Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Perhaps those 400 pages were cut for a reason...

The Stand
Stephen King

I have finally finished The Stand!! WooHoo! I originally wanted to finish it by the end of January but I am extremely pleased to be only a week behind that date. This review definitely has SPOILERS - you have been warned!


First of all, this was my first encounter with Stephen King. I typically associate him with super-scary movies that I have never, and do not intend to ever, watch....just thinking about some of them makes my skin crawl. But, after several PBT members talked about how much they enjoyed this book and that it was not scary I decided to pick it up...and ultimately, I'm glad I did. What would happen if a superflu bio-agent swept the country and results in the death of 99% of the population? What would people do? Where would they go? How would society be rebuilt? According to Mr. King, society would fracture into good v. evil, each headed by a theological icon and societal organization varying drastically between the two.

I really liked the concept of The Stand - I like the premise of a bio-agent wiping out most of civilization in a very Revelations-type manner, the challenges King presented were extremely interesting and included many aspects I would have never even considered, and I absolutely loved the symbolism that was artfully worked in surrounding the themes of good v. evil, light v. dark, free-societies v. oppressed-societies, Saviour v. Devil.

I found most of the characters to be too simplistic - most of them seemed to be 100% good or 100% bad but my favorite characters ended up being the ones who were mostly good but struggled with human emotions and selfish thoughts. Against all odds, Larry Underwood was hands down my favorite character; he was amazingly complicated, exhibited the most personal growth, and ended up being one of the few real heroes of this story.

What I didn't like about the characters was how there was so many of them! Eventually, the story pared down to a handful of main characters but even then I was still keeping track of like a dozen of them. Also, King was a little over the top with the details and descriptions. I appreciate a good descriptive story but he went a little too far in some places while in other places he barely gave any descriptions at all! I think that for the middle 1/3 or so of the book, he got the pacing about right.

I'm giving The Stand 3 stars but that is definitely an average - some places I couldn't put the book down and would breeze through 100 pages in no time...definitely 5 star material. Other times the story was so painfully slow that I was actually choosing to do WORK over read....definitely 1 to 2 star material. In the end though, I greatly enjoyed the story and am choosing to permanently block some of the more painful parts! I may even give King another try - I still think Under the Dome looks good - but not this year!

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