Kemper's Reviews > The Stand

The Stand by Stephen King
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You know what’s really scary? Getting sick while you’re reading the first part of The Stand. Just try running a fever, going through a box of tissues and guzzling the better part of a bottle of Theraflu while Stephen King describes the grisly deaths of almost every one on Earth from a superflu. On top of feeling like crap, you'll be terrified. Bonus!

After a bio-engineered virus that acts like a revved up cold escapes from a U.S. government lab, it takes only weeks for almost all of humanity to succumb to the disease. A handful of survivors are mysteriously immune and begin having strange dreams, some of which are about a very old woman called Mother Abigail asking them to come see her. More disturbing are nightmares about a mysterious figure named Randall Flagg also known as the Dark Man or the Walkin’ Dude.

As they being making their way through an America almost entirely devoid of people, the survivors begin to unite and realize that the flu was just the beginning of their problems. While some are drawn to the saintly Mother Abigail in Boulder Colorado who tells them that they have been chosen by God, others have flocked to Flagg in Las Vegas who is determined to annihilate all those who refuse to pledge their allegiance to him.

If King would have just written a book about a world destroyed by plague and a small number of people struggling in the aftermath, it probably would have been a compelling story. What sets this one apart is the supernatural element. Flagg is the embodiment of evil and chaos. He's a mysterious figure who has been giving the wrong people the push needed for them to make things worse for everyone, and he sees the plague as his chance to fulfill his own destiny as a wrecker of humanity.

And on the other side, we have God. Yep, that God. The Big Cheese himself. But this isn’t some kindly figure in a white robe with a white beard or George Burns or Morgan Freeman. This is the Old Testament God who demands obedience and worship while usually rewarding his most faithful servants with gruesome deaths.

King calls this a tale of dark Christianity in his forward, and one of the things I love about this book is that it does feel like a Biblical story, complete with contradictions and a moves-mysterious-ways factor. Stories don’t get much more epic than this, and King does a great job of depicting the meltdown of the world through the stories of a variety of relateable characters. (Larry Underwood remains among my favorite King creations.)

One of my few complaints is that this features a lot of King’s anti-technology themes that he’d use in several books like Cell or The Dark Tower series. We’re told repeatedly that the ‘old ways’ like trying to get the power back on in Boulder are a ‘death trip’. The good guys gather in the Rocky Mountains, but if they try to get the juice going so they won’t freeze to death in the winter, they’re somehow acting in defiance of God’s will and returning to the bad habits? Not all tech is bad tech, Mr. King. Nature is a bitch and will kill your ass quicker than the superflu.

Here’s another thing I’m not wild about. When this was published in the late ‘70s, the bean counters at King’s publishers had decided that the book as written would be too pricey in hardback and no one would pay a whopping $13 for a Stephen King hardback. So King cut about three hundred pages.

Around 1990 after it had become apparent that King could publish his shopping list as a best seller, he put those pages back in and released the uncut version. Which I’m fine with. The original stuff was cut for a financial reason, not an editorial one, and there’s some very nice bits of story added in. If King would have stopped there, we would have had a great definitive final version as originally created by the author.

Unfortunately, he seemed to catch a case of Lucasitis and decided to update the story a bit and change its original time frame from 1980 to 1990. I’m not sure why that seemed necessary to him. Yes, the book was a bit dated by then, but it was of its time. He didn’t rewrite the text (Which I’m grateful for.), but just stuck in some references to Madonna and Ronald Reagan and Spuds McKenzie.

This led to a whole bunch of anachronisms. Would students in 1990 call soldiers ’war pigs’? Someone in New York picks up a phone book to look up the number to call an ambulance instead of dialing 911? A song called Baby, Can You Dig Your Man is a huge hit? None of it quite fits together. There's also a layer of male chauvinism and lack of diversity that you can overlook in a book written in the late '70s, but seems out of place for a book set and updated for 1990.

The things that irritate me are still far outweighed by one of my favorite stories of an apocalyptic battle between good and evil.

