Justin Tadlock

The Stand

In that brief time between, the night had been a fragrant puzzle, a time when, looking up at the star-strewn sky and listening to the breeze that brought such intoxicating smells, you felt close to the heartbeat of the universe, to love and life. It seemed you would be forever young and that—

Cover the Stephen King's novel The Stand.

A lot of readers love his work. Many don’t get too excited about his typical fare. But, say what you will about him, Stephen King is a damn good storyteller.

I was supposed to be taking a break from high fantasy for a bit with a couple of shorter books. So, I knocked out a 600+ pager first. Then, tackled the 1,300-page tomb that is The Stand.

Okay, so mission failed.

What I’ve found is that I love reading longer works. I want to savor a story and look forward to diving back into it each night for at least a couple of weeks. Plus, it’s a huge cost saver. Spend ~$10 for 2-3 weeks of entertainment vs. the same amount for a book that I can read in a few nights. I’m a cheapskate and proud of it.

The Stand is an apocalyptic story written years before they became mainstream to the point of being overdone. A government-engineered flu virus wipes out over 99% of all human life. The story follows a few survivors as they traverse the remnants of what’s left of the United States. Most have dreams of an old woman named Mother Abigail and a dark figure named Randall Flag, also known as The Walkin’ Dude or The Dark Man. Both of these people are the forces of good and evil, and the survivors make their way to one or the other.

The book is a well-put-together mix of fantasy, science fiction, and supernatural-horror. Mostly, it’s a dark Christianity, God-of-the-Old-Testament, good-vs-evil tale. I’m sure there’s some English Lit. professor assigning his students essays on the themes in the book and how they tie back into The Holy Bible. I’ve been there and done that.

Where the book doesn’t hold up well is with its pop culture references. There are many things that feel dated. And, some things seem out of place (I believe King changed the timeline in the revised edition, which is what I was reading). So, some of the characters’ personas were a little off for 1990. But, this didn’t detract from the overall story too much. It was just enough to notice.

The ending was a bit anti-climactic for my tastes. I was looking for a bit more after such a huge time investment.

The Stand is a character-driven story. And, that’s what makes it special. You’ll fall in love with some and hate others. A college student who just found out she’s pregnant. A struggling singer who just got his big break. A deaf-mute who’ll likely become your favorite character. The cast is large and diverse. Their individual stories are what make this novel worth reading.

Laws yes, I recommend reading this book.

⭐⭐⭐⭐/5 stars

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