's demonstrating how a cover-your-ass mentality, combined with an unthinking, unblinking devotion to following orders, plays out in the deadliest possible circumstances. You create a biological weapon, never thinking it'll get into circulation, and you create a couple of reasonable-sounding precautionary measures to deflect international opprobrium should something happen. But once something happens, no one involved really thinks through the ramifications of following through on those precautions in reality, and they just swing into gear, no matter how stupid or brutal the actions are.
Yes, while we can't point to an example as extreme as this, we know that "cover your ass" is the standard response by any authority being caught doing wrong. In this case, there were two possibilities: either the plague could be contained (which they still hoped when they started killing reporters), so it's critical to do whatever it takes to keep people from panicking and running around spreading it. Or, if you realize it can't be contained and millions of well-armed people are going to realize you killed them and they have nothing left to lose, you do whatever it takes to keep them from finding that out before they're too sick to break into your secure (and plague-free, you're hoping) facility and put a rope around your neck.
In fact, this is pretty much what happens in Los Angeles in the novel. It's implied that the Los Angeles Times managing to get out 10,000 copies of their one-page extra, before the staff was caught and summarily shot, is what causes the city and surrounding area to explode into chaos, as the enraged and panicking populace erupts in an orgy of looting and rioting. Furthermore, it appears that the US forces stationed in the area were likewise more or less kept in the dark as to the real purpose behind their orders, as those still healthy enough to do so also join in the looting and rioting, or go AWOL. The end result is that the local commander of Los Angeles (or "Zone 10," as designated by Operation Carnival, the military operation aimed at containing the virus and feeding disinformation to the public) is left isolated at his command post in the Skylight Room of the Bank of America, without any loyalist troops to protect him, while over 600 people, most of them military, are trying to break in and lynch him.
With the way the US Government has begun pretending everything is fine while terrorists at home and abroad rip the world apart, it's not hard at all to imagine them doing something like this were a bioweapon to be unleashed. Modern-day politicians care far more about looking good to their voting base and little if any for actually accomplishing anything.
Let's pretend you went with the option of telling everyone exactly what's going on, specifically that there's a lethal disease that produces symptoms identical to a normal everyday flu but kills very quickly and that it's spreading rapidly with virtually no way of containing it (remember Campion was already well on his way across America before anyone off-base had been alerted to the danger). The immediate reaction to such a revelation will be mass panic: everyone with the slightest cough, sneeze or runny nose will be descending on hospitals which will put most, if not all, emergency services out of commission very quickly. So anyone with "normal" illnesses/waiting for operations/crime victims/vulnerable people can be pretty much written off. Next will be an attempted mass exodus with people desperate to leave the country. That means people who have been infected going off the radar and infecting more people as they travel to airports or ferry ports, and then infecting everyone there. But then you can't really allow anyone to leave the country because you're nowhere near done identifying who's carrying the virus, so anyone you let leave will be potentially putting the rest of the world at risk. So then people start getting violent because they don't want to die and you're stopping them from leaving the country. In short, a second wave of mass panic and now the people are thinking they can't trust you because you're not letting them get out of the country and to safety. And all of this is happening within the space of a couple of weeks. You see where it's going? When it comes to threats to human life, the majority of the time it's really not so much "cover your ass" as "minimise the panic", because panic creates chaos which only increases your problems. Throw in the fact that this all happened within a very short timespan and it's not really surprising they made the choice they did.
And that's just considering how Americans would react. Given the overwhelming lethality of the disease, it's entirely plausible that admitting the truth would have led to every other nation cutting the U.S. off completely and then nuking it into glass in a desperate attempt to contain the infection. The novel was written in the middle of the Cold War and well before nuclear winter was a thing: if it's a choice between having the Soviets and Chinese sterilize the continent and all of humanity smothering on its own mucus, even Britain and France would probably have no choice but to go along with the Nuke 'em option.
