The Stand by Stephen King
Review by Floresiensis
Fantasy Book Review Book of the Month, October 2012
The Stand, first published in 1978, was nominated for the World Fantasy Award in 1979. It was author Stephen King’s sixth work of fiction, a cross-over of epic fantasy, horror and dystopia which still remains one of the finest works of its type and the novel that King’s legions of fans love most.
The Stand begins as the first days of the plague hits the US. Then come the dreams, dark dreams that warn of the coming of the dark man, the apostate of death, his worn-down boot heels tramping the night roads, the warlord of the charnel house and Prince of Evil. His time is at hand and as His Empire grows in the west so looms the Apocalypse.
I first read The Stand in 1989 and I was completely blown away by it. The story, the characters, the tension – I had never read a book of its size so quickly. So, 23 years later I decided to read it again, finding that although I was able to remember certain parts, almost everything other than the memory of loving it had been forgotten. I found it interesting that King himself said, in the forward, that he doesn’t think The Stand is amongst his best books, but the one he is asked most questions about. I would agree with the author here as books like It, Salem’s Lot and The Shining are better-written books but there is just something about The Stand, and if the reader connects with it they are in for a thrilling ride.
So what inspired King to kill of 99% of the world’s population? “I love to burn things up,” he said. “It’s the werewolf in me, I guess… The Stand was particularly fulfilling, because there I got a chance to scrub the whole human race, and man, it was fun! … Much of the compulsive, driven feeling I had while I worked on The Stand came from the vicarious thrill of imagining an entire entrenched social order destroyed in one stroke.”
I am now old enough, and have read enough across all the varying literature that is available to confidently state that King is an excellent, and by many underrated, author. To put is simply, he is one of the greatest storytellers of his generation who is only pigeon-holed as a schlock horror writer by those who haven’t actually read his work. And The Stand is one of his best stories, not the best executed arguably but always compelling and never dull. And it’s great to finally have it on Kindle, and it can now be read by commuters without having to carry the weight about as the uncut edition weighs in around at 1,400 pages (bigger than all 3 Lord of the Rings books put together!) and for many will be the biggest book they have ever read, and as such it is not just an enjoyment but also an achievement to complete. By the end the story, which reaches Biblical proportions, the reader will feel like they have been on a journey every bit as unforgettable as the characters themselves.
The Stand is King near the top of his game (and having recently read 11.22.63 I am delighted to say he is still producing). The writing is excellent, the imagery horrifying and the atmosphere hypnotic. After the first few pages you will either find yourself hooked or repelled… it’s that kind of book. But if you want to read one of the greatest examples of dystopian fiction with a healthy dose of fantasy thrown in then look no further.
What did you think about The Stand?
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