The Stand by Stephen King
*PHEW* That was one beast of a book! I know I’ve said it before…but I am a HUGE Stephen King fan. I haven’t read anywhere near all of his work, but I’ve read quite a bit (somethings more than once). The Stand is one of his novels that I’ve been putting off for years…. at least 20, I assume. I can remember being about 15 years old and reading The Shining for the very first time and falling instantly and madly in love with it (I still am) and then my mother told me that I definitely need to read The Stand. For whatever reason, I never did. And then last year, I completed the PopSugar Reading Challenge and one of the prompts was “A Book Your Mother Loves”…low and behold if The Stand wasn’t one of the three titles that she gave me. Again….I skipped over it, I think largely due to it’s length (I was nearing the end of the challenge and just wanted to be done with it and quickly). Now, finally….20 years after it was first suggested to me, I can say that I have read (and loved) Stephen King’s The Stand.
In the middle of a June night in 1990 …a man named Charlie Campion, a now deserter of the US Army, grabs his wife and young child and flees the Army base minutes before a crucial lockdown occurs. They don’t know where they are going and they don’t really have a plan…all they know is they need to get AWAY. The panicked family makes it to a small Midwest town where Campion crashes the vehicle into a set of gas station pumps. When the station attendant, along with a few customers, run to the aid of the people in the vehicle…all they find are three bloated and infected bodies in the front seat of the car. An ambulance is called and soon after the CDC is brought in… but it’s too late. The infection, quickly referred to as Captain Trips, is so contagious and easily spread…that before anyone can even understand what is happening, 99% of the world population is dead.
And this is where the modern world ends and the new world begins: A world in which the 1% of the population who survived and are immune to Captain Trips have to choose sides – or are chosen for a side. The good of the remaining world are following a frail 108 year old woman named Mother Abigail…all with the hopes of saving what is left of the human race. The others have pledged allegiance to the epitome of evil and destruction…a lethal man with a terrifying smile and unspeakable powers, Randall Flagg. When the end of the world comes down to an epic battle of Good vs Evil, who will stand victorious in the end. Does human nature change without the presence of modern day society?
“Show me a man or a woman alone and I’ll show you a saint. Give me two and they’ll fall in love. Give me three and they’ll invent the charming thing we call ‘society’. Give me four and they’ll build a pyramid. Give me five and they’ll make one an outcast. Give me six and they’ll reinvent prejudice. Give me seven and in seven years they’ll reinvent warfare. Man may have been made in the image of God, but human society was made in the image of His opposite number, and is always trying to get back home.”
Wow….powerful, right?!? When I read the above passage, I was immediately blown away. I sat and reread it at least two more times and actually dog-eared the page (something I almost never do) so I could find it again easily. This books touches on so many topics ranging from; good vs evil, to religious mania, to human nature, to the constraints of modern day society, to responsibility, to love and hate….it’s just an incredibly epic story woven with some of the BEST characters I’ve ever read about. Nick Andros, Stu Redmand and Tom Cullen were just three of my many favorites from this book. There are so many fantastic personalities and story lines in The Stand…even some of the more minor characters get such an in-depth look into their lives and personalities that you cannot help but be drawn right in.
Saying that Stephen King is one masterful storyteller with one hell of an imagination isn’t anything new or unique….but it’s still the truth. This is not a short, quick read….at over 1100 pages, it won’t be something you pick up on a whim, but if you do decide to dive in, I can almost guarantee you will not be disappointed. I am a very quick reader and often stay up way too late getting just a few more pages in and this still took me just shy of 13 days to read. But it was one enjoyable and wild ride each step of the way. If you are a Stephen King fan and, like me, just haven’t picked this one up yet….get on it! If you are someone who would normally shy away from King’s normal Horror genre, I think you’ll like this one.
My Review: 5/5 Stars
***If you do decide to read this masterpiece, I definitely suggest you pick up the newer 1990 Complete & Uncut version. The Stand was originally published in 1978 at a fraction of what the original manuscript entailed. King had originally written over 1200 pages and the publisher, Doubleday, literally could not print a novel that long. As King explained to Time in 2009, “Doubleday had a physically limiting factor in those days because they used a glue binding instead of a cloth binding, and the way it was explained to me was that they had so much thickness they could do before the glue just fell apart”. Not to mention, Doubleday was also concerned with the ability to sell a book of that size for the going cost of hardcovers at the time and still turn a profit. So, the original 1200 page manuscript was slashed to an 823 page revision and was an immediate Hardcover Best Seller. Those cut pages didn’t say lost and in 1990, King was convinced to restore the story to a much closer version of it’s original intended length as well as update some more modern cultural references. The story and characters are the same as the original 1978 version, just with the added depth that Kind had always intended.