As a Real Life example, look at COVID-19: it has a barely 0.2 percent mortality rate and people are acting like it's the return of bubonic plague.
About one and a half million people live on Manhattan island. If 99.4 percent of them died from the flu, there should have been about 9000 immune survivors on the island. Most of them would probably have been converging on the very limited number of ways to get off the island during a limited window of time, so there should have been dozens — maybe hundreds — of people going through the tunnel with the two characters we were following.
You're making a lot of assumptions there, not all of which are warranted. Just because 9000 Manhattanites would have survived Capt. Trips doesn't mean they A) would have survived all the other fiascoes, like the Government shooting civilians, looters, opportunistic secondary diseases, their own other pre-existing conditions, etc. or B) that they all would have waited as Larry did until after the majority of the death had occurred before trying to GTFO of dodge or C) that they would have shown themselves to Larry even if they were there.
And in the book, Larry and Rita encounter two survivors: one who offers Larry a million dollars if he could have sex with Rita, while the other survivor just lies on top of a car, soaking up some sunshine, during their trek to the Lincoln Tunnel. Presumably the other survivors are all scattered around Manhattan and are all trying to get out of the island by their own means.
Remember the "second deaths" in the extended edition.
Even assuming that all of them survived both the plague and any further calamities, Manhattan is a pretty big place for only 9000 people to bump into each other, and the Lincoln Tunnel isn't the only way to get off the island. And not everyone would have left at the same time, if they even wanted to leave — for all we know, plenty of people decided to do what Will Smith did in I Am Legend. So chances are plenty of people did leave through the Lincoln Tunnel, they just didn't leave at precisely the same time as our heroes.
Not really - Manhattan is only twenty square miles, there would be hundreds of people per square mile, even accounting for factors like secondary mortality (which would be less with other people around to assist) and people would be forced out of their stinking, powerless highrises onto the streets (which are a tiny fraction of the total landmass). There would be plenty of people in every public space in Manhattan, and people tend to congregate together in crisis. King's depiction makes it seem like there's maybe a few people per square mile in Manhattan, which makes the plague several orders of magnitude more lethal than the common number. Furthermore, consider those towns where only one person survived - if those towns are a few thousand people, the mortality rate is off by an order of magnitude.
Also, the 99.4% number was an estimate which came from before the outbreak. It's possible that it killed a higher percentage than that.
The disease didn't wipe out 99.4% of the population of Manhattan Island, it wiped out 99.4% of the entire world[in 1978]. That means only 26 million people would exist anywhere on the planet, and of that relatively small number, an untold but presumably rather large number are killed in other ways. Perhaps no one but a tiny handful of Manhattan residents (Larry, Rita, the Monster Shouter, the man offering Larry money to sleep with Rita, the man sunbathing on a police car and maybe a dozen others) were actually immune, since immunity is unlikely to be evened out by population.
The government/scientists/military didn't know that any immune people existed at all. They were baffled by Stu's immunity. The 99.4 percent communicability isn't the fraction of the population that's susceptible, it's the chance of passing on the disease when an infected person encounters someone else. If the other person lucks out on the 0.6% chance, that's not because they're immune. They just got lucky until the next time they encounter an infected person. Chances are a lot fewer than 0.6% were actually immune, with no chance at all of contracting it.
I just finished reading the book a couple of days ago, and just now (upon reading the TV Tropes article) found that the virus was supposed to wipe out 99.4% of humanity. Where are people getting that number from? It isn't mentioned anywhere in the book that I saw. Is that Word of God? Am I missing something?
It is mentioned in the book, though it might only be in the extended edition. As I recall, it was in a memo from the lab that created it. The official designation for the disease is "Constantly Shifting A-Prime Flu". It isn't that the disease is supposed to wipe out 99.4% of humanity; that's just what the lab tests say is the communicability rate.
OP here. I did read the extended version, and I must have missed that mention of the communicability. That said 99.4% communicable and 99.4% of humanity dead are not really the same thing, are they? I guess it's close enough, since the book never dwells on the figure at any point past it's initial mention.
