Jeffrey Keeten's Reviews > The Stand

The Stand by Stephen King
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
3427339
's review

really liked it
bookshelves: horror, post-apocalyptic

“None of us want to see portents and omens, no matter how much we like our ghost stories and the spooky films. None of us want to really see a Star in the East or a pillar of fire by night. We want peace and rationality and routine. If we have to see God in the black face of an old woman, it’s bound to remind us that there’s a devil for every god—and our devil may be closer than we like to think.”

A plague has escaped a lab killing most of the population, only a few, a mere fraction of the whole, has immunity or manages to survive being infected.

It is over in a matter of weeks. Civilization grinds to a halt, then collapses, and then falls into chaos.

A Mad Max world is born.

A virus that kills 99.4% of the people it infects is a very stupid virus. Even the Black Plague had a 20% survival rate, so for a virus to act this stupidly, it would have to be man made. The last thing any virus should do is kill the host. Death of the host leads to death of the virus.

”Now most of the young folks and old folks were gone, and most of those in between. God had brought down a harsh judgment on the human race.”

Invariably, we can’t help bringing God into any situation where we think a judgment has been handed down on humanity, but he/she doesn’t have anything to do with this. This is man destroying himself. Some would make the case that God could have interceded, could have saved us if we had been worthy, but then when have we ever been ‘worthy’? Since we are made in his image I do think sometimes what God, if he exists, likes least in us is what he likes least about himself. The whole theory of God is built on good and evil. If evil exists, then oddly God exists. The Vatican has been working relentlessly to prove for centuries that pure evil exists to justify the whole need for their continued existence.

The proof might be rising out of the ashes of this virulent plague. ”He was coming, Flagg was coming like some terrible horror monster out of the scariest picture ever made. The dark man’s cheeks were flushed with jolly color, his eyes were twinkling with happy good fellowship, and a great hungry voracious grin stretched his lips over huge tombstone teeth, shark teeth, and his hands were held out in front of him, and there were shiny black crow feathers fluttering from his hair.”

The survivors are dreaming about the Dark Man, and they are dreaming about the old black woman in the cornfields of Nebraska. These dreams are as vivid as they are confusing. There is a battle for their souls going on. They must choose. Do they go to Randall Flagg, or do they flock to Abagail Freemantle?

You would think it would be an easy decision. Don’t most of us think of ourselves as good people? Of course, we would join Abagail, the self-anointed prophet of God. Except, maybe it isn’t so clearly cut; as the two groups grow, it is starting to look like an even split. Abagail brings her flock to Boulder, Colorado, wanting to use the natural barrier of the Rockies to be the dividing line between her “good people” and the evil people following the Dark Man.

Not to mention that she knows there has to be a reckoning.

But are they evil? When people from the Boulder Free Zone mingle with those from the Dark Side, they find them to be normal people, just like the people they left back in Boulder. The biggest difference is that they are afraid, and fear, as we know, is the most insidious and easiest way to control people. It becomes very clear that Abagail’s army is really only fighting one man, one man with supernatural powers. ”Nevermore. Tap, tap, tap. The crow, looking in at him, seeming to grin. And it came to him with a dreamy, testicle-shriveling certainty that this was the dark man, his soul, his ka somehow projected into this rain-drenched, grinning crow that was looking in at him, checking up on him.”

So it is sort of interesting to speculate about whether there are truly evil beings like Randall Flagg in the world, waiting for their opportunity, waiting for people to need someone larger than themselves to lead. Their power grows as people choose to believe in them. As long as civilization exists and people are reasonably content, a person like Flagg is never given an opportunity to thrive.

We through our own discontent empower evil.

This novel is one of the King epics. A fan poll on Goodreads, The Best of Stephen King Poll, shows that his fans still believe this is his best book. My favorite book, and the one that I feel will be considered his masterpiece, is IT , a book that I feel really brings together all of his best skills in building characters and shows off his gift for creating twisty, scary plots . IT is #2 on the Goodreads poll. Pennywise, in my opinion, might have had as large an impact on reading/watching audiences as Norman Bates in Psycho. Once you have been introduced to Pennywise try walking past a storm drain without giving it a wide berth.

The Stand has a large cast, and most readers will have a favorite character. I liked several characters, actually, and wondered if I was going to find myself in a George R.R. Martin universe where identifying with a character was tantamount to self-inflicted grief. I was fortunate to stick with Stu Redman. He is a hick from Texas who continues to show hidden depths as circumstances shape and reveal his character. He made me smile with the following response, when it looks like dire circumstances may lead to a slow death: “Ralph came over to Stu and knelt down. ‘Can we get you anything, Stu?’ Stu smiled. ‘Yeah. Everything Gore Vidal ever wrote—those books about Lincoln and Aaron Burr and those guys. I always meant to read the suckers. Now it looks like I got the time.’”

