The Stand – Stephen King

This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death.

And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides -- or are chosen. A world in which good rides on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abigail -- and the worst nightmares of evil are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the dark man.

 Genre: Fiction, Horror, Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic
  Hodder & Stoughton
Year: 1978
Rating: 4/5

The Stand has long been known as Stephen King's finest work. It is the book to read, if you are only ever going to pick up one King book in your life. Do I agree with this opinion? Maybe not. There are a few other King works which I personally felt were more enjoyable or better written than this novel. That said I can understand why The Stand has been given this label. It one one hell of a read both in length of story (and yes, I did read the extended edition) and in depth of the world and characters King has created. It is certainly a force to be reckoned with.

I was first introduced to The Stand when I saw the mini series about 10 years ago. It has been on my 'to read' list since then. It just took me a while to get around to it. As far as I can remember, the mini series pretty much measured up to the novel. Although, since some time has passed my memory may be a little hazy. I am not usually one to recommend that you should 'just watch the movie' instead of reading the book, but in this case if you don't have a fair good chunk of time to spare on this 1344 page novel, then the mini series is a good option.

Back to the book... the characters were what made this novel. I will say it before and I will say it again, King is the master of characterisation! Sure he is good at writing a spooky story, but his characters are always the real treat. He has a special talent of creating real, believable, normal characters with layers and depth. By doing that, he is also able to manipulate his readers into either loving or hating a character within pages of introducing them. For that, reading King is worth it. 

The concept of the plague was also a lot of fun. Nowadays it is kind of over done, but this book was written in 1978 and has been considered influential so I was able to push aside the 'here we go again' feelings I may have had if it were a new book by another author.

King did a great job of creating a believable situation. As far as I am concerned, the idea of the government creating and accidentally releasing a deadly strain of the flu is more than believable. History shows us it is very possible. I guess the possibility of something like this happening makes this story even more frightening. It isn't like any of King's stories that involve ghosts or strange domes where you need to suspend belief. This story could happen (Well, the flu part anyway). That is where the real horror lies.

I also enjoyed the fantasy aspects of this novel. Randall Flagg is the big bad! The Dark Man plagues many of king's novels but The Stand is where Flagg was born. Flagg is the epitome of fear. Of horror. of creepiness. Of dread. Of all your nightmares. He is the perfect villain. 

After reading The Stand I can see where it has influenced other works. The Passage by Justin Cronin is a good example. The virus, the old lady, the band of survivors, the dreams and the bad guy are all reminiscent of The Stand.

So should you read this novel? If you call yourself a King fan than yes, you should. If only to experience one of King's earlier novels and see how his talent has developed over the years. If you are looking to be introduced to King I would recommend beginning with one of his shorter novels (Misery and Gerald's Game are two of my personal favourites, they actually gave me nightmares, but that is a story for another day), or one of his newer novels like Under the Dome.
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