I’m also glad to get a long overdue audio edition of this book. Great narration and 40+ hours of end of the world horror make for a damn fine listening experience.
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Comments (showing 51-100)





message 100: by Blythe (new) - rated it 5 stars

Blythe Great review! And I can't wait to listen to the audiobook for The Stand, too! The next credit I have available on Audible will absolutely be used towards The Stand. I've heard nothing but excellent things about it.


Carol. [All cynic, all the time] Maybe it would have been more scary if I would have read this while recovering from the flu.


message 98: by Blythe (last edited Mar 07, 2012 06:53PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Blythe I want to read The Stand while I have the flu (or am sick, period). I think I'll reread it for 2012 next time I'm sick. I think it would add something to the experience, whether it be more enjoyment, or absolute fear. Probably the latter.


Kemper Blythe wrote: "Great review! And I can't wait to listen to the audiobook for The Stand, too! The next credit I have available on Audible will absolutely be used towards The Stand. I've heard nothing but excellent..."

Thanks. It was well worth an audble credit.


Kemper Carol wrote: "Maybe it would have been more scary if I would have read this while recovering from the flu."

I wouldn't recommend it. I was sure Randall Flagg was coming for me.


Trudi Nice :)

Just curious Kemper, what did you think of the TV mini-series?


message 94: by Kemper (last edited Mar 08, 2012 06:35AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kemper Trudi wrote: "Nice :)

Just curious Kemper, what did you think of the TV mini-series?"


It's been a long time since I've seen it. I did check out a few clips on You Tube after finishing this time. Overall, OK, but not great.

I remember liking the opening with the whole Don't Fear the Reaper thing. Gary Sinese as Stu was good and I liked Ray Walston as Glenn. There were some scenes I thought were good, but a network TV miniseries in the '90s just didn't have the horsepower needed for The Stand.


Trudi I just remember HATING Molly Ringwald, but thought Rob Lowe was actually pretty decent as Nick Andros. I remember being underwhelmed by the guy who played Flagg, but overall as a TV adaptation it could have been A LOT worse I figure :)

Now a motion picture's supposedly in production for 2013 with BEN AFFLECK directing. Good grief.


message 92: by Kemper (last edited Mar 08, 2012 06:41AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kemper Trudi wrote: "I just remember HATING Molly Ringwald, but thought Rob Lowe was actually pretty decent as Nick Andros. I remember being underwhelmed by the guy who played Flagg, but overall as a TV adaptation it c..."

I forgot all about Rob Lowe playing Nick. The scariest thing about the guy who played Flagg is that early '90s hair cut.

Ben Affleck doing The Stand? I actually thought he did a great job adapting one of my favorite books Gone Baby Gone into a very good movie as the director/writer, and I also liked the adapatation he did of The Town from page to screen. I'd say that idea has some potential.


Trudi I forgot about those movies, I guess I shouldn't be so easy to dismiss him!


Kemper Trudi wrote: "I forgot about those movies, I guess I shouldn't be so easy to dismiss him!"

While he has somewhat redeemed himself, he was in Pearl Harbor, Armageddon and Daredevil so I think a little doubt isn't out of line.


Trudi And then there's the whole "Bennifer" J-lo phase :)


Kemper Oh, damn. I had successfully blocked that out until you mentioned it. Thanks a lot!


Brandon Kemper wrote: "Stories don’t get much more epic than this, and King does a great job of depicting the meltdown of the world through the stories of a variety of relateable characters."

Great review, sir!

One of my all time favorites, if not my absolute favorite.


Kemper Brandon wrote: "Kemper wrote: "Stories don’t get much more epic than this, and King does a great job of depicting the meltdown of the world through the stories of a variety of relateable characters."

Great review..."


Thanks! It's had remarkable staying power on my all time favorite list too.


message 85: by Noran (new)

Noran Miss Pumkin Being sick-just made it all the better-you were living the story!


