On 2nd January I joined up to the Stephen King (SK) reading challenge and to date, I’ve read eleven of his books. That’s just a few of the over 50 books that SK has written; some under the pen name Richard Bachman and some in collaboration with Peter Straub.
- The Stand - finished 23 March 2011
- The Green Mile - finished 28 March 2011
- It - finished 29 April 2011
- Desperation - finished 8 May 2011
- Bag of Bones - finished 10 May 2011
- Cell - finished 19 May 2011
- On Writing (non-fiction) - finished 27 May 2011
- Carrie - finished 3 June 2011
- The Gunslinger – finished 15 July 2011
- The Dead Zone – finished 20 July 2011
- Insomnia – finished 25 July 2011
I first came across SK when I was a teenager and picked up Carrie in my local book store – it was a revelation and I was hooked. I remember seeing the movie Carrie when it came out – and while the film plot is quite close to the book, the ending is very different (no spoilers here). I think my all time favourite SK book is The Stand and that’s the book I started the challenge with.
Title: The Stand
Author: Stephen King
Original Publication Date: 1978
Revised & Uncut Publication: 1990
Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks (31 May 2007)
This book is HUGE – both in number of pages and scope of story. For the challenge I read the revised edition which I bought when it was re-published. It’s the first time I’ve read it since then. And the story is as good as I remember. In the revised edition SK has restored some text, added and revised sections, changed the setting to 1990 (was originally 1980), and updated a few cultural references. But it’s basically the same story.
Prologue - The Circle OpensAdded for the new addition – expanded details of the virus release from the lab.
Book 1 – Captain Trips: June 16th 1990 – July 4th 1990A man-made virus, a super-flue code name “Project Blue”, but nicknamed “Captain Trips” is accidentally released. This section details the spread of the disease, how society is unable to deal with a virus that is 99.4% fatal, leading to the ultimate breakdown of society. We are introduced to the survivors – Larry Underwood, Stu Redman, Frannie Goldsmith, Nick Andros, Tom Cullen, Ralph Steadman, Harold Lauder, Nadine Cross, Lloyd Henreid, Trashcan Man, Randall Flag, – to name a few.
Book 2 – On the Border: 5th July 1990 – 6th September 1990In the first book some of the survivors start to dream about “Mother Abigail”, while others dream of “The Dark Man”. Book two tells how these groups are drawn either to Nebraska and Mother Abigail, or to Las Vegas and Randall Flagg. We read how society evolves in each group – with a democracy in Nebraska and a tyranny in Las Vegas. There’s a lot going on in this section and I’m not giving away spoilers. But there are people in Nebraska dreaming of Flagg and wanting to be there. There are bombs, betrayals, loss and spies are sent to Las Vegas.
Book 3 – The Stand: 7th September 1990 – 10th January 1991The final act of the story is the “stand” of good against evil. The two groups are now aware of each other and recognise the other as a threat to survival. But it’s not an all out war.
Mother Abigail’s last instruction is to send Stu, Larry, Ralph and Glen to Las Vegas – they must walk there, and only one will return. It’s the story of belief in a higher power and they put their trust in that. I’m not giving many details here - it’s too good a story to spoil. Ultimately, Las Vegas is destroyed and we return to the Group in Nebraska. Babies are being born – some conceived before the super-flu, and we find out if they live.
In the original book, a question is asked about whether the human race ever learn anything and the answer, the final line is “I don’t know”. However, in the revised edition SK an epilogue.
Epilogue – The Circle ClosesA man wakes on a beach, he has no idea how he got there, he’s confused, he walks towards a jungle, he sees people with spears pointing towards him, and then he smiles. The spears drop – he tries to communicate, but the people are “simple, unlettered”. He says “My name is Russell Faraday” – and he has a mission.
When I first read The Stand, I found the ending unsatisfactory. In the revised edition, the “reincarnation” of Flagg as Faraday is a much darker ending – suggesting that the good vs evil goes on. It is my favourite SK book and I highly recommend it.
That's all for now. Further reviews of SK's books will follow. Enjoy!!