The Stand

I started reading Stephen King’s The Stand just before Christmas, and finished it at the weekend.

“The end of the world as we know it” is very fashionable just at the minute. Over Christmas, we had the Day of the Triffids on television, and Survivors is just starting up again. In the cinema we had 2012, and we’ve now got The Road and The book of Eli arriving. I don’t know whether this has been caused by environmental concerns, swine flu, or the global recession, but there’s certainly a lot of it about.

So how was The Stand? Well, Stephen King is well known as a master of horror, and so I guess I was expecting this to be gruesome. But the story is a bit more subtle than that. The first third of the book tells the story of the plague, and the tales of the individual survivors. While it didn’t give me bad dreams, it is unsettling, especially in the context of this year’s swine flu. The second part of the book is the story of how the groups come together and form a community. What I found most interesting here was the character of Mother Abigail, and the fact their dreams led the survivors to an old Christian lady. I somehow can’t imagine that being the case in a more contemporary book, and I found her to be a beautifully written character. The final section is then the climax of the story, when the communities of good and evil collide. And there’s lots to like here too. I hope it’s not giving too much away to say that good triumphs over evil not by resorting to evil themselves, but because evil defeats itself. And yet at the end, there is no definitive happy ending – the human race has survived, but what will the society that they build ultimately look like, and will they just create the same problems all over again?

This is a big book, but it’s a real page-turner that’s very easy to get into, and not a difficult read. It’s a little dated now, not surprisingly since it was first published in 1978, but I thought it was a good book, that deserves its reputation as a classic.


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