“The Stand” by Stephen King

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.

Genre:

Horror

Pubbed:

1978

Quick summary:

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)

My thoughts:

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

It sucks.

Buy | Borrow | Bypass

Don’t waste your time. Go read The Shining or something else.

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33 thoughts on ““The Stand” by Stephen King

  1. Pingback: 2019 Reading Wrap-Up: First Quarter | Zezee with Books

  2. I just ran across your blog, and will be reading your journey through King with great interest! I LOVE King, and many consider this book his masterpiece… but not me. I feel you, though I would say that the abridged version is MUCH better. I looks like, from reading these comments, you got the much longer, much more meandering version.

    KING, THOSE WORDS WERE CUT FOR A REASON! Ha ha. Interesting too that you couldn’t tell what year it was set — in the “newer” version King updated the year, but I also thought it wasn’t done exactly across-the-board.

    Anyway, this was great. Keep reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yea, I thought I would miss something important if I read the abridged version. But that was a bad decision. I should have read it instead of the unabridged. Oh how I disliked this book. It just went on and on and on.

      Lol! True that.
      Oh ok. Yea, it was hard to pin down the year. I recall that days were mentioned and how many weeks had gone by, but I don’t recall reading a date. I guess the pop culture references he included would help, but I’m not familiar with them to be able to use them as indicators for the year.

      🙂 Glad you liked it and read it. Thanks for visiting!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow – a 1300 page book, and you felt like it was still beginning at 500 pages?? That’s impressive you persisted so long. I’ve also looked up the ending for a couple books to see if it was worth continuing and both times I felt the same way you did: relieved I’d given up 🙂

    I’ve enjoyed a lot of movies based on King’s books, but the only ones I’ve read are Carrie and The Gunslinger. I expected to love the Gunslinger because it’s fantasy, but maybe it isn’t my sort of fantasy because it didn’t grab me. I’m tempted to try The Shining at some point though, since you say it’s a favourite!

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    • In those cases, it is good to spoil yourself and be done with it.

      I’d like to try the Gunslinger as well, though I’m not sure if I’ll get to it. I’m trying to read his books in publications order and so far I’m doing 1 per year. My plan was to speed up some but the Stand really slowed me down.
      The Shining is worth the read. I’d be interested in seeing what you think of it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah I didn’t realise it was one per year – that might take a while to get to it then. Cool idea though to read them in publication order. Also on the plus side with Gunslinger it’s very short so even if you get to it and it’s not your thing it’s not a long read, so won’t slow you down.
        I’ll let you know what I think if I read the Shining!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for your honest review (: and please, for the love of everything wholly, don’t stop on Stephen King, I’ve recently finished my 15th novel of his that I’ve read “The Eyes of the Dragon.” And was get again pleased by what he was able to accomplish in literature. If you enjoyed the shining, as I did, I would recommend reading Doctor Sleep ASAP, I recognize you want to read it in numeric order by publication date, but why limit yourself? Right? Anyway thanks for the review (;

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lol! I don’t intend to stop. My plan was to read the Dead Zone next because it was published after the Stand, but your comment above about Doctor Sleep got me wavering. Was tempted to jump into that one right after the Shining, but was still stuck on my “read in pub order” idea. I still am, but I’d like to know what follows the end of the Shining.
      Thanks for reading my review! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Really appreciate your review on this one. I want to get to it one day but I have a love hate relationship with King. I love a lot of his ideas but I feel like he sometimes flounders in the execution. He’s not great at endings (Insomnia is a favorite but man that book jumps the shark at a certain point, the beginning was amazing though!). He’s also prone to over description. I don’t need to know what every leaf on every tree looks like.

    Anyway, I do still want to get to this one but King can really be hit or miss with things for me lol.

