For my first guest post, Jay agreed to write up his thoughts after finishing Stephen King’s epic novel, The Stand. Many thanks to him for putting up with my blogging needs : ) Read on for his views on the book and add yours in the comments!
About the Author – Stephen King is an American author with over 50 novels to his name. His vast catalog of work also includes short stories, novellas, and non-fiction. He started writing horror and suspense stories while living in Maine as a young kid and never stopped. The Stand is King’s fifth novel, but his first novel outside of the horror genre. This book also soured his relationship with his first publisher, Doubleday. The Stand was originally written with 1,200 pages of text but Doubleday would only accept an 800 page version. They also wouldn’t meet his demand for a subsequent three book $3.5 million deal. King ultimately signed with New American library, his paperback publisher, and went on to write even more books and make even more money. Ironically, years later King released the full version of The Stand with his original publisher, Doubleday and it is now considered one of his greatest works.
About the Book – The Stand begins right after a plague hits the United States. Within the first 100 pages, the plague kills off 99% of the population and those still alive must figure out how to cope with the tragedy and decide whether to work together or betray each other. The book goes on to weave a tale of good vs. evil, light vs. dark, God vs. the devil that reaches epic proportions.
What makes The Stand so good?
- To start, King shouldn’t just be thought of as a horror writer. He is so much more, and if you need proof of that, read this book. I have read a few dystopian novels in my day, but this is easily the best.
In my opinion, Randall Flagg is one of the most interesting villains ever written. I think a proper antagonist needs to be mysterious but not entirely inaccessible. I honestly think for the first 800ish pages I didn’t learn a lot about Flagg. I only read second-hand accounts of what he had done, rumors about him and small snippets of what he’s like. It isn’t until the last third of the book that I started to get to know him. Before that last section, I was intrigued by him and looked forward to eventually reading more about him. Then, when you finally get to his part, you don’t want to stop. King writes him perfectly.
While I wasn’t the biggest fan of most of the “The Good Guys,” at least the story of Mother Abigail and how she, a 108 year old woman, survives the plague and gets on with her life was always interesting. However, the two good guys I love the most are Nick Andros and Tom Cullen (M-O-O-N: that spells “book discussion”). One is deaf and can’t speak (Nick), the other is slightly mentally handicapped and can’t read (Tom) yet they work together and survive. It’s fascinating to read about them and how they get on in the world and the paths their lives take. I would get excited reading about each of their journeys and began rooting for them most of all.
What would you have changed to make the book better?
- First of all, town meetings. OH MY GOODNESS… Somehow, King made town hall meetings in a novel more boring than actual town hall meetings. I get they are important to the story and it’s a part of King’s message about how government can be corrupt at any level, but not only did he beat a dead horse, he waited for it to decompose and then beat the ground. I found myself skimming through a lot of those sections, which I am sure means that I missed some things, but I don’t care.
- Secondly, a lot of King’s protagonists fall into stereotypical categories such as having a troubled past, trying to change their future, proving they are a good person, overcoming some disability, etc. As a result, some of the heroes are annoying and I didn’t care about them. Now, I may be in the minority with this, but Stuart Redman and Frances in particular fall into this category for me. They may be the two most important characters in the book for plot development, but I just didn’t care. They were cliché and honestly, a part of me wanted King to kill them off.
What sticks with you after you finish The Stand?
- Without spoiling anything (and don’t Google this until you read the book!), “The Hand of God” will stand out to you. I know there were people who complained about this, but the book is somewhat religious. King grew up a Methodist, and while he doesn’t see eye to eye with the Church, he still believes there is a higher power. This book is based on the power of faith, believing in something bigger than yourself and doing the right thing. Mother Abigail is a messenger from God and her faith is staggering. While a lot of the main characters are not religious by any means, it’s amazing how some of them end up developing and growing in their faith.
- Tom Cullen also stayed with me. He had some of the strongest emotional parts in the book. For a character that I thought I’d have nothing in common with (since he can’t read and is handicapped) I related more with him than anyone else. Comparatively, he doesn’t get a lot of time on paper, but when he does King makes the most of it. I remember little tidbits of his story better than some other characters whole overarching themes.
I remember reading a certain section of the story when he finally says, “M-O-O-N, that spells Moon,” and the implication and importance that it has on his life and other characters’ lives made me put down the book and think how something so simple can change so much. In the future, after you finish reading this book, when you walk outside at night and look up to see a full moon, in your head you will say, “M-O-O-N, that spells moon,” and won’t be able to help but smile and remember the importance of simple things and how much they can change.
Answer the questions or add your own thoughts about The Stand in the comments!