Ostensibly, I've read it over the last twelve days. Finishing it took over my life just a little, and I don't know how many nights I pThis book. Wow.
Ostensibly, I've read it over the last twelve days. Finishing it took over my life just a little, and I don't know how many nights I put it down and got to bed before 4am. Probably not many. It feels like I've been living with The Stand for much longer than that, though, and in another respect, I've really been reading it for almost three years. I made my first attempt at it in April 2009. At the time, IIRC, the only Stephen King books I'd read in full were Misery, Dolores Claiborne and Cell - the first two years beforehand, and all of them pamphlet length compared to the doorstop-sized Stand.
I've always had a taste for the apocalypse, and so the premise appealed greatly to me. The first chapter bore that out, but I hit a stumbling block with the introduction to Stu Redman. At the time, I just wasn't acclimatised to King's tendency to use twenty words where one would do, and by the time I fought my way through to meet Frannie Goldsmith on a pier in Maine, I was ready to give it up as a bad job.
Still, over the months that followed, my mind would turn back to it from time to time, and in November of that year I gave it another shot. I got a lot further that time around. Over the course of three or four months, dipping in and out, never reading for too long in order to savour every chapter, I eventually reached page 466, only just shy of finishing the first book, "Captain Trips". I can't really say why I never finished it from there. Mostly, it was never wanting the book to end. By then, I wasn't frazzled with Stu and Frannie, I loved them, and Larry Underwood and Nick Andros too. I wanted to feel that their world was there waiting any time I wanted to visit. The Stand was put to one side, and while I always kept it on my 'currently reading' list, I don't think I opened it once between February or March of 2010, and present.
One night a couple of weeks ago, I wasn't feeling great and couldn't sleep. Laying in bed, wide awake at 3am, I scanned my shelves for something to read, and paused on The Stand. The time felt right to give it another try. I was pretty confident that I could still pick up from where I'd left off, bookmarked just after Nick leaves Shoyo and before Larry awakens beyond the Lincoln Tunnel. But I thought back on those 466 pages, of seeing the world end over a couple of weeks from mid-June to early-July, and wanted to read it all over again. So I did. I re-met the old characters and fell in love with them all over again. And when I got to page 466, I kept on going, right through "Captain Trips", through "On The Border", "The Stand" and "The Circle Closes". It was exhausting, frequently frustrating, and I don't know that I'll ever have it in me to read it again, but I utterly loved it, and can happily say that this belongs on my favourites shelf.
All of this is not to say that The Stand is without flaws. I don't hold its length against it (though in the event of a future re-read, I'd plump for the original, rather than uncut edition). I think my first real discontent began with the introduction of Randall Flagg, the levitating, near-omniscient bad guy. I'm not keen on books that begin grounded in the real world, go on that way for hundreds of pages, and then throw in a surprise supernatural twist. I was even less keen when the emergence of Mother Abagail made plain that not only would the following events be strongly supernatural, they'd be driven by religion. Good v evil, God v devil. Not my cup of tea at all. Once it became clear that The Stand is very much a homage to Lord of The Rings (which, by great coincidence, is next on my re-read list), I could accept the supernatural elements and Flagg's all-seeing eye more easily. I never got so accustomed to the constant presence of God. When Larry went bravely into Vegas in the expectation that it was what God intended, and that He had something in motion that would come through... that was probably the pinnacle of my frustration, because I'm a cynical, pre-Mother Abagale Glen Bateman at heart.
Other things bothered me too. I was never all that interested in the antagonists, but might have been more so if "On the Border" hadn't been almost exclusively in the good guys' camp in Boulder, and "The Stand" with the bad guys in Vegas. I'd have liked a little more intermingling. The second book was my least favourite overall. The chapters were too long for my liking, the focus too squarely upon Stu, Frannie and Larry. Nick all but disappeared in this book, and I'd come to love him so in "Captain Trips". From reading King's On Writing last year, I knew about the bomb. I didn't know who would die, and for a chapter there I could hardly read on through fear. But afterwards... I didn't feel so much. I'd become emotionally disconnected from the lack of focus. It hurt more in "The Stand", when Nick came to Tom in dreams.
It shouldn't have come as a surprise that the women were mostly background characters, either weak or under developed or repulsive. King does this a lot. And then there was bloody Nadine, who was all of these and less. My least favourite character, without a doubt. The shift from when we met her, to our next encounter where she was CRAZY was just bizarre, and I could never but never empathise with her. There was Mother Abagale, yes, and I did enjoy her segments, but she was the utter embodiment of the "magical negro" trope. And as for the page where Frannie and Lucy sit sadly drinking tea while their men go bravely off to confront Flagg... oh my eyes about rolled out of my head. Two characters I would have loved to have seen more of were Susan Stern and Dayna Jurgens. Strong and brave and utterly badass, but with hardly ten pages of development between them. There was a much more fulfilling story there waiting to be told.
