The Stand by Stephen King

Reviewed by Lisa

When “The Stand” was first published in 1978, it was considerably shorter – about 400 pages shorter. This was because the publishers didn’t think the market would bear a longer, more expensive book. I read that version, and enjoyed it. However, in 1990, it was republished with the original material restored. Since that time I’ve read the book many times and think this is a great time for you to pick it up, either for the first time or once again.

The story begins when a secret military installation, which is testing biological weapons, suffers a fatal accident. One of the soldiers guarding the facility realizes what has happened and escapes, taking his wife and child and fleeing the coming catastrophe. He has, however, already been exposed to the deadly virus, and proceeds to pass it to others in a fictional small town in Texas. What follows is the rapid spread of this incredibly communicable, incredibly deadly virus throughout the country and the world. As people die, and society collapses, the small number of those immune to the virus coalesce around two individuals representing the forces of good and evil. This leads inevitably to a confrontation between the two. Spoiler Alert – the good guys win, but at great cost.

Our current reality seems somewhat familiar as we fight Covid 19, but reassuringly minor compared to the virus in “The Stand.” I do recommend the longer version of the book, because I think the added material helps with character development, as well as enhancing the feeling of familiarity in the novel. In this, I am referring to Stephen King’s talent for throwing in small details that, while they may not be directly relevant to the plot, strike a chord with readers. For example, as he describes Larry Underwood’s mother’s kitchen, one of the details is that she has a Table Talk pie tin on the back of her sink for her Brillo pad. Those of us of a certain age recognize these brand names and can use the imagery to bolster our mental images of the story.

For those of you who think of Stephen King as a writer of horror fiction, I would say this book is a little different from his bread-and-butter work. It’s an end-of-the-world, good-against-evil morality tale. It does, of course, bear the typical hallmarks of any of Stephen King’s work – violent, often graphic scenes. This book is not for the faint of heart, but is well worth the effort.

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