For many, The Stand needs no introduction. If you're a King fan, chances are you've already tackled this behemoth. Others seem to be intimidated by the sheer size of this monster and move on to his other stories that don't weigh as much a Buick. For those of you who may be trying to decide on whether to jump into this tome, here's some more info to help you make your decision:
A strain of superflu created by the military/government gets loose and wipes out 99% of the earth's population in a matter of a few days leaving dead bodies to litter the world and everything shuts down. The roads are clogged with the dead in their cars. The hospitals, government buildings, police and fire stations, prisons, hotels, office buildings, houses, everything - full of dead people and no one alive to keep things running. A few survivors who find themselves immune to this superflu begin wandering around trying to find someone, anyone who might still be alive. As they band into small groups, they begin having dreams of an old black woman in Nebraska named Mother Abigail and are drawn to her like a homing device. They also begin to feel an evil presence that calls himself Randall Flagg, among many other things, and hurry to meet up with Mother Abigail. They all congregate in Boulder, Colorado and begin to try to restore civiliazation as Flagg builds up his army to wage war on "The Free Zone" and its people.
The version of The Stand that I read was the unedited version. This may have been a good thing or a bad thing. I don't know. King delivers some powerful characters and scenes that you won't forget for years to come. The character development is impeccable for a novel of this size. You don't get lost or confused among the sea of characters in the book. They all stand apart from one another quite well. With that being said, I didn't like all of the characters. Some in a good way - I thought Harold was an absolute ass and I found that I wanted to thunder-punch him in the throat many times during the book, just the way King wanted you to. Others, like Mother Abigail and Randall Flagg, I really didn't care one way or another for. I found Mother Abigail to be too preachy and not fleshed out enough and Flagg wasn't that scary for me. He seemed to be the devil's imp, but little explained why he was doing what he was doing or how much he was responsible for the end of the world. I also found myself surrounded by amazingly powerful scenes (The opening one where the soldier, Campion, is weaving towards the gas station in Arnett, is amazingly good) with a feeling of "lets get on with it already" type of fluff. I don't know if its a good thing or not that I found myself seeing how many pages I had left. I'm guessing thats a negative thing. So where do I stand on The Stand? It was a good book with great characters and some powerful scenes, but too long-winded to be a great book. For you King purists, you may want to stop reading now, but for myself, I liked Robert McCammon's Swan Song much better. I know, I know. Blasphemy, right? Now, one other thing, this was also a re-read for me. I first read The Stand a decade ago and what I found this time while reading it, I couldn't help but keep thinking about AMC's The Walking Dead. Not for zombies or anything like that, but for the end of the world setting and I think it actually made this book less enjoyable this time around for me. Maybe I'm reaching my limit for dystopian story lines. I don't know. But if you haven't read The Stand yet, I encourage you to and keep in mind that this was written in the 1970s and was considered ground breaking for its time.
4 snotty noses out of 5
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