The Stand is Stephen King's grand apocalyptic epic. And while perhaps not great literature, it's a very good book. The nearly 1200 pages are well worth reading if you're a fan. Otherwise, I'd steer more towards his shorter books. Of course, The Stand is about a massive man-made plague wiping out most of humanity, and the survivors having to restart civilization. Simple concept, it's been done before, but of course with King's flare we have an interesting new take on an old idea. And he's quite successful in this undertaking. King makes the unbelievable seem real through his ability to see both the big picture as well as the minor, little things we see very day but only notice subconsciously--a regular in a coffee shop, a squeeky door, etc. He then populates his world with real characters that, while mostly unmemorable in the long run, are well-constructed and sympathetic. We also have the advantage of seeing them before and after the plague, which brings in some excellent personality development.
King's talent for horror comes in handy in many points of this novel, and enjoyably so. From the terrorfying escape of Stu Redman from the government facility, to Larry Underwood's journey through the tunnle of the dead, and even Harold Lauder's chilling expressions, King brings the frightening situation to the reader while still not making The Stand into a horror novel. While most of my complaints dissipated as the novel went on, I do have three specific problems with it. Not the length, mind you, which is mostly superficial and shouldn't bother anyone who enjoys reading. First of all, there is a strong conservative bent within the story, sometimes subtle, sometimes painfully obvious. This bias might not always be present, but when it is it can be quite distracting. Second, Flagg is not a good protagonist. I realized this when I saw that the dreams and the thought of him were more threatening than the actual person. Maybe if we saw more of him, I'd think differently, but as it stands he just wasn't frightening enough. Third, the supernatural element might have been essential to the story, but oftentimes King seems to use it as an excuse to take the easy way out. Yet, none of these grievances ultimately diminishes the book. If the length doesn't bother you I don't see why you wouldn't enjoy it.
Classic King novel as the author intended it to be read....
The Stand, Stephen King's apocalyptic novel that mixes science fiction with horror (think of it as a realistic merging of The Andromeda Strain and The Final Conflict), was a runaway best-seller when it first hit bookstores in the late 1970s and is still regarded as one of King's best works, at least by his millions of fans. Its scenario of an accidental outbreak of a government-created strain of the flu -- which has a mortality rate of over 90 percent -- that wipes out most of mankind and sets the stage for a final showdown between good and evil makes for compelling reading.
What many readers did not know was that King was asked by the accounting department of his publisher to trim his already huge novel by several hundred pages to keep costs down and to make the hardcover's price affordable ($12.95 in 1978). Given the choice of doing the edits himself or letting the in-house editors do the cutting, King chose the former. As a result, most -- but not all -- the characters and situations appeared reasonably whole, although King remarks in the Preface that pyromaniac Trashcan Man's westward trek from the Midwest to Nevada has the most scars from the literary surgery he performed.
By 1989, though, King had enough clout -- and reader support -- to get Doubleday to publish The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition. Released in hardcover in 1990, the book sold very well and was later adapted by King as a miniseries for ABC-TV.
So what are the differences between the two versions of The Stand, besides the heavier weight and higher price? (Remember that $12.95 retail price from 1978? In 1990 this had nearly doubled to $24.95!) Well, the novel's tale remains the same -- nefarious U.S. military creates a deadly strain of the flu...flu accidentally (and later not so accidentally) infects most of humanity...then the survivors split into two camps, one led by the evil Randall Flagg, the other headed by an elderly woman known as Mother Abigail, thus setting up the ultimate battle between darkness and light.
But in this novel, the magic is in the details. The long and fiery journey of the Trashcan Man across the United States is now more complete, and a frightening character who was completely excised from the original novel in '78 is now restored in a literary equivalent of the Extended Editions of The Lord of the Rings DVDs.
Another bonus: Illustrator Bernie Wrightson, who has contributed his drawings and artwork to King's Creepshow, Cycle of the Werewolf and one of the Dark Tower books, has added several illustrations to this edition. There are just a few and they are sprinkled sparingly, but they add a powerful jolt of visual effects to King's already vivid prose.
King acknowledges his penchant for writing big, sometimes rambling novels, and The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition is surely big and rambling. Yet the cast of characters -- Stu Redman, Frannie Goldsmith, Larry Underwood, Harold Lauder (whose descent from merely obnoxious teen to jealousy-driven traitor is one of The Stand's more interesting subplots), Nadine Cross, Nick Andros, Tom Cullen, Lloyd Henreid...and the mysterious entity known as Flagg -- is one of King's best ensembles of fictional creations, and the mythical landscape of post-flu America is truly unforgettable.
Making my Stand!
The Stand by Stephen King has been considered by many to be one of his greatest works. Sadly in my opinion this is very far from the truth. The enormous novel starts off as a simple story of catastrophe. The human race is infected by a plague is is quickly dieing at the waysides. Without giving too much away, this does not remain to be the main premise of the book and eventually it shifts to a story about the battle between the force of God and an a dark force led by "the walking dude".
I will get the good comments out of the way to begin with. The original premise of mankind dealing with a horrible plague is quite terrifying and Stephen King does depict this quite well. The does make the first 400 pages of the book go by quite fast. His character development is phenomenal to the point of pain, giving long-winded chapters describing characters that end up being unimportant and "short" living. That is my biggest complaint, the story was simply to long. Comprised of three books ranging from 200 to 500 pages a piece, it seems as though King cannot decide what story he is trying to tell. He pulls in new characters whenever he pleases and then just as quickly trows them into the trash bin. King makes the reader watch character after character grow and change and work , only to see them die abruptly and accomplish little to nothing. He spends hundreds of pages on seemingly pointless details, only to have major plot twists whizz by in a page or less. I found the ending most discouraging, which left the reader with the vague feeling that nothing of any significance had occurred in the last 1150 pages. Simply put, I would not suggest this book to anyone who I cared for in the least bit. I found it time consuming and pointless, and the only redeeming quality I have unearthed is that I managed to read five other books while trudging through this monstrosity. So if you wish to read King, I would suggest the Gunslinger instead.
Web Reviews for The Stand
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Hate The Stand
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I HATE the "stand at the front and yell and tell" style that is so common after attending a thousand of them over the years. And I generally don't like ...
Popularity Rating for The Stand
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