Believe it or not, this is my first time reading Stephen King, who is probably best known as a horror or supernatural or suspense writer – but I wouldn’t quite categorize The Stand as any of those. I call it a post-apocalyptic tale with magical realism, and a definite Christian theme.
Not at all what I expected. At first I was a bit disappointed. There haven’t been many horror, sci-fi, fantasy, or suspense thrillers in my reading quest, and I was hoping for something…overtly SUPERNATURAL and spooky.
My disappointment quickly subsided though. King creats such marvelous human characters: Larry, the aspiring West-Coast rock star with his first big hit climbing the charts; Frannie, the well-bred New-England college girl unexpectedly in the family way, Nick, the admirable and pitiable deaf-mute from nowhere just trying to make his way in the world; Stu, the good ole boy from Texas; and Tom, the man-child with feeble mind and heart of gold. I was immediately invested in their fates, and painfully aware their fates would be agonizing, uncertain, heartbreaking and heroic.
The world has come to an end – well very nearly: 95% of the world’s population killed by an escaped viral weapon. Early in the novel, when the virus is having its way, King focuses on a handful of human souls, and by his focus, the reader can surmise – these will be – the lucky ones? randomly immune from the dread virus. They are separated by sociologic and geographic divides, but slowly as their lives go inexplicably on, they also become forever interconnected.
And then there is a bit of the supernatural, in the person of 108-year-old Mother Abagail, on close terms with the Almighty and calling survivors to herself in their dreams. There is also her opposite number whom she calls the devil’s imp, known to others as The Dark Man, The Walking Dude, or Randall Flagg.
Both are mustering forces for an epic showdown – or as one character opines:
...if you look at it from a theological point of view, it does rather seem as if we’re the knot in a tug-o-war rope between heaven and hell, doesn’t it?
Well, I’m hooked. I’ll be reading more Stephen King soon. 1,200 pages in two weeks, for me an extremely fast pace – testimony as to how fascinating I found it. Have you read The Stand? Stephen King? What did you think?
My Rating 4 ½ of 5 stars
Stephen King’s characters often quote other authors or read classic literature. I love it when authors do that. References in The Stand included:
Flowers for Algernon
Edgar Allan Poe
And my favorite. There are three old ladies who raise chickens/eggs in the new world, who are known as – the Weird Sisters. I can’t be certain, but I believe this is a reference to the witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth (who are never referred to in the play as witches, but as the weird sisters).
Film Rendition: 1994 TV mini-series (6 hours) – a pretty good adaptation. Even in 6 hours they had to cut a bit, and they made a few changes, but overall it was well cast (quite a few big stars) and true to the book. As usual the book is better, but I enjoyed the film as well.