Saturday, November 22, 2014

Review of The Stand by Stephen King

I’ve just spent the last three months reading The Stand Uncut and I want Stephen King to know that I forgive him.

I took up "The Stand" for two reasons. First, I like the stuff King wrote in the 1970s and second, the novel is widely believed to be his best book.

"The Stand" is an apocalyptic novel that quickly turns into a post-apocalyptic novel when the world dies off from a very bad cold. Only a few hundred survive, or at least those are the ones who make an appearance, however brief, in the novel. You have your standard good guys (and gals) and bad guys (and gals) once the world has ended. A few trade sides. A woman gets pregnant. A ragtag government is formed. This was the first decade of king’s novels and way back then he was smart enough to keep his political beliefs out of his text unlike now, which he does in such an overhanded way. That is one bright point in The Stand. And so it goes . . . on and on and on until somewhere around page 600 (or was it 800?), we meet the really bad guy—Randal Flagg. Before that we meet the bad guy’s underling—Trashcan Man. Yes, that’s right, he has the nickname of a Sesame Street character, only not as artful. Then you get to experience the hundreds of paid-placement mentions of products throughout the nearly 1200 pages of pop horror. One gets the feeling that King was told by his agent back then that he was publishing too much, so he just kept writing The Stand until the coast cleared and he could publish again. There you have it in a nutshell.

“But wait,” you say, “there has to be more. What about the huge post-apocalyptic standoff between good and evil? Why else would it have been named ‘The Stand’?” Why do we have people in the world named Moon Unit Zappa? Who really knows?
I am sad to say there never is a battle of the good survivors and the bad ones. I kept waiting and waiting. Instead, around page 1000 King decides he should start wrapping it up. So the bad people get what they deserve and the good people mostly live.

If it is well-done horror you are after, you will get much more in a single episode of The Walking Dead. Pick any episode you want. If it’s a tight, well-written story you are after, pick a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. Pick any story you want.

And if you want a much better King novel, try "Misery" or "Carrie." 

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