1970s Thriller

The Stand by Stephen King

The Stand

Five words from the blurb: plague, death, dreams, Apocalypse, grows

I had never read any Stephen King (I was too scared), but then Sandy persuaded me that I’d be OK with this one, despite the apocalyptic premise. She was right, but I’m afraid I read this about 15 years too late. I think I’d have loved The Stand if I’d read it in my early twenties, whilst going through a Crichton binge, but my reading tastes have changed since then and I found it lacked the depth I crave today.

The Stand started really well, with a wonderfully tense scene involving a man escaping from a secret government facility after an accident released a deadly strain of the flu virus. Unfortunately this man carried the virus with him and it spread quickly, wiping out almost everyone in America. 

I loved the first 60 pages of this book, but after that it began to get repetitive. Too many characters were introduced and I didn’t enjoy reading about every one of them dying. There was a frustrating inevitability to it all so after about 400 pages I began skimming through the chapters. The same problem was repeated with the nightmares and so I decided to give up and read the wikipedia summary!

There were many great passages and the writing quality was higher than I expected it to be. 

Glen was both amazed and heartened by their willingness to talk, and by the charged atmosphere of excitement that had taken over the dull blankness with which they had begun the meeting. A large catharsis, long overdue, was going on, and he was also reminded of sex talk, but in a different way. They talk like people, he thought, who have kept the huddled up secrets of there guilts and inadequacies to themselves for a long time, only to discover that these things,when verbalized, were only life sized after all. When the inner terror sowed in sleep was finally harvested in this marathon public discussion, the terror became more manageable…perhaps even conquerable.

There was a wonderful 400 page book trapped in this 1700 page epic and I think I’d have loved The Stand if it had focused on just two or three people. The drama was spread too thinly for me as it took several hundred pages to get to the next interesting plot point. As a younger person I’d have had the patience to enjoy this flabby, meandering plot, but I’m afraid that I’ve read too many books that have dealt with the subject in a more powerful way – not many books can stand up to comparison to Blindness by José Saramago

It’s a shame that my first King read wasn’t more positive, but I’m glad I’ve now experienced his writing. 


Do you think I’ll have better luck with any of his other books or are they all similar in style?


12 replies on “The Stand by Stephen King”

The Stand is definitely not the book I would have suggested for your first experience! It’s one that he is known for, but certainly not reflective of his other work!

If you don’t want too scary, I recommend some of his newer books like 11/22/63 or Mr. Mercedes.

Jenn, It is good to know that this isn’t reflective of his other work. Hopefully I’ll read and love one of his other books in the future. 11/22/63 appeals so I may try that next. Thanks for the recommendations!

I felt much the same way. The novel could have made a really wonderful 400-500 page book if King had focused on only a handful of characters. The crisscrossing of America was just to much for me.

I haven’t picked up any of his other books because everyone I talked to said ‘The Stand’ is his best novel. (I also don’t like scary novels, which I’ve heard his other ones are.)

Christina, It’s good to know I’m not alone in my thoughts on this one. I’ll let you know if I enjoy any of his other books (don’t worry – I’m staying away from scary too!)

I liked The Stand, but I read it as a teenager so I don’t know if I’d like it as much now. Being from Maine, it’s pretty much a requirement to like Stephen King, and I read all his books growing up. But as an adult, I’ve continued to appreciate him, and despite his popularity I think his writing skill is underrated. I agree that 11/22/63 is a great one to try (and not scary!) I also recommend his nonfiction book, On Writing, even if you’re not a writer yourself.

threegoodrats, It seemed to be required reading at my school too (and I was in England!) I wish I had read him along with all my teenage friends, but I was too scared! I’ll add 11/22/63 to my list and read it at some point.

Yeah I read this as an 8th grader, and didn’t really have the sense to know when something was overwritten. King does tend to do that in some of his books, and I’ve become tolerant of it just because I love him. I do believe that 11/22/63 is one of his best. It is thought-provoking but not scary in the classical sense. Just good storytelling.

This was my first King (just a few years ago) and as I continue to read more of his works this one continues to fall down the list of my favorites. IT is absolutely amazing on audio…but it’s scary. I echo the others–try 11/22/63. It’s my favorite by him (and a favorite book period) that focuses on fewer characters who don’t die after you become attached to them. Still quite long, but I’m convinced King doesn’t care about editing out the junk. 😉

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