So this is a newer, more inclusive, unabridged version of The Stand. There are some extra details that weren’t in the original book. Having never read the original book, I will not know the difference. The audiobook (which I borrowed from my library and downloaded immediately!) is forty-seven hours. I’m determined to finish it in less than forty-seven days!
I’m going to split up my review into a bunch of parts, because with a book this long, I don’t want stuff to get missed.
This is an awesome story. I love love love plague stories. I work at the largest flu vaccine manufacturer in the country, and this is so up my alley. I wrote down “constantly shifting antigen flu”, because that’s how they described it. This is such a cool / scary creation, because there’s no way to combat it with a vaccine. The narrator (or whatever you call the person who reads the audiobook to you) was awesome too. His voice was somehow perfect for the story. He also did voices for different people, which I love.
Also, spoilers abound for a 39 year old book! Enter at your own risk.
FIRST PART OF THE STORY WHERE WE MEET PEOPLE AND 99.4% OF THE USA GETS SICK (apparently Book 1 is called Captain Trips, and it happens between June 16th and July 4th 1990 – in the version I’m reading it’s the 90’s, in the original it was the 80’s):
Reading this book in the winter during major cold and flu season is making me a little paranoid. I’m surrounded by coughing and sneezing, and it’s making me want to stay inside a bubble.
I’ve recently come up with a theory that I believe to be true: Stephen King is a cat person. There are so many mentions of dead dogs when describing the plague aftermath. However, the cats make it through unscathed. It just struck me the other night. Throughout Book 1, there was only one living dog. I cheered when I heard the narrator talk of barking.
I’m not sure why that part is now weird and large, and I can’t figure out how to change it, so I’ve decided that it’s the most important message of the book.
Anyway, we’ve got quite a cast of characters. There is the bad “dark man”, who we don’t learn too much about yet, and the good “Mother Abagail”. More about them in Book 2. Here’s who I like and don’t like, and why (in no particular order) up to the end of Book 1:
Stu – obviously I like him. I remember Gary Sinese playing him in the miniseries, so that helps. He’s a good guy that just happens to be immune. Literally everyone he knows is dead, and he’s brought to the CDC center in Vermont after he’s surrounded by sick people. He was there for Patient Zero crashing into town.
Frannie – I like her too. She’s actually a well drawn female character with her own ideas and decisions. It’s refreshing. She’s pregnant, and she told the father that she didn’t want to marry him. She’s patient and kind, and puts up with Harold (below).
Harold – he’s annoying, but helpful. I’m on the fence with him. I think part of his problem is that he’s 16 and has acne, so he’s overcompensating. That can be dangerous though (see the blowhard quote below – it was said about him).
Lloyd – we’re not supposed to like him, but he’s not all bad. I’m sure that will change, as he finishes Book 1 by making a pact with the dark man. He’s a petty criminal turned murderer by his ex-con buddy. He manages to survive locked up in prison without anyone giving him food for 8 days. He drinks out of the toilet to survive. I feel like you want a survivor like that on your team.
Larry – I’m on the fence with him, but lately swinging back to the side of liking him. He’s obviously an asshole. His mom says that he’s a taker, and you can see how that’s true. Near the end of Book 1 he’s changing though.
Nadine – she seems really good when we first meet her. She’s basically adopted “Joe”, and is taking care of him. Something’s not quite right inside though, and I think I remember Laura San Giancomo (who played her in the miniseries) going to the dark side, so I’m paying extra attention to her.
Joe – he’s a scared and traumatized kid. He’s a little unlikable at the beginning due to his murdery tendencies, but I’m liking him more as his actual personality comes out.
Nick – this man is the definition of bad luck. He’s deaf and mute, and starts out the story by getting the crap kicked out of him for that. He’s obviously a good guy, and treats the people who look after him like family (for the short time they’re alive). The first person he meets on his journey is Tom, who can’t read. That’s the only way Nick can communicate, so their interactions are pretty funny.
Tom – they describe him as slightly mentally retarded. He can read, and he spells everything MOON. That part is just slightly annoying, but you really can’t help liking him.
Julie – instantly dis-likable, she has sex with Nick within minutes of meeting him (totally not the reason she’s dis-likable – that part felt really real). She taunts Nick and scares Tom, and eventually shoots at them. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that she goes over to the dark man’s side.
Glen – HE ADOPTED THE ONLY LIVE DOG WE HEAR ABOUT IN BOOK 1! Obviously I like him for that reason. He could be a murderer, but at least he doesn’t shop at puppy mills!
Kojak – the aforementioned LIVE DOG! He’s cute and furry, and a dog. He’s obviously the hero of the whole book.
I think that’s all the important people/creatures for this book?
