Sunday, June 16, 2024

Review: The Stand

The StandThe Stand by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading The Stand post-covid is a bit terrifying. Obviously, covid was nothing like the superflu, but the sense of the spreading dread and confusion was all too real at times. While the superflu is the proximate cause of the setting, this is really an epic battle of the forces of Good and Evil given embodiment in the characters. There are divine, mystical forces at work here, though the humans are not mere playthings of these forces. King does a good job of showing how the characters make the choices that ultimately align them with each side. There are natural tendencies this way or that, but each character makes choices that put them on the path they end up on.

The Dark Man, Randall Flagg, embodies nihilistic evil. We don't know really where he comes from or what his goals might be, but in the end he's really just seemingly interested in destruction and chaos. He just wants to watch the world burn. Part of what King is saying is that there is a little bit of that in all of us; maybe that's why almost all the characters dream of him. There is real evil in the world. But, and this is part of the story as well, we don't have to follow Flagg(the evil), we can reject that nihilism and instead choose creation, connection, love, and trust.

One of the things that really struck me was how dated much of it felt. Word choice, cultural references, and similar sort of things read like the 70s and early 80s. This makes perfect sense, but it threw me a bit. I read the complete and uncut version which is nearly 1200 pages. There was definitely some room to trim that down a bit; but the book is meant to be epic, and so needed to be long. Though the middle gets a bit bogged down, the last third of the book gets cooking. It's worth the time and investment of time to read.

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