I’m finally wrapping up the The Stand by Stephen King.
And, one thing to mention before we proceed… There are some spoiler alerts for some of the content interspersed below.
The Stand is truly a magnificent novel…
According to Amazon, the uncut hard cover version weighs in at 3.6 lbs shipping weight, and the content itself consists of over 1100 pages (over 1300 on the kindle version). It’s some heavy-duty pure reading bliss.
The book’s plot revolves around a distinctive cast of characters who are put in a tragic situation as some of the only survivors left to forge their way in a world suffering the aftermath of a devastating super-flu epidemic.
Weaving consistently throughout the narrative are fundamental elements such as good and evil, as well as strong religious overtones laced throughout while given life through memorable arch-types like Mother Abigail and Randall Flagg.
As the characters commence their time leading up to the aftermath of the super-flu, and experience their various conflicts while living life in the new world the reader is thrown head-first into their miseries, failures and triumphs in startlingly creative ways.
The trials and tribulations associated with some of the key characters’ quests for survival as they build new communities, forge alliances, and fight for what’s dear to them are epic to say the least.
As for me, I expect the vividly-told story to remain in my consciousness for a long time after the final page is turned.
I want to mention that I actually haven’t read many of Stephen King’s books. I read a handful many years ago (The Dark Tower, Insomnia, and Desperation). I mention this because, although I really, really liked this book a lot, I’m not what you would call a super-fan… Although, I’m thinking about reading The Shining one of these days, so who knows?
Why did I decide to read The Stand?
Rarely do I make time to read novels of this size, but I made an exception in this case because this one in particular was always on my bucket list ever since I saw the TV miniseries.
Many years ago, when the TV version first was aired, I remember laying down in the living room and watching it with my parents. I remember especially how much I liked it.
It was the first time I had seen a Gary Sinise performance (prior to his famous character of Lieutenant Dan in the blockbuster Forrest Gump), and his portrayal of the character Stu Redman significant enough to me that for many years after I considered it the benchmark of good acting.
The Stand is so vast, and with so much depth that I’m not sure where to focus in this review. I would definitely recommend it, however, and would do so for a few of the following reasons:
- One strategy I’m using to become a better writer is to consistently learn from my betters. Many consider Stephen King one of the best and most well-known American authors. His style, creativity, and descriptions of situations ranging from the mundane to the unique is second to none, and with this novel especially, these skills are running full steam.
- Regularly throughout this book the author produces enlightening nuggets of wisdom. I was a bit surprised to see this, and it was very fulfilling. King utilizes themes such as making difficult choices and building a good life in the midst of turmoil as a fertile ground to verbalize nuggets.
- The characters are wonderfully developed, which each having their own proclivities, belief systems, and communication styles. Repeatedly, I found myself sympathizing with the very human characters on the righteous side, and at the very least, understanding (at least partially) why the more nefarious characters could make the decisions that they did.
All that said, I’d like the elaborate on the character development point above by highlighting a few of the characters I’ve gotten to know over the last couple months of reading The Stand.
- Stu Redman is the classic good guy. He’s something of a first lieutenant to the prophetess, Mother Abigail. Stu’s story starts out with him being held captive in a type of detention center where tests are being done on him as a survivor of the super-flu. After his travels to Mother Abigail, and the subsequent development of the Free Zone, he ultimately becomes a pivotal member of the council and the head of law enforcement in the community. Practically a quasi-patriarch, the community begins to lean on him often as they work to establish solidarity against the rising evil of the Walking Dude (Randall Flag).
- Having been jilted, Harold Lauder’s a young man who’s character develops into that of a short-tempered individual with a juvenile, retaliatory mentality. Later, he becomes an unwitting puppet to Randall Flag, and seeks to do serious damage to the Free Zone in light of his earlier rejection by the character Frannie. After becoming more and more sour, Harold works diligently to plot the demise of the group.
- Mother Abigail is the guiding spiritual force of the Free Zone. The community is drawn together initially due to the common dreams they all shared about her. This character is close to God, like the prophets of old, and she seeks to do his will above all. Her presence (while she is with the group) serves as a beacon of hope. And even after she has passed, her legacy continues to live on while guiding the Free Zone to its ultimate destiny.
- Randall Flagg is the character who serves as the arch-type of ultimate evil in human form. He’s many things the Bible described Satan to be, and the book all but calls him out as the Evil One himself. With abilities such as shape-shifting, remote viewing, mind-reading, and the controlling of wildlife, Flagg is a truly formidable foe for the remaining survivors.
If you’re looking for a great novel filled with masterful writing, well developed characters, a frightening yet intriguing depiction of a dystopian future, and an exciting story about the timeless struggle of good versus evil, you should strongly consider pulling this one down from the shelf and taking a few (or many) hours to become acquainted with this great work by Stephen King.
I have about 75 pages to go.
I anticipate buying the miniseries on DVD this weekend, making a fresh bowl of popcorn, and hunkering down for some great movie-viewing.
Have you read any good books by Stephen King? How about other novels in the same genre?
List some of your favorites in the comments below.