    Like

  6. Haha I totally see where you’re coming from. I’ve read this three times, I think and there’s so much going on that I know I forget a lot. I enjoy it for the characters, but after they settle in CO, the story settles too. I have mixed feelings about king7 and I find his female charas I’ve encountered can be pretty lacking. He’s awful at endings too. This one is lame and the one for the Dark Tower series made me so mad I still don’t want to read his work again yet.

    Like

    • That settling was annoying to me because it took such a long time for the story to really get going.
      Agree about the female characters. In the books I’ve read so far, they often are an annoyance in some way to the male protag. The exception I guess is Carrie who gets pissed and rains terror on her town. But I think the females are often portrayed as emotional and irrational. Hopefully this changes in the books I haven’t yet read.
      Lol! Peeps keep telling me his endings suck. The buildup is usually really good though. It just didn’t work for me here.

      Like

  7. I loved King’s early work, but then he got much too wordy! Who has time for that? But I do keep up with his short stories like Everything’s Eventual, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams and and Full Dark, No Stars.

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  8. After reading initially of your disappointment on Goodreads, I was going to ask here if you had other experiences with King…but you already answered that. I’m glad. I loved The Stand, my one and only read of King…but after reading your comments I’ll probably try The Shining next.

    Like

    • The Stand does have some good bits to it. I think I probably would have liked it, or at least appreciate it in some way, if I’d read the abridged version. The wordiness in this one did not work for me.
      I think you’ll love The Shining (hopefully 🙂 ). Such a good read.

      Like

  9. I’m wondering if you read the rerelease where King added to the original page count? I read the original edition which had been edited down, and I remember loving it. Sorry this was tough going for you.

    Like

    • That edited one is the version I should have read, but I thought I’d miss out on something essential so I got the unabridged version (the rerelease you mentioned). I think that’s why I didn’t like it because I read through all the crap that was probably cut from the version you read. I think I’d still have issue with some elements of the story, like Mother Abigail, but I wouldn’t have disliked it as much as I do now.

      Like

    • Friggin crazy long and took FOREVER to really get going. My fault was reading the unabridged version though, so I think that’s why I disliked it. Most everyone who has read it liked it and probably read the shortened version.

      Like

  10. It’s unfortunate that you had a different experience with ‘The Stand’, because I loved it! It took me a couple weeks to read it, but got it done. I enjoyed Nick Andros too!

    Like

    • Nick was my fav and I like how his character develops which is why I was pissed to learn that he doesn’t survive. 😦
      I think I’d have liked it too if I had read the edited version.

      Like

  11. I expected more from this one too, but I did enjoy it more than you did. I also made the mistake of reading the uncut version that they came out with a few years ago, which was even longer believe it or not. Let’s just say all the cuts and edits were probably the right call, King has serious issues with word bloat when there’s no one reigning him in.

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    • Lol serious issues indeed! I think reading the uncut version is the major reason why I didn’t like it. I probably wouldn’t be so pissed if I read the edited version though I would still have issue with certain elements.
      I haven’t given up on him though, so the Dead Zone is next.

      Like

  12. Can’t say I agree with it sucking. Really enjoyed it, myself. To be fair, King has a habit of writing terrible endings. There’s a few I could mention (but won’t so as not to spoil them).

    I did like Tom Cullen’s line about when he meets Nick in Heaven. ‘Perhaps Tom Cullen will be able to think and Nick will be able to speak.’ Or something like that.

    I listened to the audio book. Grover Gardner’s narration brought it to life. Tbh, I’m listening to all of the King books rather than reading 😂

    Like

    • Yea, a couple fans have told me that about his endings. Lol! Yea, please don’t spoil them. I didn’t like this book, but I haven’t given up on him yet. The next of his books I’ll pick up is the Dead Zone. I think it’s the novel that was published after the Stand — am trying to read them in publication order.

      I didn’t come across that line by the time I gave up reading, but that’s sweet. I did think it interesting how Tom changes when hypnotized and wanted to know how that would play out but unfortunately my patience gave out before then.

      Lol! Might as well listen. That’s an easier way to deal with the wordiness.

      Liked by 1 person

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