Continuing on my ambitious goal to read all of Stephen King’s novels in publication order, I picked up The Stand expecting it to be as gripping as the previous two King books I’d read.
The Stand would be my fourth King novel and since the story and writing seems to get better with each book I read, I expected The Stand to trump The Shining and possibly become another of my favorites. But that didn’t happen. I was quickly let down and gave up on the book a couple hundred pages shy of its end.
It’s the early 1990s or late 1980s (couldn’t tell). A machine malfunctions and a weaponized strain of influenza is unleashed on the world starting on America’s west coast. Patient zero (he’s not called that in the book) travels to a small town in Texas crashing into a gas station with his dead wife and kid in the car. The guys at the gas station try to save him, but he dies and infects them all while doing so. The government moves in and shuts down the town hoping to stopper the spread of the virus and find out why some people aren’t infected.
Fast forward a couple days (which doesn’t actually happen in the book; feels like we plod through each day). About 99% of the population died from the virus. The remaining 1% are plagued by bad dreams of a horrible man in black. Sometimes they find solace in dreams of a Black centenarian woman sitting on her porch called Mother Abigail. Some seek the man in black (they are the bad peeps) and others try to find Mother Abigail (they are the good peeps, mostly). The two groups build communities and prepare for the day they’ll have to confront each other. (Goodreads)
In case you missed it in my introduction, I did not finish this book. It has about 1,300 pages (some crazy shit like that) and, despite the size, I was gung-ho to read it all. I was excited for the challenge, but the story turned out to be a mess that I had no patience for, so I gave up at about page 960. I was close to the end. I considered continuing to push through but saw no reason to continue torturing myself.
I didn’t like Carrie (love the movie adaptations), ‘Salem’s Lot was entertaining, and The Shining is one of my favorite novels. With that trend, I thought The Stand would be great, especially since it’s received such high praises from readers. I’d seen the mini-series on TV many times as a kid but had forgotten all that happens, so reading this book was like encountering the story for the first time. Unfortunately, it was not a positive experience.
I was intrigued by the beginning. I like disease-apocalypse-type stories and I wondered how that plot point would develop and why exactly this story required over 1,000 pages to be told. — Oh, and let me state right here that it’s partly all my fault that I don’t like the story because I got all extra and decided to read the fucking unabridged version. I’m not doing that again with a King book.
Anyway, I was curious at the beginning and didn’t mind at first that we’re given different character perspectives to follow, but when I got to page 500 and realized the story didn’t feel like it had taken off yet, as if it’s stuck at the beginning because whenever a new character is introduced the story felt as if it’s starting all fucking over again, I got annoyed.
I was 500 pages in. I was at a point where normal books end and still the damn story felt like a long beginning. I wanted to stop, but I decided to push on instead. Maybe King would surprise me in a page or two and get me hooked on the story and make me love it as much as all who gush about it. But that didn’t happen. My interest perked up, yes, especially in those moments when characters battled with their fear of common things that is exacerbated by their current extraordinary situation: when Larry battled his fears brought on by his aloneness or his fear of the dark when he tries to make it through Lincoln Tunnel. I’ve travelled through that tunnel many times and I doubt I would have been able to make it through if I was in the same situation. King does fear good in his stories, and the moments when characters face and consider them were the best parts of this story.
I continued past the 500-page mark because I wanted to meet the Mother Abigail character and learn more about her. I forgot when exactly the reader meets her, but I recall that it’s when I got in the 800 pages that the story felt like it’s going somewhere, as if it’s finally moved past the beginning. Maybe it’s around then that we start to learn about Mother Abigail.
But I didn’t like her. She’s appealing as a positive force for the good guys to rally around and I was curious about her because of how she affects the other characters, but again King gives us a caricature for a Black character — the “Magic Negro” ready to serve and save all the White people. I rolled my eyes at Mother Abigail.
For a good bit of the book, I thought there were no other Black people in it. I was thinking to myself, an apocalypse happens in America and the only Black person who survives is an old God-fearing Black woman who’s supposed to lead all the White people to the Promised Land or die for their sins or some shit. But then I remembered that in the chaos following the spread of the virus, some Black men were mentioned. I’d forgotten about them. They were crazed soldiers who were massacring people on TV while butt naked or some stupid shit….no wonder I forgot about them. I don’t want to remember that.
Speaking of which, I wondered why certain parts of this story was included. What purpose did they serve? The one that readily comes to mind is the road trip Trashcan Man took with the Kid. The Kid is one of the worst characters in the story and I’m not just saying that because the Kid is a horrible person. He’s a ridiculous character and I did not see the point of him.
Then the story got to Colorado and some of the characters I liked lost my favor or disappeared from the story. I’m thinking of Fran, who I’d started to like, but when she got to the Colorado community, she became a different and kind of annoying. I liked her better when she was all bad-ass chick on a bike with a gun who’ll protect her baby but can take care of herself. (Grr motherfuckers!) And also Tom Cullen, who I liked but kinda disappears from the story once the characters arrive in Colorado.
I grew frustrated and impatient. There are few female characters in the story and they’re all either irrational and totally needs some dude to take care of them, or they are Nadine, who “must remain pure” and is threatened to remain so but can totally take it up the ass (rolls eyes). I think it was around that point that I decided to stop reading. I decided instead to just look up the Wiki for the story and spoil myself on the ending. And you know what I found out?
THE ENDING SUCKS! I’m so damn glad I didn’t bother to struggle all the way to it because what a let down! First, none of the characters I like survives. Nick Andros, at least, should have lived, but no. I read that and felt disappointed. Then I read about how the face off (which I knew was coming) between the good and bad people is resolved and got pissed off. I was like, “I know this ‘hand of God’ thing this article is talking about is NOT what I think it is!” What a let down! What a lame ass way to end. Over 1,300 pages for the “hand of God” to manifest and solve it all? What? No man. I’m not for that divine intervention bullshit at that point.
No, no. This one sucks.
Overall: ★☆☆☆☆ ½
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
Don’t waste your time. Go read The Shining or something else.