The Stand is without a doubt one of my favorite SK books. I think it was the first one I read; either that or It. I remember I bought them at the same time, and I think my dad told me to read The Stand first, because he thought it was less scary. I was only twelve or thirteen at the time, so I could see how that would be a concern.
Anyway, I just recently acquired a new copy of The Stand; back in high school I lent my copy to a friend, and never got it back. I’d been meaning to buy a new copy forever, and when I got a Barnes & Noble gift card for Christmas, I figured it was time.
The Stand is a magnificently woven tale of the American survivors of a superflu epidemic that decimates the country. With a 99.4% communicability rate and an even-closer-to-100% mortality rate, the survivors are few and far between. As the last of the afflicted die, the survivors begin having vivid dreams—some are drawn to an elderly black woman known as Mother Abigail who sits on her porch and sings hymns, who eventually leads them to Boulder, Colorado; others are drawn to Las Vegas, Nevada, where a dark man waits to build his empire. Each society views the other as a threat to its own survival. In this post-apocalyptic battle of good and evil, who will prevail?
One of the coolest things about The Stand for me (and you’ll probably notice this as a theme among my favorite books) is the way the point of view constantly changes from person to person, and how there are many different storylines all going on at the same time. Many of the books like this that I enjoy eventually knit most if not all of those plots together; The Stand does this, to some extent, but not completely. For example, Lloyd Henried, a petty criminal who ends up as the dark man’s right-hand man in Las Vegas, never once interacts with Stu Redman or Larry Underwood, who are drawn to Mother Abigail and, eventually, to Boulder. Some storylines, like Trashcan Man’s, are kept almost completely separate from everyone else’s (even though he does end up in Las Vegas and has passing interaction with some of the residents there). It can be difficult to keep all the narratives straight in your head (somehow I always mixed up Lloyd and Larry, even though they’re nothing alike), but it’s so cool to watch them all play out.
I’m also just drawn, for whatever reason, to the post-apocalyptic/dystopian genre. It’s really fun (and really frightening, at times) to contemplate what the world will be like in the future, whether decimated by some superflu virus like in The Stand, a burned wasteland like in The Road, or a freaky society where everyone’s role is determined before they’re born, like in Brave New World. The Stand is actually probably what got me into that genre in the first place, because it’s the first post-apocalyptic novel that I remember reading; up until I started reading Stephen King, it was all Babysitters’ Club and V. C. Andrews for me. So thanks, SK, for starting a decade-long-and-counting obsession with what might have been—and what still could be!
I would not hesitate to say that The Stand is truly a masterpiece. With an incredibly diverse and well-drawn cast of characters, skillfully interwoven plots, and good helpings of action, love, suspense, and horror, The Stand is what every novel should be. It hasn’t quite edged out It as my favorite SK novel, but it’s up there for sure, and I’d still give it an emphatic A+.