SECOND PART OF THE STORY WHERE EVERYONE IS TRAVELLING AND COMING TOGETHER (Book 2 is called On the Border, and it happens between July 5th and September 6th 1990):
We finally hear about Mother Abagail. Her story was interesting, and because she’s 108, there was a lot of it. I teared up during the part where she remembers signing the Star Spangled Banner in front of a white audience in the early 1900’s.
Everyone is starting to group up (this actually happens near the middle/end of Book 1 too, but more defined now. The good guys are heading to Boulder, Colorado (the Boulder Free Zone), and the bad guys are heading towards Las Vegas. I feel like the location choices are quite appropriate.
There is a lot of God talk. Nick doesn’t believe in God. Neither do I. Abagail says that God believes in us.
GLEN JUST DECIDED TO LEAVE KOJACK BEHIND. I AM SUDDENLY TURNING SOUR ON GLEN.
Ralph Brentner – he was a farmer and a veteran. He came into Boulder with Nick and Tom. He’s the “common sense” smart guy. He figures out how to get radio transmissions out to other people coming to Boulder. He’s a good guy, and I like him.
Dick (veterinarian) – found Gina and fixed her broken leg.
Perrion and Mark – they met up with Frannie, Stu, and Harold, but they both died pretty quickly. Mark died of an appendicitis, and Perrion committed suicide after Mark died.
Trash Can Man – Ok, we meet him in Book 1, but I guess I forgot to include him? He’s big in Book 2, so I’ll leave him here. He’s one of the bad guys, but I do feel bad for him. He’s definitely crazy, but he also had a rough life. He’s a firebug, and one of the people specifically called to by the dark man. He finds his people in Las Vegas with the dark man’s crew.
Lucy Swann – she meets up with Larry’s crew, and falls in love with him. She seems cool too.
Judge Farris – he’s an older (70 something) guy that comes in with Larry’s crew. He apparently used to be a judge. He seems like a cool dude.
Susan Stern – she was kidnapped and part of a travelling crew of rapists. She seems like a tough broad.
Dayna Jurgens – she was also kidnapped into the travelling crew of rapists. She murders the crap out of one of them when Stu and his crew ride up to save the ladies.
More Harold – he just keeps getting shadier and shadier. He’s got all this rage because Stu “stole” Fran from him. He assumes she was his, and his property. He’s basically an asshole. He called Mother Abagail (in his head) “that crazy old cunt”. Not great.
More Nadine – she’s definitely going down to bad town. She’s saving herself (vaginally) for the dark man. He’s been in her dreams since she was 16. She also has NEVER dreamed of Mother Abagail. This does not bode well.
KOJAK CAME BACK! He found his way to Boulder and back to Glenn!! He was attacked by a pack of wolves, and killed most of them, but he got scratched up to crap. He also lost an eye. SK helpfully let us know that Kojak lives another 16 years!! I couldn’t be happier. Kojak’s original name was Big Steve, which is a very cute dog name.
I’m really not into all the logistical stuff that’s going on. There are a lot of meetings, elections, clean ups, and a marshal. I could’ve done without A LOT of it. I’m not sure if this is the extra info that got added into this edition, or if it was included in the original book. It got a little boring though.
So Nadine and Harold do lots and lots of sex stuff, but not the full Monty. She’s the dark man’s girl, and apparently he needs her to be a virgin only in that one way. Anal and oral seem to be ok! Anyway, they make a bomb, and it blows up at Ralph and Nick’s house. Both Nick and Susan die during the explosion.
My biggest problem is that Mother Abagail wandered away for two full weeks, for seemingly no reason. She basically abandoned them, and then came back to die. She told Stu, Glenn, Larry, and Ralph to go West to fight (I guess?) the dark man. She told them not to bring any food, supplies, or clothing. I just don’t understand that part.
FINAL PART OF THE STORY WHERE THE WHOLE “GOOD VS. EVIL” THING HAPPENS (Book 3 is called The Stand, and it happens between September 7th 1990 and January 10th 1991):
The last “book” of this book is just a little bit over 9 hours. I would think that it was the most important part, and therefore the longest, but it’s by far the shortest book.
Judge Farris gets about 5 minutes more of story, and then he’s murdered by some bad guys. Dana made it all the way to Vegas, and she was originally accepted into their group and shacking up with Lloyd. She saw Tom Cullen’s face for like 4 seconds, and thinks that it was a mirage. Later, the dark man calls her in to see him, and tries to get her to tell him who else is there as a spy. For some reason Flagg can’t see/feel/whatever he does that Tom is a spy.
Some of the bad guys call Flagg “the walkin dude”. That’s my favorite nickname for him.
