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Stephen King may not be the best remedy for insomnia... I think the only one of his novels I had previously read was Hearts in Atlantis, which I very much enjoyed. The Stand drew me in but I am not sure if I really enjoyed it. The story starts off as a gripping disaster narrative, as most of humanity gets wiped out by a flu virus (developed, of course, by the US military) and the few survivors begin to cluster together. Then we take a turn to the fantastic, as everyone begins to dream about an old black woman in Nebraska and a sinister white man in Las Vegas, who represent the forces of good and evil. I must say I found this set-up rather unsatisfactory in terms of world-building; the means and motivation of both sides remained rather unclear, with both the evil white dude and the nice black lady (who is incidentally almost the only person of colour in a very large cast of characters, apart from some stereotyped tribesmen at the very end) able to call on supernatural powers, which in turn fail them inexplicably at moments convenient to the forward movement of the plot. The struggle of the good guys against the bad guys made for thrilling reading, but the payoff is that the bad guys lose due to their own internal division, and the efforts of the good guys actually had nothing to do with the outcome, so all that struggle as pretty pointless in anything other than character-building terms. The version I got is the expanded 1100-page edition, but I suspect I would have been just as happy with the 900-page original. Good for long plane flights and the subsequent jetlag.

Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
seawasp
Feb. 25th, 2009 03:22 am (UTC)
The Stand is one of King's books that I consider a failed masterpiece. It COULD have been something great and damn near was, but then Blllaaaaaahhhhhhhhh there goes the ending, LITERAL Deus Ex Machina which makes all the efforts of the characters irrelevant, etc.

(The other King book in that category is IT, which has some tremendously brilliant imagery in it and creative concepts well woven together, shattered by some lame moments when we should be doing a climax, and by a particularly noisome attempt to be edgy which just comes out pedophiliac creepy.)
andrewducker
Feb. 25th, 2009 09:59 am (UTC)
Yeah, I adore IT, but I know exactly which scene you're thinking of...
applez
Feb. 25th, 2009 02:53 pm (UTC)
Now, now ... nobody does creepy pedo like Piers Anthony (shudder)
scbutler
Feb. 25th, 2009 03:34 am (UTC)
That's about the same reaction I had to the book (I read the short version when it came out). I was also a little irritated by King's rampant lifting of ERB in the scene where the hero goes through the Holland (Lincoln?) Tunnel to get out of New York. I'm more forgiving of that now, and understand it as tribute, but it did bug me at the time.
frumiousb
Feb. 25th, 2009 06:02 am (UTC)
I haven't read this book in years, although I loved it as a teenager.
altariel
Feb. 25th, 2009 08:00 am (UTC)
Damn, I love The Stand. "And the righteous and the unrighteous alike were consumed by that holy fire." The scene where they sing the national anthem also shamelessly tugs my heart strings.
nwhyte
Feb. 25th, 2009 03:07 pm (UTC)
"And the righteous and the unrighteous alike were consumed by that holy fire."

Well, yeah, but the righteous didn't actually need to be there. That bothered me.

The scene where they sing the national anthem also shamelessly tugs my heart strings.

Agreed - indeed the whole narrative of people getting their act together post-apocalypse works very well. And that particular scene, of course, is a bit reminiscent of the "Marseillaise" scene in Casablanca!!!!
altariel
Feb. 25th, 2009 04:13 pm (UTC)
Well, yeah, but the righteous didn't actually need to be there. That bothered me.

My reading is that if the righteous hadn't been there, then there wouldn't have been a stand taken - which is the sacrifice that the Old Testament god of the book requires for his intervention on behalf of the righteous (pace your earlier commenter, I think the deus ex machina is the logical ending of the book). I don't personally like the worldview, by any means, but I do think the OT god is meant to be an active participant in the world of The Stand. (IIRC, King does something similar in Desperation.)

the whole narrative of people getting their act together post-apocalypse works very well

I love all of that. Glen Bateman is a Great Sociologist of Literature. Oh, I just remembered one of my other favourite bits, which is the dream of rabbits had by Kojak/Big Steve. King has these moments of brilliant, moving lyricism. Wish he was edited more, and more tightly!

BTW, I am partway through The Rising of the Moon and thoroughly enjoying it, despite many and obvious flaws! The heroine has the same name as my older sister, which provides an extra level of entertainment (in fact, three of my five siblings have been namechecked so far). Thank you for sending it (from the postmark, from Belgium, so extra thanks for that).
bopeepsheep
Feb. 25th, 2009 10:12 am (UTC)
AFAIK The Stand gave me/the English language the very useful phrase "monster shouters", for which I am grateful!

I suspect that you might have enjoyed reading the shorter version first - the expanded is bloated in places, and although some of the additions are worth it, it wasn't a bad book without them. It does seem a little unfulfilled, and the climax definitely could have been better constructed, but then the book would have been 1400 pages long...

FWIW, Flagg (evil white dude) turns up elsewhere in King - he likes intertextuality a lot. If you plan to read more, look for a reading guide, as you'll appreciate some of the references more if you encounter them in the right order. :D
applez
Feb. 25th, 2009 02:51 pm (UTC)
Or just read The Dark Tower series and accept that it introduces the whole lot, and one needn't bother with the details of how and where and what.
bopeepsheep
Feb. 25th, 2009 02:59 pm (UTC)
Well, I didn't just mean Flagg (who also appears in Hearts... which nwhyte has already read), but all the intertextual stuff - the Castle Rock and Derry links, for instance.
applez
Feb. 25th, 2009 02:51 pm (UTC)
the means and motivation of both sides remained rather unclear, with both the evil white dude and the nice black lady (who is incidentally almost the only person of colour in a very large cast of characters, apart from some stereotyped tribesmen at the very end) able to call on supernatural powers, which in turn fail them inexplicably at moments convenient to the forward movement of the plot.

Of course, you describe 95% of Stephen King's literature with this. ;-)
nwhyte
Feb. 25th, 2009 03:08 pm (UTC)
What, including the tribesmen at the end of the book?????
raycun
Feb. 25th, 2009 04:21 pm (UTC)
as bopeepsheep says, there are a lot of intertextual links - Castle Rock, Derry, Flagg, random wandering mobs of stereotyped tribesmen, Bangor...
doyle_sb4
Feb. 25th, 2009 06:34 pm (UTC)
I thought the book was compelling but I hated the ending, both for the heroes' lack of agency (couldn't Nadine have lived and, I don't know, redeemed herself by psychically directed the Trash-Can Man, rather than him returning to blow up the baddies at the last minute purely by act of God/lucky coincidence? It'd be nice for her to have something to do other than be graphically raped and impregnated and commit suicide all without uttering a word, especially given the dearth of women in the last quarter of the book) and because there's a massive Chekov's Gun that never goes off: Tom's hypnotic command to kill anyone he finds alone is flagged up so heavily but nothing comes of it when he finds Stuart alone in the desert, not even a moment when Stuart's frightened for his safety.
nwhyte
Feb. 26th, 2009 09:51 am (UTC)
Thanks for pointing out the Chekov's Gun! I had spotted it at the time and then forgotten about it, but it was subconsciously nagging me.
pgmcc
Feb. 25th, 2009 07:41 pm (UTC)
The version I got is the expanded 1100-page edition, but I suspect I would have been just as happy with the 900-page original.

I felt the same. It did not encourage me to read any further Stephen King books.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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