The Review: The Stand by Stephen King (1979)

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Title: The Stand
Author: Stephen King
Date Of Version Reviewed: 2011
Publisher: Hodder
RRP: £9.99
ISBN: 978-1-4447-2073-0

What the book is about…

‘First come the days of the plague. Then come the dreams. 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. His empire grows in the west and the Apocalypse looms.’

The Review…

Thick. Chunky. Huge. King is known for being one of those writers. Producing novels with pages into the thousands, King’s novels can be intimidating for the slow reader. I admit I am a very slow reader and this took a huge amount of time cover to cover.  The Stand, however, went much quicker than the (dare I say it) more tedious ‘IT’. If you have problems with concentration I would give this a miss purely from a perspective of the size of this monstrosity!

The story was simple yet built in many layers. King is the master of creating a whole community – you end up knowing every person in the novel, their goods and their bad points. Very few writers can bring to life so many character whilst pushing a story along though this is both wonderful and tiresome as the novel – if written by any other author – would have been half the length but the character development would be lacking. I found that The Stand (much like IT) spent most of the time talking about the intricacies of the individual psyches often at the expense of bigger set pieces. There is only a certain amount of travelling one can take with a group of people before the scene needs to change.

King had to navigate a sea of depression and despair – something which doesn’t lend well to an uplifting read. When the whole country is struck down by a super-flu there isn’t much hope for the future! I found the pregnant Frannie to be infuriating in places; King sure taps into the hormonally challenged sap with surgical precision as she swung from moral indignation to bursting into tears at the drop of a hat. She really becomes rather pathetic in places… hardly endearing. Her man Stu on the other hand is her perfect match though I must admit much more patient than I would be with her. He isn’t a natural leader but is thrust into the position and he pulls it out of the bag in the end. I really enjoyed the Nick character – a deaf, mute with a propensity for measured, reasonable argument. Having met some older American’s whilst holidaying in Costa Rica, King really bought to my mind their attitude with the well-crafted Ralph and Glen – I enjoyed them greatly.

Good is only good when there is evil to conquer. Harold is wonderfully sculpted; bitter, angry, fat and socially inept. We all know one of these types and his attitude made me want to punch him! There was much more depth to the character of Harold than many of the others and his weird relationship with Nadine was the icing on the apocalyptic cake. King provides his characters with a ‘fatal flaw’ that leads to their undoing.

As with many King novels the ending fell a little flat though by no means did it disappoint. This is perhaps the greatest novel that King ever wrote – topping the ‘best King novel’ lists of fans around the world. Could 300 pages have been chopped? Sure… Would it have been as enjoyable? It is difficult to tell.

The style is classic King, no surprises there. The premise would seem clichéd in today’s world of fantasy/sci-fi – humans destroying themselves in a catastrophic failure to contain scientific advance. Whilst it is easy to claim the tale is lazy it must be seen in the context of the time in which it was written. Had this theme been so heavily trampled in the 1970s? I wasn’t alive to comment. It has, however, been crushed under far less accomplished literary feet since its publication. On a brighter note the political and sociological aspects of the novel were well portrayed – the desire to avoid past human mistakes vs the innate pull toward those same mistakes (for example, going to war and/or arming the police).

If you love Stephen King or a slow building, multi layered tale of epic proportions then this one is for you.

Rating: 7/10

What the folks at Goodreads said…

‘The things that irritate me are still far outweighed by one of my favorite stories of an apocalyptic battle between good and evil.’  Kemper  5/5

‘I liked the Stand. The Stand’s good stuff. It’s not one of the scary ones (well, it’s scary in a different way than, say, The Shining), and in addition to having an ending I appreciate, it also gets pretty silly, but still: Recommended. Yep.’   Jessica 3/5

‘ THE STAND is a wonderful epic fantasy adventure about good vs evil- One that I would recommend to anybody who hasn’t read it yet, and even to those who have!’ Delee 5/5

M-O-O-N. That spells “Damn, what a great book!’  Lyn 5/5

‘While King can tell a story, the inner lives of his heroes and heroines often seem stereotypical, what you would expect from the writers of HBO movies rather than writers of great literature.’  Tim Pendry 4/5

 

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