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Review of The Stand

The StandThe Stand by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Looking through the other reviews, I see I am not the only one to read this book while battling a lengthy and severe illness. In my case, I caught a nasty cold/flu while driving across the country and was flat on my back with the shakes in  a hotel room for days. Not a good time to listen to the symptoms of "Captain Trip's." I think it's the length of the book that makes people put it off until there is absolutely nothing else to do. Afterall, when you're home sick, how many episodes of Law & Order can you watch before you just want to jump out the window?

Okay, to the matter at hand. The strength of this book is also, in many ways, its weakness. Stephen King is masterful at creating a sense of time and place and the people who inhabit it—both major and periphery characters. You really feel like you know these people and you can feel the desolation of a near-empty world. But all that description and those digressions... it can be tedious. I listened to the audio version of the unabridged 1990 edition, and all together it is 48 hours long. That is a lot of material. I can imagine the narrator, Grover Gardner, took a lot of time finishing this book.

Since this book was written in the 70s, one of the most striking things to me were the backward anachronisms. The story took place in 1990, but at the time he first wrote it, Stephen King did not have the benefit of seeing into the future. So the slang, the technology, and certainly the way white people (in general) spoke about black people were all pure 70s, and in some ways it took me out of the story. But that is no fault of his.

I was left very confused by Randall Flagg. I know he appears in other King works, so maybe some questions were answered later, but I was left very unsatisfied. *POSSIBLE SPOILERS* What is he? Why was he left so impotent in the face of the free-zone resistence? Did he serve a "higher power" as Mother Abigail did? And why go to all that trouble with Nadine only to throw her off the roof? What kind of creature would devote an entire lifetime to grooming a virgin just to toss her off a roof now that he'd knocked her up? If you're immortal, why need a son at all? Little things like that bugged me. But I loved the rest of the characters, especially Fran.

This book is definitely worth the time it takes to read, and I highly recommend it to anyone. It has elements for any reader: apolcalyptic, scifi, supernatural, drama, religious, adventure. Just, for the love of god, try not to read the first half when you're sick with the flu.

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