Paperback, 1,439 pages (the uncut edition!)
1990, Anchor Books
From the back of the book: When a man escapes from a biological testing facility, he sets in motion a deadly domino effect, spreading a mutated strain of the flu that will wipe out 99% of humanity within a few weeks. The survivors who remain are scared, bewildered, and in need of a leader. Two emerge – Mother Abagail, the benevolent 108-year-old woman who urges them to build a community in Boulder, Colorado; and Randall Flagg, the nefarious “Dark Man,” who delights in chaos and violence.
Where to I begin? I read this book back in high school (before I started keeping track of what books I read, so I’m really not sure when it was) and I remember that I really enjoyed it. Sadly, I read so many books that I have a hard time remembering what happens in books I read recently, so I forgot basically everything that happened in this book, except the general outline posted above. However, this was also a plus, because it gave me the chance to experience the book as if I was reading it for the first time, and King did not disappoint!
I don’t believe I read the uncut edition previously, but because I don’t remember much, I can’t say that I noticed the “newer” sections. However, I enjoyed every page and I can imagine that whatever parts were added back into the book gave depth to all the characters. The Stand is most certainly a character-driven book, and while there are significant plot events, primarily this book is about how the people grow (or not) and interact with each other after most of the population is wiped out. I’ll say right now, if you’re not interested in an in-depth profile of the characters, the thoughts and their emotions, poured into over 1,400 pages, then this book probably isn’t for you.
I’m not a die-hard Stephen King fan – there have been a few of his works I was bored by – but this book was so engrossing and I’m glad I reread it. King was able to create wonderfully human characters – on a large-scale, this book is about a battle between good and evil, yet, like real humans, his characters aren’t simply “heroes” and “villains.” They’re complex and changing, and maybe a character grows on you, or maybe you start to hate someone for the choices they’re making, even as they’re struggling with their own decisions, wavering between right and wrong.
I was actually excited while reading this book, just because the words had such power over me. As I drew closer to the end of the book (and the end of 2014) I was so involved in what was happening, sometimes I would forget that I wasn’t part of that world. If you haven’t read it yet and you think it sounds interesting, definitely give The Stand a chance – or like me, if it’s been a few years since you last read it and you just remembered loving it, give it another read!