V.'s Reviews > The Stand

The Stand by Stephen King
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bookshelves: read-reviewed-2012

Very readable (for the most part), but very long. I wish I had read the original, shorter version to be honest.

The book starts pre-plague with numerous characters living their lives, some good, some bad, until people around them start getting the sniffles. This section is huge. Many characters, many details of their lives. The problem is they all end up the same (people coughing and sneezing around them, then dropping dead).

It’s well written, and by showing you their normal lives we get a good idea of the kind of person they are, but it gets tedious. The specifics of their pre-plague lives don’t play any part in their post-plague lives, they’re purely there to give an indication of the personality of the character. Once I realised that (pretty early on) I skimmed through most of this stuff. Quite frankly if I had to read about one more character sneezing and coughing and going on about the summer flu I would have gone over to Flaggs team.

The introduction of a supernatural element, good vs bad, while typical for a King book, tended to take away the character’s ability for self-determination. Mystical characters were able to know stuff magically, and then at other times not know. It felt quite arbitrary, which is the nature of God, but not so great in narrative fiction.

Personally, I like King’s writing, I think it’s very readable, but too long and utterly devoid of good endings. All his books feel that way to me (It's a psychic alien spider!). He also writes in the ‘the characters tell me what to do’ style and it shows. Often something completely left-field happens that seems to take him as much by surprise as us. Occasionally it works, but often it feels random and unsatisfying.

The ending here is literally a Deus ex machina, with God reaching down and intervening. Makes the whole things seem a bit pointless. It is more allegory than story, and while it has the epic feel of a Greek drama, it also has the drawbacks (contrivance and melodrama).

I was curious to find out why this book was considered King’s crowning achievement and I’m still none the wiser. The idea of Good and Evil each having their soldiers to face-off against each other was fine, but they were no more than helpless puppets by the end, doing what they were told by cosmic agencies. Not satisfying at all.

Enjoyable but overblown and meandering, I have no doubt it is intentionally vague about the reasons and motivations for some of the more supernatural characters, but the tone of varied characters adrift on the seas of fate ended up felling less like Greek drama and more like Greek soap opera.
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message 1: by Beverly (new) - added it

Beverly Diehl Appreciate your honesty here. So many people treat King as if he can write no wrong, but I've always struggled to read his work. For me, too, it's always been, it's well written and very readable, BUT ultimately unsatisfying.


message 2: by V. (new) - rated it 3 stars

V. I do think he's a good writer and you find yourself drawn in and reading late into the night, the way a good book is meant to, but always truly awful endings. Dead Zone is probably the only one that felt satisfying to me.


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