Book – The Stand

Author – Stephen King

Year – 1978 (updated in 1990)

Pages – 1421

Genre – Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy

Imagine a world where a virus sweeps the entire globe. Where the governments are proven to not be up to the task of protecting the people. Where millions die. Seems absolutely unbelievable, right? Thank goodness for fiction then.

The Stand is one of my favourite books. I think that this is my third time reading it. But it just seemed so specifically appropriate to the current pandemic, that I decided this would be the time to give it another read. The book tells of a virus created in a lab that breaks out and quite horribly kills the vast majority of the people who catch it. The US government tries to call for calm, but it doesn’t take long until most of civilization has been killed off, and only those who are naturally immune remain.

The book is fascinating on the post-apocalyptic front, but there is also a supernatural fantasy element to it as well. Those who remain are drawn towards one of two forces – Mother Abagail, a hundred year old woman, and Randall Flagg, a part demon madman. They are fully representational of the ‘forces of good and evil’, and those who remain in America find themselves travelling to one or the other. The story is told by following certain characters on both sides, and they are interesting and well developed – Nick who can’t speak and Tom who can’t read form an interesting duo, Larry who is self-centred and uncaring but who must suddenly start to help other people, Fran who carries a baby conceived before the virus took hold. The way that all of the stories come together, and the well crafted world are brilliant to read. I particularly enjoy the chapters that King spends picking up on brief one or two paragraph stories of individual characters unrelated to the plot and what happened to them as the virus swept the world. These little stories – some funny, some tragic – really add a depth to the world he has built. They were an addition in the 1990 version I do believe (one that also updates many of the cultural references which is an interesting thing you do not see too often).

I have only read a couple of Stephen King books but have generally enjoyed them. Unfortunately, most of his work is horror, which just leaves me somewhat cold. This one I would definitely recommend you check out – if you have a spare few months…