Almost no event in fiction grabs me more than the collapse of society. Something about how people live when the structures of our society collapse always pulls me in. Seeing the things characters view as important or unimportant after all of the comforts of every day life start to fade away. I do not want civilization to crumble, by any means, but it always makes me wonder about what type of person I would be in that situation.
Anyway, that is why I bought a copy of The Stand about a decade ago in a used bookstore. It was a perfect pick to throw on my shelf, sitting there for an occasional glance at the page count followed by a “Eh, I’ll get to it some day.” Well, I finally did it. This is my third Stephen King, the other two being Salem’s Lot and The Shining, and I am still pretty mixed on him as a writer. Now, I did read the Complete and Uncut Edition, so I probably read through a bit of chuff that was cut from the original version. I think I loved the first third of this book, mostly enjoyed the middle third, and was pretty let down by the last third.
There is a lot of slow, patient setup of the main characters for a few weeks leading up to a worldwide pandemic that kills off 99% of the population in a matter of weeks. It is a couple hundred pages in before the flu outbreak turns into a full global disaster, and the process of the world falling apart and how our four point of view characters deal with it. After living through a pandemic, it is easy to relate and crazy to think about how things could have gotten even worse. The flu runs its course fairly quickly and we’re left with our four protagonists, and the other 1% that are still alive. They all begin to be troubled by mysterious dreams which hint at a bigger conflict between good and evil. <Spoiler
There are some problematic elements in this book. I don’t know if King got any better at writing female characters later in his career, but they’re not great here. There is also a significant character with an intellectual disability, which leads to a lot of insulting language and usage of terms that are pejorative. It was not enough to ruin the book for me, but it’s not great.