Gotta love the thought of a redneck from Texas reading the unabashed New York homosexual.

In the forward, Stephen King talks about the meeting he had with the publishing group about the size of The Stand. It was originally published at about 800 pages, but then when they decided to reissue the uncut version, he was able to put back in about 400 pages that he had been forced to excise. ”I reluctantly agreed to do the surgery myself. I think I did a fairly good job, for a writer who has been accused over and over again of having diarrhea of the word processor.” He agreed to the cuts because the publishing team made a compelling case. They were able to show him the sales from his previous four books, the profit margin, and if he sold the same number of books of The Stand, how much slimmer the profit margin would be, because of the cost to produce the 400 extra pages. So the cuts were not made for editorial reasons, but for common sense accounting reasons. King was very happy to have the orphaned material reunited with the rest of the book.

The book does bog down at times for me. I think that is inevitable with a book this size. King is taking on some larger themes here and for the most part keeps all the plates spinning in the air. I read a lot of post-apocalyptic books, and I’m sure if I ever let myself be put on a couch, a psychologist will explore those reasons thoroughly, but one thing I notice, while I am immersing myself in The Stand, is that I have a greater appreciation for my life and the cocoon that civilization wraps around me to keep me safe and provide me with the necessities so that I can have the time I want to read, putter, and write. Maybe I’m not as obsessed with the END OF THE WORLD as much as I am finding new ways to appreciate the wonderful life I do have.

I have to admit, though, that I had to agree with lifestyle philosophy of the sociologist Glen Bateman. ”But Bateman himself hadn’t wanted to get in on the ground floor of society’s reappearance. He seemed perfectly content—at least for the time being—to go for his walks with Kojak, paint his pictures, putter around his garden, and think about the sociological ramifications of nearly total decimation.”

I would hope I could ignore the siren calls of the ancient, wise woman in Nebraska and the seductive pull of The Dark Man and just enjoy the peace and quiet of a more tranquil world without the constant noise of people talking on their cell phones, music blaring from cars, planes taking off from airports, and millions of electrical lines humming.

It is truly amazing any of us can think.

f you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
150 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Stand.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

February 3, 2019 – Started Reading
February 3, 2019 – Shelved
February 3, 2019 – Shelved as: horror
February 3, 2019 – Shelved as: post-apocalyptic
February 8, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-24 of 24 (24 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Brian (new)

Brian What a wonderful review! Full of insight and information I had not yet heard. I sensed passion too, which resonates with me the strongest in everything. Although I don't read much SK anymore, I still believe nobody tells it like he does. May not literary elite but he can sure dig the stories from the ancient DNA. He inspired me to love reading and to puruse writing. Thanks for posting and for the memories of this special book, his "dark tale of Christianity."


Jeffrey Keeten Brian wrote: "What a wonderful review! Full of insight and information I had not yet heard. I sensed passion too, which resonates with me the strongest in everything. Although I don't read much SK anymore, I sti..."

Yes indeed! That is a good way to put it...'dark tale of Christianity'. SK will never join the literary elites, but I do think he is going to squeak in as one of those writers who is read for a long time yet. Thank you Brian! I'm glad you gained some insight you didn't have from my review.


Stan Blackburn The best post-apocalyptic book ever. "M O O N" spells walkin' dude!


Jeffrey Keeten Indeed it does Stan! 😀 SK can feel the love!


Paul  Perry I tried to read the 800 page version some years ago. I found the first third or so some of the best work King has written, but then got increasingly bored and annoyed. I keep thinking I should revisit it, but so many books, etc.


message 6: by gwen lallo (new)

gwen lallo It is the best book


message 7: by Joe (last edited Feb 12, 2019 08:50PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joe Valdez I always enjoy a dissection of The Stand and picked up a lot from your terrific review, James. Personally, I could've done with a shorter novel and one that didn't have such a direct supernatural element. I think that King writes himself into a corner by making the devil his villain. There's so much wonderful stuff to see along the way, though. You picked the right time of year to read this. I just came down with another head cold yesterday.


Jeffrey Keeten Paul wrote: "I tried to read the 800 page version some years ago. I found the first third or so some of the best work King has written, but then got increasingly bored and annoyed. I keep thinking I should revi..."

I perfectly understand Paul. I put off all of King's work for decades, but in recent years I've decided to start reading an occasional King, knowing that I would have to push through sections. I finally decided that his cultural influence on a generation of readers made it important for me to read him. I'm frequently an archeologist of books so my motivation might not be just about being entertained or gaining knowledge. I hope that makes sense. If you haven't read IT, to me that is his book he will be remembered for.


