Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Review: The Stand by Stephen King

I did it! I finished my first Stephen King without putting it in the freezer (like Joey on Friends) or out in the hall at night (like my friend Doc) so that I could sleep at night. (Although, I don't think I would do either because it was on my wonderful Kindle!) This review has been a long time in coming, and I have to say that I'm really proud of myself for diving into a genre and author that had previously scared me a little. Before I go much farther, let me give a brief synopsis of this nearly 1200 page novel. :)

Synopsis: Imagine a pandemic. Imagine the worst flu ever. (No, we're not talking about the swine flu!) Now imagine what you would do if everyone around you were dying, and you somehow managed to live through it all. Would you flock to whatever human being you could find, regardless of how weird, strange, or aberrant they had been or were? In brief, The Stand tackles a global pandemic and considers what we would do as humans, what kind of a society we might form, and how we would survive. Now add onto that a Stephen King-esque twist, a psychological twist that has everyone dreaming the same dark dream of an evil man. Who is he, and how can they get the horrid dreams to stop?!? Now you're headed into a completely different, more sinister world created by King, all for your consideration.

Review: Other than having said that I've never read a Stephen King novel before, I have to add to this story. I had a student this year that couldn't pull a passing grade to save his life, yet never really tried to either. He would sit in his desk with a book, blocking out the world, and never bring a paper to class, nor turn one back in! Here's my story can you not LOVE a kid that reads nonstop? He would pack in a different novel every couple of days, tough guy that he was, and regardless of any ribbing he got from his buddies, he kept on reading and loving it. I struck up a conversation with him during announcements, and I really knew this kid was a gem! Yes, he had troubles, but he was also one of the brightest, most astute kids I've seen. I quickly found though that we read completely different genres! He loved sci/fi, fantasy, thrillers, mysteries, and horror. While I love historical, classical, romance, chick lit., ethnic lit., etc. OPPOSITES. Okay, I wax long in my story. I had this student write me a list of suggestions, so that I could try to get out of my comfort zone, and this was one at the top of his list. After getting my lovely kindle, I ordered it for really cheap, and off I went! Can't wait to tell him I've finished.

With that back story behind me then, I'll say that I really did genuinely enjoy reading The Stand. It was creepy, but it was never so creepy that I felt like some Satan-like creature would jump out of my closet, or that I would wake with bad dreams. (Not like when I finished The Cement Garden and readily went in search of a Disney-esqu film to calm my troubled soul!) In fact, I found the storyline one that I had to bring up with people all the time, hoping that I could find someone to discuss the book with me! The story moves around a lot, has a lot of characters to follow, and is broken into parts or sections. I did have moments where I thought it was dragging along, but realize that in order to bring all the characters together, King had to develop the story. Although reading about a pandemic in the middle of our recent media frenzy over the swine flu made it ineresting, I also was really intrigued by the entire process for hospitals, government, etc. in treating the sick and eventually disposing of the dead. In fact, what would you do if your mother and father died, and you couldn't find a soul alive to help you with the bodies? Could you dig a grave and bury them yourself? Just one of a MILLION "what would you do" scenarios presented in the novel. I don't know if King would call it a "psychological" thriller, but I know I did. Overall, I thought the story and characters were well developed and believable. As a work, it was engaging and felt fresh, so I give my student kudos for recommending it to me, King for coming up with this interesting twist on a pandemic, and myself for finishing it!

If you're nervous about King, and don't mind a really long novel, then The Stand: Expanded Edition: For the First Time Complete and Uncut (Signet) would be the one to tackle!

***This is also my first Kindle, e-book read for the e-book Reader Challenge!


  1. The Stand was also my first Stephen King. I really liked it too, but I'm still nervous about the other Stephen King books! I love your story about the kid that recommended it to you. Cool.

  2. Becky, I am so glad you tackled The Stand. It is not only my favorite King book, but it is in my Top 10 personal best books of all times. The sheer brilliance of King as a writer is shown to best advantage in this book. I loved the mixture of pure-horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and psychological thriller.

    I am not what I would call a "King fan" but I have read most of his work, especially the older stuff. Horror does not interest me in general, but King is so amazing a writer that he is hard to resist. It is his incredible gift at storytelling and describing that makes his books so terrifying! And that is why I stopped at Pet Cemetery long ago because it was just too real!

    You may be interested to know, as I am sure your young friend can tell you, that Randall Flagg shows up in several of King's books. He wears different names, but is the devil figure in many of the scenarios. The Gunslinger series revolves around him and is also brilliant, if quite long winded in places.

    Good luck on expanding your genres! Any recommendations in the fantasy realm, just ask me. :)

  3. What a great story!! I'm curious . . . what did the student say when you told him you finished?

    I am a huge King fan, though I have not yet read all of his work, particularly his newer stuff. If you are looking for other great stores, I would definitely recommend checking out some of his short stories (e.g., Four Past Midnight) or The Green Mile or for a more fantasy version, The Eyes of the Dragon. These do not have a lot of "horror" within them!

    Just to piggy back off of Sharon's comment . . . Randall Flagg does show up in many of King's novels, often in a different disguises; however, The Dark Tower series (in which The Gunslinger is the first in the series) is the catalyst for the character. King considers that his life work and many of his other stories revolve around it. In fact, if you read much of his other work, there is many connections among his other pieces. It's actually pretty cool and VERY brilliant!

    Now to close, since I can talk forever about King . . . I think King is one of the best authors when it comes to character development. He is truly that master of character in my opinion (not just horror)!! Holler at me on Twitter or via email if you want to chat more!! :)