It's close enough, because there's no sense that it has anything but a 100% mortality rate. If you catch it, you're dead. Period. The .6% like the main characters are totally immune, it doesn't have any communicability to them (it's specifically mentioned that Stu was directly injected with the virus as a test and he killed it instantly).
I'm not positive about the original, but it's at the beginning of Chapter 4 in the extended. Starkey knocks a flimsy off a table, and on it has the info which includes "HIGH RISK/EXCESS MORTALITY AND COMMUNICABILITY ESTIMATED REPEAT 99.4%." That's where the 99.4 comes from, and since it's 100% fatal, that means a communicability rate of 99.4 is also the mortality rate.
A 99.4% communicability rate and a 100% fatality rate would mean a 99.4% fatality rate... if each person on Earth only had once chance to be exposed to the virus. But as it is, if Alice is infected and meets Bob and Charlie, Bob only has a 0.6% chance to avoid infection by Alice, and if Charlie is infected, then Bob's chances of avoiding infection drop to 0.36% (0.6% to avoid being infected by Alice, multiplied by 0.6% chance to avoid being infected by Charlie). Let alone if Alice also infects Dave, Eric, Fred, and Gary... pretty soon, Bob's chances to avoid infection become vanishingly small. And, once he is infected, he is 100% going to die from it... hence why far less than 0.6% of humanity is shown to survive. We don't actually know the immunity rate, and the communicability rate has nothing to do with it; they are completely unrelated.
Everyone in Ogunquit was either already sick or had been exposed to sick residents by the time the town council decided to blockade the turnpike, so the barricade was completely pointless! Just the same as with all the military barricades, but on a smaller scale. Nobody realized this at the time?
They were scared, desperate and didn't know what else to do.
Even if only 0.6% of the population are immune, shouldn't there have been more survivors from Arnette? Granted it is a Dying Town but it doesn't seem a tiny town (it does support a calculator plant after all) and a line about "Arnette's best neighbourhood" and Norm Bruett's racist internal monologue about African American kids in "east Arnette" suggest a population in the high hundreds or low thousands rather than a few dozen people. It seems unlikely Stu Redman would be the sole survivor yet Arnette was under military lockdown from the beginning of the crisis and (presumably) any immune cases would have been recognized comparatively early.
The calculator plant wasn't in Arnette, it was just where a lot of people from Arnette worked. Arnette was considered a "wide place in the road", with fewer than 700 people living there. Again, it didn't wipe out 99.4% of the United States, it wiped out 99.4% of the entire world, not to mention those who died in other ways. Specifically in the case of Arnette, the entire town was quarantined and shipped to CDC locations. Whomever else survived from that town, if there were any, would have been killed by the soldiers guarding the place, just like Stu was supposed to be.
The military creates this highly lethal, highly contagious virus, and deliberately design it to be impossible to vaccinate against? What on Earth was the point? They'd made something they could never, ever actually use, because there was no way it could do anything except exactly what it did. There was no effective way to quarantine it, no effective treatment, and no vaccine. One might argue it was sheer hubris, but it seems so senseless. If you can't vaccinate against it, you're as screwed as your enemies.
The military probably created it for the same reason that militaries and governments in real life create all the bombs and weapons and machines and whatnot: to show that they're the Big Boys on the block. "You think you're bad? Go ahead and try something with me, and I will fuck you up big time." In-universe, the superflu was probably meant to be the ultimate threat deterrent. But, pride goeth before the fall...or, if you prefer, call this one Hoist by His Own Petard on a lethal level.
Perhaps the virus was also intended to be a kind of dead man's switch, that in the event of the enemy (i.e., the USSR) ever managing to conduct a catastrophic pre-emptive nuclear strike that effectively wiped out the US and its nuclear arsenal before the American nukes could get launched, the US would still be able to have its revenge from beyond the grave by having its agents spread the virus around the Soviet bloc. That the virus would also end up killing pretty much everyone else on the planet either didn't enter the politicians' and generals' calculations, or they preferred to take everyone down with them in such a scenario. Which, they ultimately did.
