This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death. And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides — or are chosen.Goodreads
The Stand was a reread for me as part of the Apocalypse Book Club sj and I started on Facebook. The first time I read it (seven years ago) was during flu season. This time I read it during a pandemic. I loved it both times.
If you haven’t read The Stand, the story goes that a government laboratory on a military base accidentally lets loose a biological weapon they’ve been working on. The weapon is a super flu that only, maybe, 1% of the population is immune to. It spreads extremely quickly and kills everyone else.
So that happens.
The rest of the book is about the survivors of Captain Trips (one of the many nicknames given to the virus), and how they end up divided between two communities — the one run by Mother Abigail (Good), or the one run by Randall Flagg, a.k.a. The Man in Black (Evil). And of course there’s a fight between Christianity’s ideas of Good and Evil.
It’s Stephen King, so it’s horrific. It’s Stephen King, so it’s also full of great psychology and internal moments. I have said this before and I’ll say it again (probably more than once), but the main reason I think SK’s books don’t translate well to the screen is because some of the most horrific things that happen to his characters happen inside their minds. SK is so good about getting into people’s heads and writing about the stuff that goes on in there that most of us would never talk about. And that psychological/internal aspect cannot be dealt with well in films.
Randall Flagg is probably my favorite baddie of all time. He is featured in many of SK’s novels in one form or another (my favorite being his character in the Dark Tower series). He’s just downright evil. And maybe a little attractive sometimes? Heh.
My favorite character in The Stand, though, is Tom Cullen, of course. He’s delightful. His cognitive issues don’t stop him from being insightful and wise, maybe more so than any of the other characters in the book. I just love him.
A book like The Stand terrifies me for the germ/virus aspect alone, but I thoroughly enjoy it every time I read it. I love the characters, I love the epic journey aspect, and I love the horror bits. I’m not so much into the Christianity parts of it, but they really don’t detract from my enjoyment of the rest of the book.
Recommended for all fans of horror and Stephen King (although, if you’re a fan of Stephen King and haven’t read The Stand…why the heck not?).
Have you been reading more post-apocalyptic fiction or virus-based fiction during the pandemic, or is it just me?