Sunday, 18 April 2010

Stephen King's The Stand

This is a big big book with a huge cast of many different characters, all of whom have their own back-story and their plot within the book. The Stand also has a huge array of different elements; apocalypse, love, violence, good versus evil, supernatural, survival – well you get the idea. I'm sitting here trying to review the book and struggling. As the book is divided into three parts I have decided the best thing to do is to divide the review also into three parts.

Part One: Captain Trips

The Stand certainly starts in an exciting way, a woman in the middle of the night is woken by her manic husband who is insisting that she get her and their daughter quickly dressed as they have to flee NOW. The woman who begins to get scared of course starts asking questions but can feel her husbands urgency enough to comply.
It transpires that they are living on an army base in America and that there has been a security breach of some kind and a biological weapon has 'got out'.
Later during this part of 'The Stand' the car carrying the husband, wife & daughter pulls into a garage in Texas, inside the wife and daughter are dead and the husband soon will be and thus begins the rapid spread of 'Captain Trips' across America.

Biological outbreaks are not exactly original in fiction but the spread of the infection as it travels from city to city while the government desperately tries to first deny this is happening to eventually using violence on the population to try to contain it, is done is quite an exciting and fascinating way. This part of the book is over 400 pages long and could have been a novel in itself and I would say that this was my favourite part of The Stand. I did notice however that although a few major cities around the world are very briefly mentioned we get no indication or idea of what is happening in the rest of the world during this time.

Part Two:On The Border

Around 99.9% of the population has been killed and the few survivors start to come to terms with what has happened and look for other survivors. The story also starts to take on a more supernatural flavour as they start to have similar dreams. The survivors are drawn to the two people they dream about, the 'dark man' in the west or Mother Abigail who eventually settles in Colorado.

This is where a lot more characters start to get introduced as well as still following some of the survivors from the first part of the book. Of course being Stephen King, the author gives us background stories for all these characters and in places I did get a little bit confused. For large parts we follow these characters spend a lot of time just wandering aimlessly around from town to town looking for life while heading towards Colorado and after the fast pace of part one this began to feel very slow in comparison.

Once the characters had begun to reach the city of destination the book picks up again as the arrivals in Colorado begin to get more and more numerous and so the formation of a society begins. The question comes in, how do you start to build a society from scratch? Well according to the people in The Stand, hold a series of meetings, set up committees and then hold some more meetings. Business as usual then?
The rather boring (although I did not find this section boring)subject of polities is also interwoven with fantasy, crazy dreams and the feeling felt that something pure evil will soon descend. People begin to form relationships and choose their side in what promises to an exciting final stand.

Part Three: The Stand

If you look at other reviews you will find that while many people enjoyed the book they did feel very let down by the ending. Unfortunately so did I, especially after the book had done such a great job of building up the situation and tension throughout. I won't give away the ending but I will say there is no 'Stand' at all. very disappointing and underwhelming after what the books title suggested.

This is not a complicated book but does it need to be the size it is? In my opinion yes.
Let us take the Character of Larry for example, at the beginning of the book he is a spoilt, lazy, womanising pop star who is living with his mother for a while and taking full advantage of her hospitality. Then jump forward to the last part of the book and we see Larry in a serious relationship with a authoritative responsible job in the new community and is quite prepared to walk into his possible death in order to save his friends from the evil which threatens them. That's quite a transformation and he is not the only character to undergo such a dramatic change. I think this would have been difficult to make these transformations believable without the character development which gives the book its size.

Is it worth tackling this rather daunting book? Yes because although I haven't named any characters in the above I do remember and have stayed with for quite a journey, Larry, Fran, Stu, Tom, Nick, Abigail, Judge, Trashcan, Dark Man, Lloyd, Nadine, Lucy – so long, I have enjoyed the trip.

Verdict 4/5

Posted by Jess


  1. This is one of those novels which holds a place of honor in my reading history that few other books can claim. I remember sneaking it into my Catholic middle school and reading through many a boring math and English classes. It made me a Stephen King fan and introduced me into the world of grown-up fiction. As you said, the characters stay with you - I can still recall almost every person in that huge book, down to some of the more minor players. It's an epic book, one that King still hasn't matched (with the exception of It, which is the only book that's every actually scared me). Great review!

  2. Yep, definitely adding that to my TBR list!!

  3. Stephen King used to be a favorite of mine. I still get excited to read a review of any of his books!

  4. I've never read Stephen King - I definitely want too! I liked the movie version of The Stand (actually, I like all movie versions of King's novels). Adding this to my tbr pile!

  5. petekarnas - thanks, that mean alot coming from a seasoned King fan. I know what you mean about the characters, I am normally terrible at remembering names but all those I gave at the end of the review there I gave off the top of my head.

    Rachel,Sheila, mynovelreviews - it is worth reading but be prepared to be in it for the long hull! I managed to get 600 pages read on the read-a-thon so I think I got it read alot quicker than most.

  6. +JMJ+

    A friend gave me a copy of The Stand before I was a mature enough reader to appreciate it. I ended up never finishing it and misplacing the copy, but I know it is one novel I definitely want to give another shot someday.

  7. I am so glad you enjoyed this book!!!! I believe King is amazing at character development, but I tend to agree that his endings are much too abrupt after what he develops. I'm glad you joined in and shared your thoughts! I've still got a ways to go yet!! :)