Now, all caught up? Here we go!
The Stand was originally published in 1978. The extended and uncut version released in 1990. I don’t think you can even purchase the original version anymore, unless you find a copy on ebay or someplace like that. I thought about this for months; whether to read the original or the extended, (which adds another 500 pages at least). I couldn’t find either edition in any of the five libraries in my area and I wondered whether to buy a hard copy or to download it to my Kindle. The only copy I could find in bookstores was a short, fat paperback copy. (I can’t do that size). And the hardback copy like the image I posted in Part One was like $50.00. Uh, no thank you. So I took the advice of another book blogger that I read regularly, Katie at Word for Worms, (you can read her review there), and downloaded it to my Kindle. Because, a.) $8.99 is better than $50.00, and b.) That huge hardback would have caused some serious “hand crampage”. (Katie’s words, and oh so true.) Mr. King gives his own extensive letter to the reader in the introduction. He addresses the reader both before and after purchase explaining why the original was extended in the first place. It’s all the same story he wrote originally, only now it includes the 500+ pages that hit the editing room floor, with a few updated cultural references. The publishers cut it in 1978 because they thought it was too long. I get that. I spent three months reading this one.
On with the review.
This book was EPIC! And I mean epic in the correct use of the word. It was long, massive, sprawling and intricate. It encompassed vast amounts of territory. There was a large cast of characters. There were heroes, villains, crazy people, a God-type woman and the Devil’s own henchman. There were fabulous quotes, fun connections to LOST and literary references to boot! It was chock full of emotion and action and good and evil. I waded through the deep muck of foul language and sexual content to find the prize. It was a brilliant story.
Here’s basically what happens… A chemical germ that was stored on a military base in California is accidentally released. The guy who realizes what happened escapes like a mad man in an effort to gather up his family on base and drive as far away from it as he can. Unfortunately, he just carries that luggage with him and by the time he and his wife and baby reach Texas, mom and baby are dead, he is pretty much dead himself and he has shared the germ all along the way. This virus they call Captain Trips or the Super Flu, basically wipes out 99.9% of the human population and most of the animals too. Actually, it killed mostly the domestic animals and left the wild ones for the survivors to enjoy.
Now, Mr. King could have just written about what I have just told you and then moved on with the story, but he actually gives you the play by play on how the disease travelled. Who shook hands with who, who coughed on who, who touched who’s glass…you get the picture. I was so impressed with all the detail. It was a little dark, a little sad and disheartening, but it was fascinating.
King did a phenomenal job on the characters. I felt like I knew them all! Having a large cast gives you the opportunity to showcase humanity in all its glory. The good, the bad and the ugly all came out to play in this book. It was a great reminder of the depravity of man and the process of personal redemption that so many of us long for.
Let me introduce you to some of the core characters:
**Stu Redman – (Gary Senise plays him in the TV mini-series so that’s how I visualize him). He’s the hero. He’s pretty unassuming but he’s smart and brave. Two things you need to be in an apocalypse.
** Frannie – College student. Accidentally pregnant, boyfriend doesn’t survive the Super Flu. Has to bury her beloved father in the aftermath and you kinda love her by that time. And she wonders all along if her baby will be immune to the flu once it is born.
** Larry Underwood – This guy just recorded a hit song and is about to make it big in the music business when the Super Flu hits. He’s a partier and a mooch. He knows this about himself and is determined to do better in his second chance at life. And he does.
** Glen Bateman – He’s a retired teacher/philosopher. He has studied humanity and its implications on society for years so his understanding of how man responds in crisis gives some comfort to the survivors.
** Nick Andros – A young guy, 19-20ish. He is profoundly deaf and mute. He doesn’t really have a home or family. He is abused regularly because of his disability but he is a smart fella.
** Tom Cullen – Tom is a mentally disabled man. He is probably in his thirties but he has the mentality of a young child. Nick meets Tom on his journey and takes him under his wing. When Tom finally understands that Nick can’t hear, he begins to trust him and they make a great team.
There are lots more.
As different groups of survivors band together they begin to have dreams. Their dreams are similar. They see a dark man, he’s tall and wears faded jeans and worn out cowboy boots. He’s scary and cold and has supernatural powers. They also dream about Mother Abigail. She is an African American woman who is 108 years old. **(LOST reference!! They were on the island 108 days!)**(Excuse me for that). Anyway, Mother Abigail is good. She is basically the God figure. She is not God, she is His servant, but she is the one the dreamers see and long to find. She brings comfort in their dark dreams.The Dark Man sets up camp in Las Vegas and Mother Abigail sets up camp in Colorado. The survivors begin to travel to one of those two places. They choose for themselves which direction they go. There may have been a few with the Dark Man who had no real choice in the matter, but they would have been those likely to choose him anyway.
I won’t retell the whole story; you can see where things are heading. There is conflict between the two camps. After one of my favorite characters dies in an explosion, Stu, Larry, Glen and Ralph are sent by Mother Abigail over to Las Vegas. You want them to go over there and kick butt but all you really know is that they are going to confront the Dark Man. Mother Abigail doesn’t know what they are to do when they get over there, she is just relaying information that God gave her. She gives them instructions to go on foot and to take no food provisions. She lets them know that one of them won’t make it but it is not for her or them to know which one. (Yikes!)
This is when it gets so good!
Stu, Larry, Glen and Ralph set out on their journey. As prophesied, three of them make it to Vegas and one is trapped in a ravine with a busted leg. (Stu!! The hero!! Oh My Gosh!!!) There was no getting him out and the others had to keep moving. When the three had to leave the one it just about broke my heart! They knew it was their final good bye and that leaving him would mean leaving him to die. He was courageous, insisting that they move on and he even joked that maybe the ravens would come and feed him. Turns out, their dog, one of the few domesticated animals that survived the flu, came back to him and fed him. YA’LL IT WAS SO BEAUTIFUL!! I hate to spoil the story but that was just the BEST PART! That dog fetched food for him and fetched wood to make a fire! I’m not kidding!! He helped him in every way he could. Man’s best friend was totally living up to his name!
Over time, Tom Cullen, the mentally disabled man, finds Stu down in the ravine and helps him out. Then they begin a very long, Lord of the Rings- Return of the King-like trek all the way home. (If you read LOTR, then you know what I mean.) It was slow moving with a broken leg and tons of snow and all kinds of cars around you but like, no gas or whatever they needed to make a car go. (The flu left millions of cars all over the place, along with dead drivers and passengers, but by this time, engines were stalled or out of gas or otherwise incapacitated). It took the Colorado foursome about three weeks to walk out west heading to Vegas and it took Stu and Tom three or four months to walk back home cause, you know, avalanches and a broken leg complicate things. But thank goodness there are abandoned drugstores for meds and hotels to sleep in all along the way. They even had a touching little Christmas celebration. Their journey was sooo long. I was so ready for it to end.
I appreciate that the ending was unrushed though, there were a lot of loose ends to tie up. There no longer was a Vegas crowd to worry about, they were blown to smithereens by a crazy pyromaniac while Stu was still stuck in the ravine. Some of the good guys died over there. That was sad but it was a victory. Once back in Colorado there were decisions to make and newborn babies to care for and a broken leg to set. The end of the book was really about beginning again, and trying their best to let a couple hundred years to pass before they allow history to repeat itself. Stu and Frannie decide to branch out on their own to raise their family. There is no way I would have done that. I wanna live near the doctor. But to each his own. They were happy.
Here’s hoping it all works out for them.
Next up, the third and final part of this review. I’ll be listing my favorite quotes, LOST connections and a list of literary references. Maybe you’ve read some of the books that received a nod in The Stand.
See you then.