Ultimately, people fully in the know about the nature of the virus, such as General Starkey and Dr. Dietz, acknowledge how suicidally stupid developing such an uncontrollable bio-weapon was in the first place. Starkey in particular is shown to be fatalistic about the situation once Campion has been located in Texas, realizing that with so many people exposed to the virus containment is all but impossible.
I'd guess that Project Blue didn't set out with the intention to design a disease that was totally unstoppable, but rather one that was nigh-unstoppable if you didn't have the vaccines and treatments controlled by the U.S. government. Gone Horribly Right, in short. Hell, they were probably plugging away with experimental treatments as soon as the superflu was created, unable to believe that a virus could be that deadly.
Two instances I can only pin on King's lack of knowledge or research on weaponry: During the outbreak and the botched containment, a man is described using a recoilless rifle (think bazooka) like an assault rifle, the second egregious incident happening near the end when Trash is entering the military base in the desert. The Sentry is described as being armed with an M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle (specifically the original variant, as Trashcan Man switches it to semiautomatic fire, later versions removed this option) which is out of place in the original 1980 setting, doubly so in the unabridged 1990 cut. This is a strange level of the Tower where that sentry wasn't issued an M16.
The "recoilless rifle" might very well have been a reference to the H&K G-11. It was being field tested in 1976, had a very high rate of fire (the one in the book is mentioned as firing 70 gas tipped slugs a second) and was designed with an advanced mechanism that was called "recoilless" (it could get 3 rounds out of the barrel before the firer felt the recoil). Might be there due to Rule of Cool
I seem to recall another military character being armed with "An Army .45", which is presumably an M1911A1 and not an M9 as would be period appropriate. Chalk it down to Alternate History.
It need not be alternate history: the M1911 wasn't completely phased out by 1990 (it hasn't been 100-percent phased out even today). Or King just didn't catch that detail when updating the setting to 1990.
While King couldn't know it when he wrote it, it could be a case of Life Imitates Art and be a .45 SOCOM pistol.
In the '80 and '90 version Lloyd tells Dayna that Trashcan Man has 5 "flametracks" (M132 Self Propelled Flamethrowers) lined up at Indian Springs. They were phased out by 1980. King missed it in the update to 1990.
What in the hell was going on with Kit Bradenton and the pile of jewels when Flagg went to collect his car? It seems like they were illusions Flagg made, maybe either to test his magic or because he found them amusing somehow, but he doesn't seem to be expecting to see Kit. However, the only obvious alternative is that Kit trailed him for a mile and a half while barely able to breathe.
What happened to the Dr. in the jail with Nick(Rob Lowe)? He seemed fine and healthy the whole time, never sneezed or coughed, yet somehow he succumbed to the flu between the time he left the jail and got to his car? Either the prisoners tracked him down and the virus ravaged his dead body after they were done with him or perhaps the virus chooses to infect people fleeing or just when the people have no use. Like Stu getting the virus after he's unable to fulfill his duties in Vegas due to injury
In the film the Doc is seen dead in his car and clearly has a head wound. It's implied that Ray Booth either shot him in the head or caused him to crash his car which killed him.
Stu didn't have Captain Trips, he had regular old flu progressing into pneumonia.
