The Stand is the strangest book I have ever read in the sense that even after over a thousand pages, I still don’t really know how I feel about it. Th...moreThe Stand is the strangest book I have ever read in the sense that even after over a thousand pages, I still don’t really know how I feel about it. The only thing I can even think to do is take this bit by bit and stick to the basics. Pros: The characters are very well crafted and colorful. They’re also rather unique from other characters in this type of story. King does a great job of avoiding caricature or writing in simple “character types” which would be the easy route for this sort of story, and instead he gives us varied and special characters the likes of which I don’t think I’ve ever really seen in fiction before. Also, the arcs of these characters are rather special. Granted it takes over a thousand pages to get there, but Stu ends in a very different place than where he began, and it’s a lot of fun to watch. The book is amazingly well written. King knows how to write, and no one can deny that. His prose are powerful, evocative, visually stunning, and deeply moving. The book did its job well on the emotional level (as cliché as it sounds, I laughed and I cried at all the appropriate moments) due to the skill of the prose and the strength of the characters. I cared about these people and cared about what happened to them so I was invested properly. The story is fascinating and well crafted. The concept behind following a couple people through the end of the world is great. It might not be the most unique, but I do think that King handles it in a very unique fashion. I can’t recall ever seeing the before, during, and after of the apocalypse in a work of fiction. Most stories would be more interested in either setting you down in the middle of the post-apocalyptic world and moving forward, or maybe giving you a little back-story about before and then skipping the actual action of the world ending. I kept waiting for the book to jump forward a couple months/years to the world after and skipping all of what we got in the interim, but he never did. That’s just one of many ways this book continues to skirt the issues of convention. If you think you know what’s coming in The Stand because you’ve read books like this before, you’ll almost always be wrong. It’s this fact that leads me to my biggest point of contention with the book though. Cons: You can never be sure of what’s coming. While reading, I constantly felt like a fish out of water trying my best to get my bearings. I made a couple of predictions correctly, but for the most part something would happen and I’d be left kind of like “what the heck was that?” It’s ballsy and artistic of him to do things in that fashion, but it wasn’t a lot of fun to read. I felt offended (for want of a better word) that the characters I loved would be killed for little to no real reason. At a certain point, I honestly just felt like King was showing off or allowing the story to get away from him. He heaped so much pain and suffering onto these characters that it seemed unreal. By the end, I was finally just cringing and saying to him “Just lay off it already! Can’t one simple thing go right for the people we care about?” I know you’re meant to visit horror on your characters, but I think he takes too many liberties with that concept in this book. I didn’t buy it. And mostly, it’s just too damn long. I never skipped an entire chapter, but I skipped over many sections of certain chapters and didn’t miss anything. All told, I think a solid 2 or 3 hundred pages could have been left off of this and the same effect could have been achieved. There are large sections of the book (especially in Book II) where the plot doesn’t seem to have any forward momentum at all and everything’s just spinning its wheels. I think this goes towards realism, (for example how long it takes them to get the lights back on in the Free Zone) but it isn’t a lot of fun to read. Something needs to be happening in a kind of constant march forward, and it doesn’t sometimes here. Add to that the fact that each new character (and there are a lot of them) tends to get his/her own little back-story of what they were doing during the outbreak and eventually I was just saying “Ok, enough already, I get it.” The Stand is a good novel. I don’t feel as though I wasted my time reading it (which is considerable since it took so much time to read.) But I can’t say that it was the most entertaining and enjoyable read that I’ve ever had. Enter at your own risk.(less)
In truth, I'm giving Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion 4 1/2 stars, but that shouldn't imply it's not the best book I've read in the last couple of months....moreIn truth, I'm giving Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion 4 1/2 stars, but that shouldn't imply it's not the best book I've read in the last couple of months. It's flaws are very slight and totally overshadowed by its greatness. Marion's writing is warm, emotional, funny, action packed, and simply remarkable. I look forward to reading everything he publishes in the future. That he's only just written his first book seems a crime; that we'll (hopefully) get many more decades of his writing is the greatest of blessings. I can think of no better reading experience to usher in the new year than this one.
Warm Bodies places us in the POV of a zombie. This, I feel, is a very bold choice, and it's the right one. We've had books told from the monster's perspective when the monster is a Vampire or a Warewolf, so why not a Zombie? This gives us a look at R, at his world, his life (or un-life as the case may be), and a brilliant journey into the world of desire. Indeed, Warm Bodies is all about desire and how something as simple as wanting ties us to life. Clearly, the best way to understand life seems to be through studying death, and that's what Warm Bodies does so brilliantly.
What it doesn't do as brilliantly is give us solid characterization on Grigio, the stories main antagonist. I didn't understand his motivation as well as I would like, and in a world with such vibrant, well thought out, and unique characters as R, M, Nora, Julie, and Perry, Grigio feels a bit tacked on. The story needed a living villain so Marion created Grigio and forced his actions to serve the plot instead of simply giving him a fully realized back story. The other small flaw in the novel is the ending. The book devolves into a standard action sequence with a lot of back and forth style running around. Things happen a little too quickly, and I realized had the book kept up its established moderate pace, the conclusion might have felt more organic. The end of the story works, but I didn't care for the way the characters seemed to be bumbling along while allowing things to happen to them instead of charging forward in order to cause things to happen.
All the same, these are trifling concerns that don't amount to much of anything. Another draft or two would have been sufficient to take care of these problems, and when all a story needs is one more draft to make it perfect instead of an entire rewrite, you can't complain too much. Warm Bodies is the perfect kind of debut novel. It introduces a strong and clear voice, it tells a very well contained story, and it makes me ravenous for more from this remarkable young talent. I can't wait to sink my teeth into the next Marion masterpiece. (less)