Kemper Noran wrote: "Being sick-just made it all the better-you were living the story!"

I was more worried about dying in the story...


message 83: by Mira (new)

Mira Great review!


Kemper Mira wrote: "Great review!"

Thanks!


Checkman I agree with you about udating it to 1990 led to some odd disconnects. The novel just has that 70's vibe. He should have left it in 1980 (which I've said before on other sites) and just call it an Alternative Earth or something like that.


Kemper Checkman wrote: "I agree with you about udating it to 1990 led to some odd disconnects. The novel just has that 70's vibe. He should have left it in 1980 (which I've said before on other sites) and just call it an ..."

And since his Dark Tower series featured alternate worlds, including apparently the one that The Stand took place in, he could have left it in it's original 1980 setting and still kept it in the King-verse.


Tracy I have to say this is one of my all time favourite books. Who doesn't love a good plague story. I did like the mini-series mostly because of Gary Sinise (oh and that guy who played Trash-Can Man, Matt Frewer), and Ray Walston as Glenn. And I adored Don't Fear the Reaper...that ruled!


Kemper Sinese & Walston were highlights, and Miguel Ferrer as Lloyd was pretty good too, but that's about it for me. Oh, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar as the guy going around New York screaming that the Dark Man is here was Emmy worthy, too.


Checkman Kemper wrote: "Checkman wrote: "I agree with you about udating it to 1990 led to some odd disconnects. The novel just has that 70's vibe. He should have left it in 1980 (which I've said before on other sites) and..."

yes indeed. I actually read the "Director's Cut" again a couple summers ago (it's a summer read) and I found myself changing the date (in my head - not on the pages) to 1980.


Tracy Yes I did like Miguel Ferrer also. Of course I like him in everything...


Checkman I thought Ed Harris did a good job as General Starkey.


Tracy Oh yeah...I loved him quoting Yeats when he killed himself...the realization of the horror they had unleashed!


message 73: by Checkman (last edited Apr 26, 2012 08:07AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Checkman Tracy wrote: "Oh yeah...I loved him quoting Yeats when he killed himself...the realization of the horror they had unleashed!"

Yeah I thought he really nailed how complicated Starkey is. Or was. Oh the hell with it. You know what I mean.


Kemper I forgot Harris was in there since his role was so small, but he was pretty good.


Tracy I do!!


message 70: by Checkman (last edited Apr 26, 2012 08:17AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Checkman I actually own the mini-series on DVD. The two disc set (released in 2000. Now in moratorium) with the voice-over commentary by Mick Garris (the director), Stephen King (who is he?), Miguel Ferrer, Rob Lowe and Jamey Sheridan. Though I have issues with it I watch it now and again. Most recently last week while I was home recovering from a surgical procedure. Somehow it seemed appropriate.

The depiction of the collapse of society is disappointing. I know that it was a budget issue and Armageddon is expensive to stage, but the mini-series makes it look like an out of control frat party on a Friday night.

In the book (restored version) Chapter 26 is one of the most memorable parts of the book and one of the chapters that shouldn't have been cut from the 1978 edition. They didn't do justice to it in the mini-series.


Checkman One more thing. If you've been over to my page you know I'm a police officer (12 years in just a few months.wow.). It's interesting to read people's comments on books like The Stand. People like to speculate what they would do. I figure I wouldn't make it. My job puts me right out there on the front line. Disease or people - one or the other. Now that's something to think about. I love the sequence in Chapter 26 where the Kent State campus cops are talking about what they're going to do when the Army and the students begin to have it out. Their decision is to find a low spot and keep their heads down. Love that. I can relate.


Kemper I would survive through a mix of cowardice and betrayal of others. I'd probably be destined for Las Vegas...


Checkman Kemper wrote: "I would survive through a mix of cowardice and betrayal of others. I'd probably be destined for Las Vegas..."

