Wow! One week of continuous reading – that’s a huge book. I haven’t read a Stephen King novel in a long time, the last being “Insomnia” several years ago. I had forgotten his down to earth way of writing and his “everyman” kind of description of the people in his stories. Every Stephen King novel I’ve read deals with a particular theme and “The Stand” is primarily about the devastation caused by a super plague. Remember the scare caused a few years ago by the so-called swine flu? Well, the disease in this novel is called “Captain Tripps” and makes the H1N1 virus look like an amateur baby by comparison. The fatality rate is appallingly high – 99.4%.
With the overwhelming majority of the world’s population gone, Stephen King provides a fascinating insight into how we can expect things to move from there. Lawlessness, the end of civilization, people dealing with the deaths of their loved ones and the general dazed condition in which they walk around. It also showcases how the government might well try and suppress the scope of the fatalities both to stop panic as well as to cover up its own shortcomings. Of course, this would be impossible in today’s world of the Internet where information cannot be stopped from spreading.
The later half of the novel deals with how the survivors are split into two camps. One led by an evil supernatural being and the other by God’s chosen representative on earth– a 108 year old woman called Mother Abigail. But the best parts of the book for me were the psychological motivations of some of the characters when they decide which side to go to. As befits a Stephen King book, it’s appropriately creepy specially with everyone dreaming about “the dark man” who haunts them. The evil guy is called Randall Flagg who is the manifestation of the devil. He controls the wolves, the snakes and the crows.
I’m unable to fully explain why exactly this guy creeps me out. Perhaps it’s just the description of how everyone around him is completely terrified when in his presence. They don’t even want to talk about him directly. A few additional scary plot elements involved him wanting to impregnate a 37-year-old virgin who will carry his child.
It’s a very easy book to read – unlike the previous one I reviewed. I’ve read pretty much continuously over the past few days and my favorable impression of Stephen King remains well ensconced within me :-)