It is heavily implied that the US military doomed the rest of the world to the same fate as America, and furthermore, they seemed to have done it (by the phrasing used) because they thought their Cold War enemies would do... something if they found out what happened in the US. There's a couple of things here that are just utterly baffling. For one thing, by the time they pull the trigger on the plan, simple arithmetic indicates that it's all but guaranteed fewer than a million Americans will be left alive in the next few weeks at most. At this moment, the Cold War is not really a thing anymore. Other than being insane to the point of being completely removed from reality or being a psychopath, why would someone decide "America is doomed, so let's kill the rest of the world while we're at it"? On top of that, even if the top military brass decided America could somehow remain as a country, the enemy would not exactly invade a country where anyone entering the Americas would pretty much be doomed to die. There's no reason to kill the rest of the world, because even if the world survives, it will stay WELL clear of anything left of the US, for their own protection. Furthermore, I don't care how blindly devoted you are to your country, I can't fathom the thought process that leads to "America is doomed, so let's kill a further six billion people or so." It's somewhere in the intersection between completely crazy and spiteful on the level that only fits a five-year-old. What's the point? There's nothing left to cover up, there's nothing to salvage. And on a meta level, King didn't even have to write the military like this. It stands to reason that at least one person would get on an outgoing international flight from the US, which has pretty much the same end result with a disease that's pretty much a magical, nearly universal kill switch. I understand King was probably not a big fan of the American power structures when he was writing the book, but I've seen Saturday morning cartoon villains that were less over-the-top evil and stupid than this. This is not short-sightedness, it's a seeming inability to connect the dots about what will, by this point, certainly and inevitably happen in a few weeks. Doesn't take a genius to think that far forward, especially for military officers, who I assume need to have the mental faculties to understand the consequences of their actions in the long term. What's the in-story logic? Complete denial about what's happening? Impaired thinking due to infection? Even from an extremely short-sighted, jingoistic perspective, killing the entire planet ensures that whoever survives the plague in the Americas has nowhere to go, while they might otherwise get outside help from other countries after scientists in Europe or Asia figure out how to counteract the disease.
A lot of American foreign policy decisions look utterly baffling to anyone with an ounce of common sense and morality. Granted, infecting other nations is probably pushing it a bit (especially since King portrays Starkey as some tragic villain as opposed to the most evil man who's ever lived) but their assumption is probably "we'll figure it out *somehow*" and then proceeding to infect other nations to keep them on even footing. You're right, it's unimaginably stupid, paranoid, short-sighted and selfish...but to be honest, I wouldn't put it past them.
In real life governments don't create biological weapons just to unleash them on their enemies, but also to figure out how to defend themselves if the enemies were to do the same trick on them. As most virologists are not cackling psychopaths, that's how they typically justify their research — not to create offensive weapons, but to create defences against hypothetical threats.
They did it to avoid shame, pure and simple. They don't want anyone to know that they created the virus that's destroying civilization, not because they fear reprisals (they're doomed no matter what), but because they don't want the indignity of the world knowing what they've done. That's why they brutally suppressed news coverage of the virus, and it's why they released it all around the world: so it would be a worldwide problem, rather than just an American one, obscuring its true origins.
What was the point of sending Stu, Ralph, Glen and Larry to confront Randall? Their presence was completely inconsequential to Flagg's downfall, as their only action during the climax is watching as the Hand of God causes the nuke to go off.
If Flagg hadn't been distracted by them and insisted that all his followers watch the execution, Trashcan Man would've been killed as soon as he got close to Vegas. Also, the thing that actually set the bomb off was Flagg's own lightning, albeit possibly under God's control. Of course, that does lead to the question of whether and by what other means God could have prevented Flagg from winning, up to and including just making him drop dead years before the book opens, but that's a larger can of worms than I care to tackle here.
From a Doylist perspective it's pretty clear King was just making it up as he went along, hence the "giant inexplicable hand from nowhere" Deus ex Machina.
Stu explains it later. They were the sacrifice God required to help against Flagg.
What actually *happened* between the riots and the 99.4% of humanity dying off? What did it look like between a city in full blown anarchy and total desertion? Thats the biggest issue I have with pre-apocalyptic fiction like this, the kinds that show the apocalypse happening. Right after the point the world begins to go into anarchy and looting and rioting, everyone seems to just disappear after that.
In-between, everyone was too sick to do much of anything. The cities weren't deserted yet, but when 99% of the population is bedridden, it's not going to look much different to a person on the street.