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M-O-O-N, that Spells 1,500 Page Novel

Stephen King's The Stand is flawed in many ways... and yet it's still a masterpiece somehow.

 Oh man, the original cover just SCREAMS "Epic!" to me, even though it makes no sense in context of what actually happens in the book. Maybe it's figurative?

Oh man, the original cover just SCREAMS "Epic!" to me, even though it makes no sense in context of what actually happens in the book. Maybe it's figurative?

The Stand. A book so thick you could drop it on a gopher and it would crush their skull.

Long as hell, but it doesn't feel that long (most of the time). A lot of that is owed to King's writing style; easy-to-read without being stupid. His use of language is the epitome of clarity. When I read him, I rarely find myself rereading the same paragraph or sentence in a desperate bid to discern meaning.

The Stand is an epic in every sense of the word. It's apocalyptic and fantastical and there are dozens of characters and it's about a deadly struggle between good and evil, filled to the brim with religious allegory.

Sidebar: though nonreligious myself, I found I didn't mind the religious nature of this book. It wasn't trying to force some sort of christian agenda, it's just that christian imagery works really, really well in telling such a grand narrative.

The flaws of The Stand cannot be ignored, some of which are a product it simply having been written in the eighties. For instance, King has trouble writing non-white people in a way that comes across as more than a little problematic. Just get to the section about the "Black Junta" and will you see what I mean.

There are also a lot of diversions in this book. Yes, they provide excellent flavoring to the world and work to deepen the characters, but there were times when I'd finish a chapter and go - that was well written, but was that really necessary? Things sure take their time getting into place, which the diversions only distract from. I frequently wondered "Where is this going?" not because I was riveted by suspense, but because I had trouble discerning the main thread of the story. I think the whole saga in Boulder could've been about a hundred pages shorter - I got the hint about the dangers of politicking after the first council meeting, just hurry up and get to the game-changing event, please.

And yet. Oh, and yet.

When this book kicks off, it kicks off hard. King painstakingly takes you through the apocalypse, making you live the catastrophic death toll of Captain Trips in a way that really impresses the scale of what it would mean to lose 99+% of America's population in the span of a week. The final quest in the last third of the book had me gripped by my puny throat, so much so that it was several hours past my bedtime before I could tear myself away. There's a lot of fluff in the book, but the climactic moments make it all totally worth it.

Then there's Randal Flagg. One of the greatest villains in fiction. There's so much deliciousness in the evil he perpetrates throughout the book. I will never forget the chapter he was introduced: a chapter-long character introduction that so well conveys just who this bastard is, and is so well-written, that I read it a second time on finishing it the first time. I NEVER DO SHIT LIKE THAT. It is without hyperbole that I say Randall Flagg's introduction is the best villain introduction of all time.

For having so many characters, I was invested in almost all of them. Even the utter shitheads (god, I fucking hate you, HAROLD) had me rooting for them against my will.

If you like King's work at all, then you owe it to yourself to power through The Stand. There's a reason it's heralded as a masterpiece, and the best way to experience it is to dive in and immerse yourself in fifteen hundred pages of grotesque goodness.

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