The Stand by Stephen King is a post apocalypse horror/ science fiction epic novel originally published in 1978 which was a good 825 pages and further, an uncut version was released in 1990 which had a thick tome and amounted to a eye popping 1325 pages.
The Stand was (and still is) a huge commercial success and is celebrated as Stephen King’s Magnum Opus amongst his fans. Somehow, due to its huge commercial results, it is hyped as one of the best apocalypse novels ever for example, BBC Big Read Poll, which was a public vote poll to find UK’s favourite novels,placed the novel on No. 53 shockingly above ‘Anna Karenina’ and ‘A Suitable Boy’.
It starts off with a massive influenza breakout called ‘Captain Trips’ from a U.S. Army Base killing off 99.4 percent of the world’s population, a handful of leftovers are left on Planet Earth to choose sides and be chosen to suit their or someone else’s purpose.
First of all, with a strictly universal point of view i.e. judging without a personal bias, one can clearly discern a rare talent of commercial tale twisting and storytelling craft, in this apocalyptic thriller.
The first part of the work is filled with brutal and horrifying death scenes creating a void in the rich American landscape, King describes a world full of people from all walks of life affected by the massive destruction.As the novel progresses, King takes a bunch of characters and puts them through turmoil and despair – physical, emotional and moral. The characters consist of not only humans but animals- dogs and werewolves turning to East or West, God or Devil, Puritan and charlatans for support and empowerment.
In a nutshell, the novel is not a great piece of art but a great entertaining piece of storytelling, almost devoid of any commentary, religious analysis or any thematic relevance.
The characters will stick to the audiences memory and will prove to be unforgettable for many and the major characters are Stu Redman, Larry Underwood, Nick, Tom Cullen, Fran Goldsmith, Ralph, Nadine, Harold Lauder, Mother Abagail, The Dark Man and the heroic dog Kojak.
Both sides i.e. Team Abigail and Team Randall Flagg father people, power, resources and support in order to rebuild and restore the world which functions according to their pursuits and faiths.
I wouldn’t disclose which side will conquer the world and the oppositional forces but it is, prima facie, a battle of Good vs. Evil.
King depicts the decline of Unites States of American in a thrilling manner, as the roads get piled up by multitude of vehicles of sorts, marauders, thieves, and rapists hunting for their target, super markets and shops filled with stocks of food and resources to be used till everything diminishes.
So the two sides are confronted with an inevitable question: How to create order in this world? How to rebuild this hell hole and create a paradise out of this hell hole?
This compels the characters to work day and night on their plans to restore order and balance in this world whilst saving and protecting themselves and their dear ones from the people of the opposition.
The novel is not flawless by any terms, in fact there are several unnecessary moments that are added to the novel such as the character of The Kid which I felt didn’t justify its existence, and as always in a Stephen King novel, there are several inconsistencies and self indulgent plotting and characterisations such as Trashcan Man, and The Kid.
The downside for me is the prose by Stephen King which is just there to describe his imagination rather than providing layers or dimensions to his imagination and is almost devoid of creativity, beauty, intensity, and literary reasoning which is disappointing for me especially after reading great contemporary authors.
All in all, I can say that with utmost conviction, thriller fans and commercial literature lovers will find this book to be their favourite and unforgettable but for my part, The Stand pales in comparison to the great apocalypse novel ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy.