I adore post-apocalyptic literature and have read many of the Stephen King biggies (The Shining, Misery, Carrie, Pet Cemetary, It, Salem’s Lot, Christine, Needful Things, Thinner) so not sure why I hadn’t read The Stand but I think the size of the volume probably had something to do with it. At 1153 pages The Stand is less a hobby and moreso a lifestyle choice. His fifth book, written in 1978, it was definitely a blast from the past. I snagged the copy held for me at the library and was downright crestfallen to learn that I actually picked up the 10th anniversary edition which has 200 ADDITIONAL page of content. C’mon man! But, I soldiered on and it was a heck of a ride.
As is typical of King, this is a play in many acts with a looooot of build-up to the main showdown. A military superflu virus wreaks havoc on the modern world, your standard set-up for post-apocalyptic literature, is merely act 1. He strings you along with the victims, the survivors, and the madness as utter chaos falls in an attempt to cover up the uncoverable. When the dust settles, a few are left to continue on, and they are plagued by dreams of an old woman, and her peaceful home in Nebraska and the dark man, who fills them with unspeakable terror. Our protagonists choose to go forth in search of the woman and their destiny. Meanwhile, the dark man is gathering his forces in Vegas, hellbent on destruction, murder and order.
Even though this book is confoundedly long, it really doesn’t ever drag, which is surprising. I remember having less patience for Needful Things which clocks in at a mere 690 pages. I think because he has the two tales, the flu and then the showdown, your interest mounts.
Gory, surprising, thought-provoking and mystifying this is classic King, able to worm its way into your waking hours. When I first began, every sneeze or cough I heard in real life filled me with dread and I had to remind myself “it’s just a book.” Well-played King, well-played.