The Stand

By: Stephen King

One man can end civilization as we know it. One man and a lot of bad luck. 

Charles Campion believes he’s lucky to have escaped the biological testing facility he was stationed at when the outbreak occurred. What he doesn’t know is that he is carrying a highly infectious and deadly mutation of the flu that will wipe out 99% of the world’s population in a matter of weeks. 

In the wake of the destruction, the immune survivors are left to pick up the pieces of society and try to find one another in a now empty world. From those survivors, two leaders will emerge-Mother Abagail, the benevolent 108-year-old woman who beckons travelers in their sleep; and Randall Flagg, the “Dark Man” who delights in death, violence, and destruction. Each will amass a dedicated following and each with seek the destruction of the other in a bloody and terrible feud. 

Allow me to state the obvious so I can just get it out of the way. I chose to reach a book about a flu that decimates 99% of the world’s population while I’m trapped inside my apartment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Okay? Okay. Glad I established that. You may be thinking, much like my family and friends did when I told them I was reading The Stand during this uncertain time, that my choice was in poor taste. After all, wouldn’t a book about a super-flu make the real pandemic seem that much worse? My answer to that is a simple but firm no. If anything, The Stand had the opposite effect. When you spend 1439 pages with characters that watched all of their family and friends die in the worse ways possible, that trama really puts things into perspective. COVID-19 doesn’t seem that terrifying in comparison. 

Speaking of 1439 pages, I believe this is the longest novel I have ever read. Oddly enough, the complete and uncut edition of this book is 400 pages more than the original printing. The original publication of The Stand probably made IT Stephen King’s longest work. However, King felt that those added 400 pages made the difference between a compelling story where you knew every facet of the characters and a subpar narrative. Given I never read the original publication, I can’t say whether the material he added was truly “necessary,” but I will say that I didn’t feel that any section of the book should have been left out. Yes, the story is long. I had to set a goal for myself to finish it within the month of May to make sure I didn’t just set the book down one day and never pick it up again, but I thought the read was worth it. I’m glad that I finally understand the references, and I’m glad that I know who Randall Flagg is. I will fear no evil.

Stephen King is not shy when he expresses doubt about the existence of God in his personal life which is why I find this long novel about a struggle between God and the Devil so interesting. The Stand came off very strongly to me as a book completely founded on faith and a belief in a higher power with a purpose and plan, not the writing of a cynic or skeptic. I guess that just goes to show that King is a talented wordsmith because he can bring stories to life that even he finds improbable. 

Overall rating: 4.5 stars

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