Then came the ending. After my second failed attempt at reading The Stand, I read a Goodreads review of it, so I knew one fact. (view spoiler)[I knew Larry was going to die. (hide spoiler)] There were times that I was desperately sad and scared for him, but in the final confrontation and aftermath... again, I didn't feel so much. I genuinely thought this book was going to tear my heart out, stomp all over it and make me cry. The closest it ever came to doing that was when Stu broke his leg and sent the others off without him. I closed that chapter almost literally shaking with the unfairness of it all, but even then, there was some hope. There was Tom Cullen. Words cannot describe how much I love Tom Cullen. If I had to pick a favourite character, I think he would be it. And yes the final journey was protracted and slowed the pace down when we should have been racing for the finish, but despite that, despite all these gripes and complaints, I'm sat here the afternoon after finishing it reflecting on how satisfying it was, all told.
The Stand isn't a literary masterpiece. It isn't perfect, and maybe it was even better 400 pages lighter. But it is a bloody good book, one of my all-time favourites, and I'm so glad to have finally read it. In a way, it doesn't feel like I've sat in a recliner and read it for twelve days. It feels like I've been on a journey. Like an experience.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I remember being a bit bemused by The Year of the Flood when it was first released. A couple of years had passed since Oryx and Crake, and I felt likeI remember being a bit bemused by The Year of the Flood when it was first released. A couple of years had passed since Oryx and Crake, and I felt like there were a lot of connections I was missing and gaps I couldn't quite fill. This time around I re-read Oryx immediately beforehand, so the dots were a lot easier to join, and on the whole it made for a more satisfying read. I think you definitely could read The Year as a standalone novel in and of itself, but it works better as part of a trilogy. I definitely prefer Oryx overall, but this is still an interesting read, with some solid female characters - which I felt the lack of in the first instalment.
A lot of the novel is set while the main characters are part of a strange religious cult, and there are a lot of sermons and hymns that by the end, I was skim reading at best. I think the whole thing is just more 'out there' than the first book, which is set in contained compounds that bear a little more resemblance to life as we know it. Out in the wider world things are much weirder, and Atwood throws the reader in as though they should be familiar with the ins and outs and terminology already. It's a good read, but I'd recommend starting with Oryx and Crake....more
This is a tricky book to review, as my feelings towards it changed very abruptly and quite vehemently about a hundred pages in. Throughout the first hThis is a tricky book to review, as my feelings towards it changed very abruptly and quite vehemently about a hundred pages in. Throughout the first half, I was utterly perplexed by all the accolades and praise this book has accrued. A lack of apostrophes, an abundance of run-on sentences and a thoroughly disjointed style do not an astounding book make - not in and of themselves, at least, and more than anything I actively and quite strenuously disliked the book for its incredible pretentiousness. And then, just before the half way mark, something clicked. I was finally able to connect with the characters, or moreso at least envision myself in their place. I think it took some doing because the whole dystopian landscape is so utterly implausible, and even now, from a position of having finished the book and on the whole come away liking it, I can absolutely understand why well-versed science fiction fans find it absolute crap. There's not a great deal of world-building that realistically holds up to any level of scrutiny. But taken as a story about love first and foremost, it touched me. It took a long time and a great deal of projection to get there, and I can't help but feel that I had to put in at least as much effort as McCarthy to propel myself into it, but I think I'll remember it as a book I enjoyed and am glad to have read....more
Although I'm generally far from a fan of chick-lit, this book made me smile. It follows three generations of women under one roof: the increasingly coAlthough I'm generally far from a fan of chick-lit, this book made me smile. It follows three generations of women under one roof: the increasingly confused Nan, reflecting back on her youth; middle-aged Karen, frustrated by her middle class aspirations and determined her daughter should better her lot in life; and 17-year-old Charlotte, pregnant and set on repeating all her mother's mistakes.
The book is hindered by clarity issues, especially towards the beginning, as it can be hard to discern who is narrating at any given time. Nan's thoughts are presented in a different font, whereas the more-similar-than-they-realise Karen and Charlotte are differentiated only by the occasional line-break. Charlotte's 'voice' is also somewhat suspect - sometimes a little too worldly and knowing for a plausibly frightened teenager.
Overall, though, it's an entertaining read about familial love, acceptance, and the cyclical nature of life and its many mistakes. It's also one of those rare beasts: a book I'd actually share with my own mother. Definitely worth a read, especially if you enjoyed the TV adaptation....more