Friday, January 1, 2010

Closing Thoughts: The Stand

# of pages: 1,141
Pages read so far: 4,916
# of books read so far: 12
Avg pages/book: 409.67

Bwuahaha! This book got my average pages over 400! (The next will bring it way the heck back down, though)

Remember, now, this was the complete, uncut The Stand. The Megastand, if you will. Regular stand = about 600 pages. Megastand = 1141. And here's the thing: I don't see how this could have been nearly as enjoyable of a story with 500 fewer pages. I felt like very little of the book was wasted or superfluous. (Heh...'superflu'ous...) The book was broken up into three different portions: Book I was the story of Captain Trips, the name given to a superflu that basically decimates all human life pretty much everywhere. Thanks, U.S. military! You meet a lot of characters, many of whom will die before you get to Book II, which centers around the idea that most of the country's population are gravitating toward two different settlements, one in Las Vegas and one in Boulder, Colorado. People are being drawn to one place or the other through dreams, and the Las Vegas colony is governed by a supernaturally evil man while the Boulder group is headed up by a 108-year-old black woman trying her best to live out the will of God. Book III, "The Stand," prominently featured the inevitable clash between the Dark Man and Mother Abigail's children (for lack of a better term).

Great, great stuff from Mr. King. Great characters, as always. The story opens a disjointed collection of everyday life-type stories: the teenage girl from New England who's pregnant and doesn't know what to do, the deaf-mute man who turns up in a small town in Arkansas and helps the sheriff track down the thugs who attacked him, the one-hit wonder rock star who reunites with his mother in New York City because he's run out of money and out of friends, the hapless, small-time crook who unwittingly takes the fall for a buddy's killing spree, the east Texas man who gave up all his dreams and ambitions to take care of his family, that sort of thing. These stories are all good, but they're also suddenly and violently interrupted by the lightning-fast spread of the superflu. Following the epidemic, these survivors scramble to find others, to find homes, to find life in a world that's literally covered in death and decay.

It's pretty grim stuff, by the way.

The entire superflu portion of the book, however, is only setting the game board for the true action of the story, and it's very much a blatant light vs. dark, good vs. evil, God vs. Satan kind of story. And it's a pretty awesome light vs. dark, good vs. evil, God vs. Satan story, too. I can't really go into the story itself without REALLY going into it, so I won't do that here, but suffice it to say that I really, really dug the story. And, for the most part, the telling.

Of course, this is King we're talking about, and a lot of his characters are pretty crude, so the language was R-rated and then some, and there was a lot of sex, and there was one sequence between the Trashcan Man and a grown man called The Kid that I really wish I could remove from my memory, so beware, if you're going into this book, you need a pretty thick skin to those things. However, one thing I realized about King from reading this book is that the man truly understands how the forces of evil work. His temptations scenes are flawless. You follow the descent of his evil characters, and you can see how that character goes from being well-meaning Person A or needy Person B to pawn of the devil. Really fantastic writing.

My one qualm with the book (and this may not be the case in the 600-page version, I don't know) was that it felt, at times, like King was trying too hard to make a point. (And this could be considered semi-spoilerish, but I think you're probably fine) I think what we were going for, more or less, is that mankind is inherently sinful, and even with the best of intentions we will always fall back into our old habits. Mother Abigails' Free Zoners attempt to create a sort of utopia, a starting-over place for humanity, and their attempts to create order from chaos eventually breed the same sort of culture that will eventually have the exact same problems that the world had before Captain Trips.

This, actually, I'm fine with. I think it's a very solid (and even scriptural) truth. What confused me was the very last few pages of the book (and this is MAJORLY spoilerish, so tread carefully), where Flagg awakens among a savage tribe in South America, or Africa, he's really not sure where, and the natives come to him with their spears and bow down, and he tells them he's come to help them all: he's come to teach them to be civilized. And it's a powerful statement about how the devil can so easily manipulate our societies and our governments, and how the civilized establishment always leads us to sin and corruption and all, didn't make any sense with the character! At one point in the story, Leo says "The old ways are his ways!" referring to committees and democracy and order and such, but Flagg's own community was not an "old ways" civilization; it was a dictatorship where dissenters were literally crucified. (Again, it was pretty grim, folks) So, while I kind of liked the idea of the "all men fall short of a righteous standard" theme, it suddenly felt like the whole point was, "Western civilization is SATAN! BUWHAHAHAHAAAA!!!" It was kind of melodramatic, and I may be misreading it, but it seemed kind of a weak ending to an otherwise fantastic (and disturbing) book.

Oh, and also (still spoilering), Stu Tom's trek back to Boulder went on for too long. You just nuked the bad guy; pneumonia and trudging through the snow is a tad anticlimactic after a confrontation like that.

But still. Excellent, excellent book. One of my favorites on this list so far.


  1. Glad you liked it. And I had forgotten the stuff about The Kid, so maybe it *is* possible to remove it from your mind. Or I'm just getting old and senile at 29. *shrug*

  2. We haz got to meet to discuss sometime. It'll be like a book club. A book club with Guitar Hero and/or Riff Trax.

    Best. Book club. Ever.