The Stand by Stephen King: Book Review

Title: The Stand
Author: Stephen King
Publication details: June 28th 2011 by Anchor Books (first published October 1978)
Genre: Horror, fantasy, science fiction

A patient escapes from a biological testing facility, unknowingly carrying a deadly weapon: a mutated strain of super-flu that will wipe out 99 percent of the world's population within a few weeks. Those who remain are scared, bewildered, and in need of a leader. Two emerge--Mother Abagail, the benevolent 108-year-old woman who urges them to build a peaceful community in Boulder, Colorado; and Randall Flagg, the nefarious "Dark Man," who delights in chaos and violence. As the dark man and the peaceful woman gather power, the survivors will have to choose between them--and ultimately decide the fate of all humanity.

I never thought I would read a Stephen King book. I had been shying away from his works because I thought they are all horror fiction, definitely not my genre. But then after hearing reviews about The Stand, my curiosity was piqued and so I thought I should give it a shot. I was mostly sold when I heard that one of the plot elements is a viral disease that eradicated 99% of the world's population. Isn't that intriguing?! And so I came upon my first Stephen King read.

It took me a while to finish the book because it is a big one, with ~1400 pages (mass market paperback edition). But nevertheless, I finished it and was glad to have finally read a Stephen King.

The Stand follows multiple characters from the beginning, during and after a pandemic. Wrapped with mystery and thrill, the story begins with how the disease started spreading- patient 0 and day 1, followed by events showing how things escalated quickly, with past events from the 'before pandemic' life of the characters, up to months after the viral disease stopped spreading and only the immunes are left.

Each chapter and each character made me want to know more, especially during the first parts. I liked how the beginning immediately got me hooked as it is quite fast-paced and intriguing. I liked how the author was able to describe the building chaos, slowly and then suddenly, and then after the chaos, to introduce a more powerful adversary.

Aside from the viral disease plot element, I had no idea what The Stand would be like. During the first few chapters, I thought it would be pure science fiction. But later on, I found out that The Stand is more than that genre. Things got deeper, in terms of social and political commentary, but at the same time weirder as the thriller/horror/supernatural elements set in. The horror elements are quite disturbing, but not as disturbing as I thought it would be (thankfully!). It is mild enough for me to continue with the book, and still have a good, thrilling reading experience.

At first, I also thought The Stand is plot-driven, but as I was reading I realized that it also has a fair share of being character-driven, if not more. The author was able to get into the mind of the characters, which effectively conveyed their thoughts and emotions to the readers. Each character says something about the society and humanity, and I liked how the author was able to tie all their stories. The core group or the 'First Committee' is particularly note-worthy for me as it was amazing to read their dynamics despite their differences and the circumstances of how they came to be.

With multiple characters, it is actually hard to root for any of them. I was not willing to risk a broken-heart for a character/s who will not make it until the end, hence I just settled for the 'good group' of characters, no one specific. Lol. Following that, the plot is unpredictable (at least for me hehe) consequently making my reading experience more enjoyable.

I cannot really say that The Stand is a page-turner. It is intriguing but the events are somehow anticlimactic. But perhaps it is because I expected an action-packed story. Nevertheless, the mystery of what is happening, how the characters will end up, how their stories will intersect, and be tied up in the end, still propelled me forward.

Since The Stand is also character-driven, I had a look into humanity through the multiple characters as I have mentioned before. When reading, this kind of element always gets me and so, I really enjoyed reading these humanity threads in the story: The characters are from different backgrounds and walks of life. They are "reduced" by what they lost, but still resiliency shone through. There is also the making of a government from scratch, the taking of responsibilities, and the clash between the good and evil.


Overall, reading The Stand is such an experience. Yes, there are weird elements, and the turn of events is not what I expected. But it is still an entertaining, thought-provoking read for me.

For Stephen King's style of getting deep into a character and the unpredictability of the plot, I will definitely read another of his work, but probably not the most horror-y one. Haha! I am actually thinking of The Shining? We shall see. 😁

How about you folks? Are you a fan of Stephen King? What book/s can you recommend?