Mel Campbell's Reviews > The Stand

The Stand by Stephen King
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Jun 14, 2014

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, zombies-and-pandemics, americana, blockbusters, read-in-2014

This is regularly hailed as Stephen King's masterpiece – an epic post-apocalyptic battle between good and evil. King has always been interested in Manichean ideas of good and evil, as well as the idea that goodness and evil inheres in particular places, objects and people. He's so good on the textures of everyday Americana, the sometimes suffocating politics of smalltown life, and the ways in which people are shaped by their childhoods. And on all that, he's in fine form here.

There's also something admirable about the sheer scale of this story. So many characters; so many intersecting story arcs. I read the 1990 'author's cut' edition rather than the earlier, shorter version. But now I'm kind of wishing I had read the earlier one. It just seems too large and unwieldy.

Don't get me wrong; I enjoyed The Stand a lot, and found myself gripped by it for hours, unable to really drag myself back to my work (which suffered greatly during the 13 days it took me to read). It's also hard to say where the 'fat' might be that should have been trimmed away, because when you sacrifice that you somehow diminish the sense of all-encompassing portentousness that King is aiming for.

For me though, the middle of the book – the bit describing the governance of the Free Zone in Boulder – really sagged for me. I always enjoy the zombie/pandemic social dissolution arc, so I enjoyed the slow buildup of the book, and I liked the survivalist bits where the characters had to forage and have their wits about them to survive. In general, the book is at its best when its characters are moving towards something rather than in stasis.

It's odd, too, that I began to buy into King's mysticism as the characters did: the atmosphere of miracles and signs and omens and faith that slowly, almost imperceptibly, crowds out rationalism as a guiding philosophy. During the time I was reading this book, I also began to listen to my own intuition more generally in my everyday life, rather than ignoring it as we are trained to do.

But I do have to say I prefer a leaner, more compact story. My favourite King novel is still The Shining , which is the story of one family, in one building, at one time, and yet manages to be more terrifying and emotionally resonant. I was never scared by The Stand in the way I was by The Shining.

I also feel I have to note that Harold Lauder is such a prototypical fedora. It felt uncannily prescient watching his sexual humiliation sour into homicidal rage, given that the recent Isla Vista killing spree focused public attention on the figure of the vengeful nerd.
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Reading Progress

June 11, 2014 – Started Reading
June 14, 2014 – Shelved as: blockbusters
June 14, 2014 – Shelved as: americana
June 14, 2014 – Shelved
June 14, 2014 – Shelved as: zombies-and-pandemics
June 14, 2014 – Shelved as: fiction
June 23, 2014 – Finished Reading
June 24, 2014 – Shelved as: read-in-2014

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Tim (new)

Tim Howard Have you seen the terrible mini-series? I watched 3/4 of it after reading the book last year. (The third part was so bad I couldn't face the fourth.) Harold is played by Corin Nemec as basically one of Homer Simpson's college nerd friends as psycho.


message 2: by Mel (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mel Campbell I didn't know there was a terrible miniseries but after the severe disappointment of the 'IT' miniseries I don't think I can face it. GARY SINISE AS STU REDMAN. MOLLY RINGWALD AS FRANNIE GOLDSMITH. ROB LOWE AS NICK ANDROS.


message 3: by Tim (new)

Tim Howard The Stand miniseries was made by serial King adapter Mick Garris, who among other things made Sleepwalkers and the King-approved tv version of The Shining.


message 4: by Mel (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mel Campbell OKAY I JUST WATCHED IT AND BLOGGED ABOUT IT. It wasn't as terrible as I was led to believe, but it was pretty stodgy and the acting was fairly uniformly wooden.


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