Monday, July 18, 2011

Review: The Stand, Stephen King

This mammoth, 1400 page book has been the most recommended of Stephen King's works since friends and bloggers heard that I hadn't read any of his books. Since then I've read Carrie and adored it, so was really looking forward to lugging The Stand around the globe on my recent holiday. Most was read on beaches in Greece. The latter half did a perfect job distracting me from first a sunscreen allergy and then a horrible bout of tendonitis.

(Update on that: I've had my shoulder injury diagnosed by an awesome sports injury doctor, and it's tendonitis and bursitis. I'm getting an injection of cortisone right into the shoulder at 7 am tomorrow. *Fun*. And then I start physiotherapy on Thursday. I do get to go to bellydance tonight as long as I go easy on it, so that's something.)

The Stand was an engrossing tale that began with apocalyptic themes and transitioned into a supernatural showdown. A highly virulent influenza virus is unleashed upon the United States with biblically catastrophic consequences. As the meagre survivors struggle to come to terms with the aftermath, they begin to have dreams. Dreams of a dark man, and dreams of an old black woman. The former are terrifying; the latter offer solace and hope. Terrifying as they are, through the dreams the dark man begins to gather an army in the west. But the old woman is gathering her own army in the east, and if good is to triumph over evil, the good must travel over the Rockies to confront those who have allied themselves with darkness.

For the first third or so I found myself wondering why King created a cast of supremely unlikeable characters. Like Harold Lauder and Larry Underwood, for instance. I didn't enjoy Underwood's chapters one bit to begin with. Then there are those who ally themselves with the dark man. Like Trashcan Man. I deliberately left some passages unread as they strayed into the sadistic, and while I like my horror I'm also a bit of a sook.

By halfway through I'd developed a real affection for the good guys, and a sense of dread over the bad apples in the mix. Stu Redman and Frannie I adored. Redman seemed watery and insignificant to begin with and I was surprised when King moved him front and centre. Suprised but glad.

I don't think I stopped tearing up or outright crying during the last 400 pages. ***Slight Spoiler*** I bawled when Underwood broke down over leaving Redman, a leg broken, in a ditch with a fatal dose of morphine towards the end. He came full circle as a character and I felt genuine affection for him by the end. ***End Spoiler***

An epic struggle of good versus evil, The Stand is a novel populated by original characters, surprising, beautiful moments and a good helping of slimy darkness.


  1. Ohh, I've been wanting to venture into King for a while now... I've got Different Seasons sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. This looks tempting though!

  2. The Stand is a great place to start! I felt I couldn't read any of his new stuff before I read his classics. (And not just so I could say "I like his old stuff better than his new stuff :p)

  3. I've just finished reading this myself (review up soon) - am a huge SK fan and couldn't really believe I hadn't read this yet. But now I can finally say I've done it and can claim authentic fandom now :-)

  4. Haha YES! Authentic fandom is upon us! Credibility: earned.