LOL. Well the important thing is you understand your strengths and weaknesses. Just be sure to find a reason to be about thirty miles outside of Vegas when Flagg calls for a group assembly.


message 66: by Elon (new) - rated it 5 stars

Elon G Any time I hear, or read Ben Aflack's name, it makes me think of the duck for the insurance company. I think I will keep my eyes open for the next production of this story. For the only reason that this book was so good.

I have read this book, and in my review I mentioned a book by Terri Nation. Have you any recommendations I may not have read?

Your review was superb. Much detail without a spoiler.
No, the miniseries was nowhere near as good, but I did see it. I don't believe it ruined the literature for me. Fortunately, I did read first, watch second.
This is a perfect example of where the book is better than film or video. I do give Hollywood credit for making the plot more accessible to those who fear reading a book. Just as useful as using a spoon to move a mountain.

I credit your note to the author, reminding us that not all technology is bad. While I do agree, there's nothing like sinking my brain into a silicone free book.
While for sentamental reasons I'd be hard pressed into ditching my hard back cover of The Stand, I do own an e-reader, and I enjoy using it as well.


Checkman Elon wrote: "Any time I hear, or read Ben Aflack's name, it makes me think of the duck for the insurance company. I think I will keep my eyes open for the next production of this story. For the only reason that..."

I was stationed in Germany when the mini-series first aired on ABC in May of 94. A friend recorded it and mailed us the tapes. Since we didn't have (English language) television where we lived we would watch and re-watch the many VHS tapes over and over. I watched The Stand several times. I liked it and I actually own it on DVD. But over the past few years it has gotten creaky. Kind of like The Omega Man. It's still watchable, but the crop of corn is starting to grow.


message 64: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy I was reading this book during last winter and everytime someone sneezed or cough around me I would get anxious, like! oh no it begins!


Kemper Amy wrote: "I was reading this book during last winter and everytime someone sneezed or cough around me I would get anxious, like! oh no it begins!"

I went through a lot Purell while doing this reread.


Melissa Cuevas For some reason, every time I start this book, I get sick.


Cotter Pike Lol, I got a scratchy throat the first time I read the stand too.


Steph I started sneazing when reading the book and got a chill thinking I had it.lol.


Kemper I'm glad I'm not the only one who could have the thrill of being sick while reading this.


Kathy What's also really scary? Being on an underground train full of other people coughing and sniffling while reading The Stand....


Checkman Kathy wrote: "What's also really scary? Being on an underground train full of other people coughing and sniffling while reading The Stand...."

Oh geez can I relate to that experience. We went to Germany in June of this year. We rode the subway while in Berlin and at one point there was a woman who was coughing to hard she was gagging. My wife was also sick (we discovered a few days later that she had Salmonella poisoning) at that point. I was concerned about her, but in spite of the situation I couldn't help thinking about The Stand at the time. Of course I didn't tell my wife this. She wasn't in the mood.


message 56: by Peggy (new) - added it

Peggy Ann Good review and that would really suck i would hate to get the flu while reading this i would be like "omg I have captain trips!!!!" lol


message 55: by Terri (new)

Terri Byron Very good review and I enjoyed reading everyone's comments. I am rereading The Stand again, for who knows how many times. This book and The Lord of the Rings are books I re-read over and over ever few years and still enjoy.


message 54: by [deleted user] (new)

How did you feel about the way Flagg was portrayed in the mini-series?


Kemper Anthony wrote: "How did you feel about the way Flagg was portrayed in the mini-series?"

Meh. There were a few good creepy moments, but they didn't build him up into the ultimate boogeyman like King did in the book.


message 52: by [deleted user] (new)

Kemper wrote: "Anthony wrote: "How did you feel about the way Flagg was portrayed in the mini-series?"

Meh. There were a few good creepy moments, but they didn't build him up into the ultimate boogeyman like Ki..."


I agree. I'm not sure there is any actor I can think of who could really pull the character off the way he is in the book. He's definitely my favorite of King's characters.


David That's funny. I was home sick from highschool with the flu the first time I read The Stand.


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