The Stand has been a book that I have wanted to read even before I began to delve into the many worlds of Stephen King. My step-dad was into King when I was a kid but I have never much been into horror, ever really, I still don’t care for it much to this day. But seeing as I didn’t have control of the remote very often when I was growing up I found myself watching various Stephen King mini-series or movies whenever they were on and The Stand was one of these mini-series that I found quite enjoyable. I can’t really believe that The Stand mini-series came out 20 years ago when I was 10 or 11, but there you have it. I remember actually enjoying it when I watched it, even though I am not into horror, I have always been fascinated by apocalypse scenarios and it doesn’t get much more end of the world than The Stand.
I always find myself reading several books at one time, currently I am reading 3, so since I have 45 minutes to an hour each way to and from work I have started to listen to audio books. This is how I “read” The Stand and even though some people would say that it is not the same thing I say bullocks, it was extremely enjoyable and the person reading the book does the voices way better than I do them in my own head. It took me quite a while to listen to it, over a month, and whenever I have eyed the book in the local independent book store/comic shop it always looked pretty daunting because of the size of it. There is also an uncut version of the Stand that was released that I may have to give a read at some point, which after doing a few Google searches comes in at around 500k words, that is fracking huge! Regardless whether you decide to sit down with a hard copy of the book or listen to it like I did, it may take a while but you will not be disappointed.
Fair warning there will be spoilers ahead for The Stand and possibly even The Dark Tower.
The Stand follows a group of survivors of the super flu, here in America, which has killed something like 99.6% of the population. Everyone dies and those that are left seem lost as to what they should do. And then they start having dreams. They dream of an old black woman in Kansas who bides them to come and see her and also of a Dark Man that is after them, well some of them at least. Dreams are something that King likes to use in his writing, at least from my experience reading him so far, and I think it really worked in The Stand because it helped them decide what side of the battle they were going to align with. Since Planet Earth has been purged of most of its life those that are left are unwittingly thrown into a battle between good vs. evil, God vs. the Devil, Randall Flagg vs. Mother Abigail. If you have read any SK previously you have probably heard of Mr. Flagg, he is a character that pops up in various forms, and with various names and appearances, all throughout King’s works. I thought that Flagg had kicked the bucket because of what happens at the end of The Stand but I am now listening to book VII of The Dark Tower series, aptly named The Dark Tower, and he shows up and seems to meet his ultimate end in a very, how should I say, unappetizing manner. My Friend Jim and I, who is doing a complete re-read of SK and all his works and media over at his blog One Page at a Time, discussed Flagg’s sticky ending in detail the other day at work and thought it was a sort of strange way for him to go out since he is such a big player in the SK universe.
But back on topic, the survivors of Captain Tripps, which we learn that Flagg unleashed upon the Earth, begin to find each other and head for either Las Vegas, if you are following the Dark Mans dreams and dig his version of how things will go down, or to Boulder Colorado to follow Mother Abigail. One of the things I most enjoyed about The Stand was how SK was able to capture points of view from both the “good” side and from the “evil” side. The focus for me was more on the good people, specifically Stu Redmond and Frannie Goldsmith who I would argue are the main characters of the book, but we are still able to connect with some of the folks who choose Flagg’s side which I found to be very interesting and useful to understanding the story. There are a lot of religious overtones in the book and even though we get to see a lot of the Devil, aka Flagg, we don’t see or hear much from god other than when Mother Abigail is acting as his mouth piece. There is a reference to the Hand of God at the very end of the book when everything is going down but we still don’t see or hear anything directly from God. In the mini-series I think the hand of god was actually CGI’d in and made to look like an actual fist which I found to be kind of amusing.
I could probably go on for another couple thousand words describing what exactly happens in the book and how that compares to the mini-series and why you should read it but I don’t want to bore you. If you like Stephen King you will like this novel, it is probably my second favorite I have read of his besides Eyes of the Dragon, and I feel that I will be re-reading the uncut version at some point in my life because I liked it the first time I read it so much. The mini-series that goes along with it is also extremely solid, even though it is 20 years old and it makes me feel old to know that. Some of the CGI is ridiculous and some of the scenes a little too corny, but it was made for TV not HBO and it follows the book very well. I have experienced all sorts of emotions at the ending of King novels but I have to say this one probably left me the most satisfied and with a sense of closure that the story was finished and had been told. I am honestly dreading finishing the Dark Tower because I have heard some people hated the ending and the only ending I really didn’t care for so far with SK was IT.
With all that being said I am almost done with Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues so I will have a post-up on that soon. I am still reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, and we recently picked up the new Dan Brown Novel Inferno, I hated the last one so I may have to quickly read the new one and post a review. The Dark Tower VII should also be done fairly soon as I am listening to it to and from work and I am about a 1/3 of the way through it so far and I look forward to finishing up that series. I may have to see if Jim will do an online discussion with me about the Dark Tower Series overall and we could post it on the blog or something. Cheers keep on reading, writing, and watching!