Uh oh. Julie made it to Las Vegas. She remembers Tom, and is probably cooking up something bad. They do eventually figure out that Tom was the third spy. By the time they figured it out, he was safely away.
Harold falls off his bike very badly. He breaks his leg in a bunch of places. He thinks the dark man did it because he served his purpose.
After Nadine leaves Harold to die (he eventually kills himself), she keeps going towards Las Vegas. On her first night alone, the dark man meets up with her and has his “wedding night”. They have sex, and it’s most likely rape. She can’t really say no. He says something along the lines of “it’s too late to say no”. That’s pretty rapey. Not that I expected anything less from Mr. Flagg… Apparently he knows that Nadine is pregnant after he has sex with her many many times that night.
OMG. This narrator/reader guy does a super awesome super creepy “tittering” laugh for Flagg. It gives you the willies, and that’s totally what it’s supposed to do.
Now the dark man just flung Nadine out the window. She basically goaded him into it because she wanted to die.
Ooh, Kojak can feel the dark man’s “all seeing eye”. RF saw the merry little band of four, and basically mentally threatened to decapitate all of them (including Kojak!!). On the way to Las Vegas, they see Harold’s body, and feel a little badly for him, because they know he wasn’t working on his own accord. They also found the body of The Kid, who they called the wolfman, because he was obviously surrounded by wolves that killed him, and he killed. On their way, Stu fell and broke his leg really really badly. He convinced them to go on without him. Although they didn’t realize it at the time, Kojak stayed back with Stu to take care of him.
A few days after they leave Stu, the other 3 get “arrested”. Glenn mouths off to RF, which was pretty awesome, because you see the dark man start to unravel. Glenn gets shot and killed though. The bad guys plan to rip Ralph and Larry apart with trucks, but before that can happen, one of the dark man’s goons tries to turn the crowd against him. RF shoots a fireball at him, and he dies. Conveniently, the Trash Can man shows up with an atomic bomb then, and the fireball sets it off and blows up EVERYONE in Las Vegas. They call it the Hand of God.
Meanwhile, Stu hears the explosion, but he’s still broken and beat up down in the gully where he fell. Kojak brings him fresh kills daily, and then fetches wood. He’s basically the best dog ever, and still my favorite character. Stu gets sick though, and just when he thinks it’s all over, Tom appears. I had somehow forgotten about Tom, but he totally saves the day. There’s a lot of travel, and illness, and medicine, and snow. They almost don’t make it back to Boulder.
Once they get back (I’m crying at this point), people are so excited to see them, and Frannie had her baby. Unfortunately, he has the superflu (I’m still crying). The docs come in at one point and tell Fran and Stu that the little bugger is fighting off the flu. They think that because Fran was immune, her immunity was helping him.
Everyone is happy and good, and Lucy has twins. Fran and Stu decide they’re going back to Maine in July. On the way, they stop at Mother Abagail’s house in Nebraska.
Here are some things I liked or didn’t like throughout the books:
GROSS SEX TALK:
-There was a really gross description of sex between Mother Abagail and one of her husbands. It actually made me grimace. The word “spunk” was used.
-This one I actually liked, it’s gross, but funny – “munchin’ the old bearded clam”
-One of the women said “he slipped delicious into me”. Sounds like 50 Shades of Grey!
-From Nadine to Harold – “stop that fooling around and stick me with that thing!”
-Nadine and the dark man: “the slim saddle between her legs became plumper” (barf), and “again and again he filled her with his night sperm”
LINES I LIKED:
“He’s a big turd in a little bowl”
“He was a clot looking for a place to happen”
“The solid darkness provided the perfect theater screen on which the mind could play out one’s fantasies”
“A frightened blowhard could be a very dangerous man under the right circumstances” – This line struck me as very Trumpy
WORDS I HAD TO LOOK UP:
querulously, strabismus, inculcate, diffident
I DIDN’T HAVE TO LOOK THIS ONE UP BECAUSE IT’S ONE OF MY FAVORITE WORDS: defenistrated!
N-WORD COUNT (this book was originally written in 1978, and I guess it was more acceptable then?):
19 (it jumped from 4 to 13 when we heard Mother Abagail’s backstory)
So… I really liked this book. I feel like I probably would’ve given it 5 stars if I read the original version without all the extra. There was a lot of extra. I didn’t understand some of the Mother Abagail stuff. I felt like it was kinda useless. I didn’t understand why she sent the 4 out with nothing, and why she died before it was all over. And the spies… they mostly all died. I guess it all worked out because Stu lived, and Tom was there to help him.
The final message was that there’s still bad stuff out there (nuclear weapons, manufactured microorganisms, etc.). They’re basically just trying to make it a good place to live.
I think the dark man is still alive at the end, and he’s starting the bad stuff all over again….