Jeffrey Keeten Sniper_Fox wrote: "What a wonderful review Jeffrey. CAPTAIN TRIPS! I remember reading this with one of my friends and watching the miniseries with my older sister who forced me. (I didn't want to because of how old i..."

That should have been a good lesson to you that all this is old is not worthless. :-) Your older sister is a wise woman! Thanks Sniper_Fox! I haven't watched the mini-series, but will definitely be queuing it up in the near future.


Jeffrey Keeten gwen lallo wrote: "It is the best book"

Many readers will agree with you Gwen!


Jeffrey Keeten Joe wrote: "I always enjoy a dissection of The Stand and picked up a lot from your terrific review, James. Personally, I could've done with a shorter novel and one that didn't have such a direct supernatural e..."

I have been fortunate in avoiding the recent plagues of colds and flu that have run through most of the people I know. My wife had a flu that had her flat on her back for three days. I thought sure I was doomed, but to her irritation I did not fall prey. Maybe I'm immune! haha! I'm not a big fan of surviving a big apocalyptic event. I'd just as soon fall in the first wave unless I can ignore the supernatural mutterings in my mind and let the devil and the ancient priestess duke it out without me. I kept thinking as I was reading the last third of the novel that I was glad I wasn't the writer trying to pull all the loose threads together and make this a tidy believable ending. Thanks Joe!


Stewart Sternberg did anyone else hate the ending?


Jeffrey Keeten Stewart wrote: "did anyone else hate the ending?"

He was setting up a parallel in treacheries with Harold and Trashcan. Reading this in 2019 I didn't really like the ending he came up with. It seemed anticlimactic after all of the build up, but if I had read it in 1978 I might have seen the ending different. I mean it certainly played into his theme that given time MAN would return to his natural destructive ways, in this case not much time at all. MADmen lead to two destructive acts, but of course the ones we need to fear the most are insane acts by who we believe to be sane men.


David S. Great review Jeffrey!
I agree with you that King's masterpiece is IT. But, damn, THE STAND is a very close second. I remember loving these characters, both good and bad. Randall Flagg (I put him in the holy trinity of literary bad dudes...Hannibal Lector, and HAL are the others). And, Nick Andros is absolutely incredible.

Thanks for the re-visit down memory lane.


Jeffrey Keeten David wrote: "Great review Jeffrey!
I agree with you that King's masterpiece is IT. But, damn, THE STAND is a very close second. I remember loving these characters, both good and bad. Randall Flagg (I put him in..."


The thing about books is the emotional response. I mean you might believe that IT is the best book King has written, but in your heart you prefer THE STAND. Nothing wrong with that.

I think what makes this book resonate with people long after they read it is the characters like Nick. How can you not like Nick? I found that I actually liked a lot of characters. I can't say that I liked The Kid for instance, but man what a character!

You are most welcome! Thanks for the kind words.


Britton Summers One of his best books, at least one of my favorites by him.


Tammy Enjoyed your review, Jeffrey! I hope you have a chance to read Wanderers by Chuck Wendig. It’s about time Uncle Stevie had some competition :)


Jeffrey Keeten Britton wrote: "One of his best books, at least one of my favorites by him."

You are not alone. Lots of love felt for this book!


Jeffrey Keeten Tammy wrote: "Enjoyed your review, Jeffrey! I hope you have a chance to read Wanderers by Chuck Wendig. It’s about time Uncle Stevie had some competition :)"

Oh yeah! Looking forward to getting to the Wanderers. Tailor made for this reader. Thanks Tammy! Competition is good! It might even stir some new creative juices for Stevie!


message 20: by John (new) - rated it 4 stars

John Culuris Jeffrey wrote: "The Stand has a large cast, and most readers will have a favorite character."

Intriguing thought. I, personally, don’t always have a favorite when presented with an ensemble. Sometimes I do. Regarding the The Stand, I experienced the opposite. I hated Larry Underwood. And yet his trip through the Lincoln Tunnel is tied for the scariest scene I’ve ever read. The other is the fire at the Black Spot in It. I always found it interesting that in both scenes, the real horror had nothing to do with the supernatural.


Jeffrey Keeten John wrote: "Jeffrey wrote: "The Stand has a large cast, and most readers will have a favorite character."

Intriguing thought. I, personally, don’t always have a favorite when presented with an ensemble. Somet..."


That Lincoln Tunnel journey will linger with me for a long time. Larry was presented with all his thorns revealed, probably more so than any of the other characters. I didn't like him, but I didn't hate him. He may have very well grown into a useful human being with time. The horror is more horrifying when it is something tangible, something we could see ourselves experiencing.


message 22: by Hello (new)

Hello I love you for being my first friend : )


Jeffrey Keeten Thanks Book Worm! 🐛


Jeffrey Keeten Awesome Brittany!


back to top