Friday, January 8, 2010

(Book #1) Stephen King - The Stand

For the first book in my "52 Books in 52 Weeks" resolution, I finished The Stand, by Stephen King. Some people might be thinking "How is it possible that he read an entire 1142 page tome in a week?". Well, I didn't. I have been grinding away at this behemoth for about 2 months and jammed through the last 200+ pages this week. So, while I didn't read the entire book this year, I did "finish" it this year, and thus... didn't cheat. That being said, and since this is my first week, I will keep the review somewhat casual.

First off, I must disclose that for a long time I considered King a paperback-rack kind of writer, right up there with Tom Clancy or Nora Roberts (Okay, maybe not that bad). I had tried reading a couple of his books when I was a teenager (IT and The Dead Zone) and couldn't get past the first chapter or two. I did, however, eventually pick up the first two books of his Dark Tower series and finished those. Even then, King's writing style didn't really appeal to me, the prose being too dry and lacking a certain meatiness. Strangely enough, his forewords about his process and the art of writing were totally compelling, so at the very least I always respected him as a writer. After some hesitation, I decided to pick up the grand-daddy of them all and give it another go...

Without giving away too much of the plot, I will just say that The Stand is about The Apocalypse, occurring in the 1990's. It comes in the form of a "super"flu, which is apt given the current Swine Flu scare. The book doesn't waste much time getting right down to it, and after a few chapters, bodies start to pile up. The story has an insane amount of detail, telling back story after back story, and yet mostly remaining relevant to the overall arc of the story. Now, I never saw the miniseries (most notably starring Gary Sinese) which aired a while ago, but a lot of people seem to remember the TV show over the book. My wife always said that the mini-series was great and the book got too tedious and she eventually gave up. I will admit that there were some slow parts, particularly a daunting 75 page chapter about a fellow named Trashcan Man, and I could completely understand if someone couldn't finish, but overall the story moved along at a good clip for me.

The book, though, was really not so much about the story as it was about the characters and their development (or collapse) through the horrendous events. We can guess who our protagonists and antagonists will be and eventually the characters all fall into their lots and we see them struggle with the world around them, but mostly with themselves. We see a lot of Good vs. Evil, but also a lot about the human condition. It was obvious that King was trying to stay away from caricatures and tie in as much reality as possible, and I think because of that I came away respecting his writing a little more. He's still not my favorite author, but he is a Writer nonetheless and this was definitely a worthy read.

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