book-review_-the-standStephen King

There’s always a choice. That’s God’s way, always will be. Your will is still free. Do as you will. There’s no set of leg-irons on you. But… this is what God wants of you.

The old Chevy came out of the Texas dusk at near walking speed, a Pandora’s box of nightmare and death. Up ahead the lights of Bill Hapscomb’s Texaco station glimmered…the box was about to be opened…the dance of death about to begin. But the survivors of the dance have learned to fear something much worse than death because the dark man is on his way. He is known as Randy Flagg, the Walkin Dude, the man with no face. He is a drifter with a hundred different names; he is the magic man; he is the living image of Satan, his hour come round again. He has summoned the weak and corrupted to his side, and the rest have been warned: Sooner or later you will have to do battle for your lives and more than your lives. Sooner or later you will have to make your stand.

This book. This book was the one that tested my metle in my quest to read as much Stephen King as I possibly could. It was the summer of 1990, between my Sophomore and Junior year in High School. This particular special edition of The Stand was just released, boasting a complete and uncut manuscript of the original, adding pages and even going so far as updating some pop culture references to make it more relevant for the ten years or so after its original publication. I didn’t wait for the mass market paperback edition; I purchased the hardcover release, and dug right into this over-one thousand page tome chronicling King’s epic post-apocalyptic tale of good versus evil after a bio-engineered virus wipes out 99% or so of the world’s population.

And in the months that followed, I read the thing. I waded through the story involving the end of civilization as we know it, and those survivors who were immune to the nasty Captain Trips virus banding together, for good or for evil. Those siding with good found their way to Mother Abigail, a centenarian living on a farm in Nebraska (home state shout-out!). Those who cast their lot with evil, though, found their way to Randal Flagg in Las Vegas. Eventually, these two groups will come together in a final battle between good and evil, with players whose motivations aren’t necessarily as black and white is that. The whole thing ends in a bang. Literally.

This book was originally published in an edited version, because the publisher didn’t think any novel would be a big seller if it was over 1000 pages. So, King did the editing requested. Then, a few years later, he released It, which is a novel that was published that’s over 1000 pages, and a massive best seller. I’m guessing that’s what allowed for the re-release with the missing pages reinserted.

Let me tell you, when I say this book was epic, I don’t use it lightly. And not just from the length, either. The story starts with the devastation of human civilization, but then it continues from there, a journey that unfolds from many vantage points. A journey with a touch of the supernatural, mind you; and maybe more than just one retroactive tie-in to the wide-spanning Dark Tower universe, which is a much more epic journey tale itself.

Anyway, I made it through in less than six months. Right on Christmas Day, 1990, as a matter of fact. Reading The Stand was something of a milestone for me, as a young and budding book geek. Also, it’s a fantastic post-modern fantasy of good versus evil that needs to be read by everybody.