Book Review Wednesday: The Stand (Stephen King) 4 stars

Posted: January 7, 2015 in Book Reviews
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I read this 1100+ page beast about a man-made virus decimating the human race right in the height of the Ebola hysteria. That made things….interesting.

There’s something almost cathartic about books that show what happens after the human race gets brought to its knees and society falls. I mean, for the most part I’m happy with the way things are now. I live in a first world country. I get health care, have laws covering most of my human rights. I’m fed, housed, and have time and money for leisure. But society is far from perfect.

Society is like living in a house. It has four walls and the roof keeps the rain out, but there are giant holes that let the rats in, the electrical system keeps shorting out, and the walls must be cardboard for all the good they do keeping the cold out in winter. You like having a house, and wouldn’t want to be without one. But sometimes you think: I bet if I tore the whole thing down I could make something a lot better.

This book does a good job exploring that, weighing the advantages and disadvantages of starting again, and looking at what might happen if we had to. Sure there’s the peace and quiet, and freedom from the idea that we have to work ourselves to death to have worth, but this book brought home to me that I really don’t want to tear things down.

For one thing it took us a long time to build this society in the first place. There are good things I’d miss; like medicine, and the protection laws provide. For another, we may be starting again, but not from scratch. We’ll start with scared people clinging to their broken capitalist system, and they’ll build things up again from what they remember. I hadn’t considered that before, so this book gave me a lot to think about. Chances are in the couple hundred or so years it takes to build things up again, your house will look around the same as before.

This book has two main parts. In the first, our patient zero travels across america and infects a group of people, then things spread from there. There’s not a whole load of attention paid to the world outside america, but I assume everyone else got taken down too. The second takes place after most people are dead, and follows our select group of lucky survivors. The first part is horrible, but not supernatural. In the second part, supernatural comes into play.

People start getting dreams that lead them either to our big bad guy Randall Flagg, or mother Abigail who leads the good guys. Only, it goes deeper than that which I loved. It seems that most of the bad guys head toward Flagg, and most of the good toward mother Abigail, but there’s a lot of overlap. Most of it seems to come down to choice more than character, and a lot seems to be down to nothing more than luck.

There are a lot of themes and questions that Stephen King explored through his characters in this book. This deep thinking was one of my favorite parts of the story. My other favorite part was the characters.

There are quite a lot of characters. They are set at various positions on the line between good and evil, and most sit firmly in the gray area. Nick was my favorite, partly because he’s deaf and dumb and I love reading portrayals of characters with differences, but mostly because he’s one of those rock solid morally driven guys. He’ll make the right choice, even if doing so costs him. There were so many others as well. Stuart who started off so badly and made the choice to be a better man. Nadine who starts so brilliantly, then makes the choice to listen to darker thoughts.

This fell short of five stars for me partly because the two parts were so different to each other. I was enjoying the surviving the end of the world plot, then things started getting supernatural which was a bit of a shock (but not too much of one since this is Stephen King.) The second part of the story was good, but I enjoyed the realism of the first part so much that some of me spent the rest of the book mourning its loss.

There were also some twists and turns in the tale that seemed not quite to fit the rest of the story. They were just there, and felt clumsy when there seemed to be no reason for them.

Overall this was a good book. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the other giant book I’ve read of his: It. When I reached the end of It I felt like I’d been on a fantastic journey, and everything slotted together at the end. I didn’t get that feeling with The Stand. I just felt like I’d read a good book, but didn’t feel personally connected to it like I had with It.

For more reviews of this book check out: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/149267.The_Stand

 

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