This book is unlike a lot of other apocalypse stories in that it spends most of its time on the characters and the post-disaster narrative. I liked thThis book is unlike a lot of other apocalypse stories in that it spends most of its time on the characters and the post-disaster narrative. I liked that. One of the main reasons I don't read books or watch movies in the horror genre is that they fixate on the destruction of humankind and spend little to no time on what happens after the slaughter is over. The Stand makes that its central focus and that is what sets it apart, going as far as to influence the narrative and characters found in the epic television series LOST, which I admit was why I picked the book up in the first place.
The characters feel real and grow, experiencing struggles basic to human survival. King gets it right by only committing one third of the book to the superflu and how it kills off most of the population. The rest of the novel is about the difficulties humanity would face if all but a handful of its population ceased to exist. This extreme circumstance tests the moral fiber of the cast and illustrates why a character is "good" or "bad," giving us three dimensional characters that change with the landscape. This characteristic is what makes this story clever and attractive to many readers. It culminates in a fascinating look into the "bad guys" camp during Book 3, which is one of the best parts of the whole novel.
What kept me from giving this five stars is that it is a LONG book and it feels really drawn out in the middle section. I had to take a break from this novel because of how exhausting the narrative can be. In his memoir On Writing, King admits that for a while he had no idea where to go with the The Stand and it shows in parts of Book 2. I encourage all readers of this book to muscle through the early 50+ page chapters in Book 2, for at one point a sudden turn of events provides the shakeup the characters and story need to hurtle the reader to the exciting conclusion. From that point on, I read the remaining pages of The Stand with great pleasure.