The Stand. An apt title for a book that is so long it could almost serve as a stand. A bookshelf unto itself?
Continuing on with what now seems to be an impossible goal of reading all the Stephen King books this year, I read The Stand a few months ago (I know, I know, I’m way behind on my blog posts). Or should I say that I reread The Stand. I should tell you that the first time I read The Stand was about ten years ago, during the vastly overblown SARS scare. The idea of a superflu cut a little to close to home at that point. It might have been the absence of a real life panic (no, Ebola doesn’t count, I’m wiser to the scare tactics of the media now), or the fact that I knew the broader story, but I was not nearly as freaked out this read through as I was the first time.
Ten years on from my first read of The Stand, I might just be more cynical and jaded, but I did not find Randall Flagg as scary as I did the first time. he seemed less like a freaky minion of Satan, and more like a pathetic washed up reject. Now contrary to what I just said, I did not hate the book on a second reading, but I did find it rather tedious, especially after All of the explanation of how the flu was transmitted. Once everyone started up on their journey to Mother Abigail, the whole thing was a mess of tediousness.
A few weeks ago I happened to have put down my books and was watching a special in which Stephen King talked about the horror movie genre. To paraphrase him: horror movies don’t generally bear well on repeat viewings. Once you know the story and what’s coming, in other words, you lose something in future viewings. I think that something similar happened to me on the second read through of The Stand. Yes there was a lot that I had forgotten in the ten years since I last read the book, but none of the spookiest moments could jump out and scare like they had done the first time.
Where the novel stands up best, however, is n the sociological themes. With the death of billions of people, there is a breakdown of law and order (and that’s putting it mildly!) How would one get back to a sense of normality. And not just one person, but rather a scattered group of wanderers. In The Stand, this takes place among the larger battle between good and evil. But it is a question that intrigues us all. Why else would zombie stories (especially The Walking Dead) be so popular?