A horror novel in which a faceless laboratory creature claims humanity as slaves or victims.
The Stand is like that. You either love it or hate it, but you can't ignore it. Stephen King's most popular book, according to polls of his fans, is an end-of-the-world scenario: a rapidly mutating flu virus is accidentally released from a U.S. military facility and wipes out 99 and 44/100 percent of the world's population, thus setting the stage for an apocalyptic confrontation between Good and Evil.
"I love to burn things up," King says. "It's the werewolf in me, I guess.... The Stand was particularly fulfilling, because there I got a chance to scrub the whole human race, and man, it was fun! ... Much of the compulsive, driven feeling I had while I worked on The Stand came from the vicarious thrill of imagining an entire entrenched social order destroyed in one stroke."
There is much to admire in The Stand: the vivid thumbnail sketches with which King populates a whole landscape with dozens of believable characters; the deep sense of nostalgia for things left behind; the way it subverts our sense of reality by showing us a world we find familiar, then flipping it over to reveal the darkness underneath. Anyone who wants to know, or claims to know, the heart of the American experience needs to read this book. --Fiona Webster
So what's wrong with this picture? Nothing wrong with the first part, the description of the end of civilization after disease strikes is very well rendered. The second part is perhaps too long: it also seems to contain King's political views (the good guys are virtually anarchist-libertarians, the bad guys are essentially fascists). Again, that's not necessary bad. The third part is just too short, and badly put together. The good guys manage to reach the evil city after hundreds of pages of scene-setting and then everything's over in the blink of an eye. The bad guy, Randall Flagg, had potential, but somehow failed to come together. King is always telling us that he can do this or that (give you prostrate cancer, or a head-ache, or a VD) just by looking at you, but as an evil presence he doesn't even approach the Overlook Hotel. I would have liked to have seen greater degeneration in the evil city. It comes across just as a place which is unusually orderly and well-functioning, but were people are scared. That's also a good description of Singapore, and I don't see that city as a terrible place to live. While I'm not Stephen King, I can easily imagine new dark rituals taking place in Las Vegas, awful, pre-Columbian monsters coming to life in the desert to guard the Eastern marches of the Devil's Kingdom, and a horrible damnation coming to all creation. Just reading about life in Nazi-occupied Ukraine is more terrifying, and it actually happened. Instead of this we get a smiling guy with a third eye who can levitate a couple of inches above the ground. Instead of devilish hordes of demi-humans (such as Lovecraft would have provided) we have just ordinary human beings who actually do nothing too terrible. Instead of a memorable clash between good and evil we get Civics 101 (including the Burial Committee and the Lampost Checking Squad). And although there are a few references to countries other than the USA, they are perfunctory. If we're dealing with cosmic evil, it should at least be global. I thought this was supposed to be "a tale of ultimate horror", like the sub-title says.
It's not that none of the characters are likeable. Some of them are OK. Harold Lauder is not bad, although he should have done more things to show he was brilliant. We are always told he is, but he doesn't show us. Texan Stu is OK and Larry the musician is actually pretty good. Nasty slut Julie is actually excellent, really repulsive and quite real. Mother Abagail is OK, but she dies too quickly and doesn't give us enough fireworks: what use is being God's chosen if one can't even smite some hellspawn or call down the fire from the heavens? Even Moses had his serpent staff. Flagg begins well, but then he honors his name and flags down to just vaguely threatening. Since when does the devil need to negotiate everything with his followers? Since 1962 Marvels Comics we've known that the bad guy needs to be much stronger than the good guys in order for suspense to build up. As the end aproaches, Flagg looks actually weaker than the good guys and the end was, to me, very disappointing,
The book is actually three stories. The first one, the end of the world, is pretty good. The second one, living after the plague is not bad, but full of padding. The third one, the confrontation between light and darkness, is a let-down. I'm not exactly sorry I read the book, but I would probably not have done so if I had read this review before. There's just too many good books around.