The Stand is a novel by Stephen King about a post-apocalyptic world that has recently been ravaged by a mysterious outbreak. The book was originally published in 1978; however in 1990 a new version was released called The Stand: The Complete & Uncut Edition. This version includes revised sections of the book, as well as sections that King cut out of the original version in order to keep the page count down. King also updated some of the pop culture references, as well as the years that the book’s events take place in to better line up with an audience reading the book over a decade after it was originally written.
The story itself is a very fascinating examination of what would happen if a plague wiped out most of the Earth’s population. Only those immune from the plague are left to pick up the pieces of the broken world. It was interesting to read about the different mindsets on how the survivors should try to rebuild their society. And all the while, there is something supernatural going on in the background.
We meet many different characters throughout the course of the reading, and their stories inevitably intersect. At its heart, though, The Stand is a story of Good versus Evil, and definitely not in a tame sense. There are truly, horrifically, evil people in this story, and honest, honorable, good characters as well. Guessing which side each character is on is part of the mystery of the book, as unknown forces are drawing some to a place where the good people are gathering, and others to a place where darkness reigns. Paranoia and tension mounts, and a final stand between these two factions seems all but certain.
I was, and am, a huge fan of the TV show, LOST. I would often listen to podcasts and interviews in which the creators of the show discussed their influences when writing the story. Here is an excerpt from LOSTpedia about this very subject, regarding information heard on a commentary track from Lost: The Complete Second Season (DVD):
“The table where writers brainstorm for new episodes of LOST is ‘never without a copy of The Stand.” J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse repeatedly hinted at the importance of the book in their molding of the show on multiple interviews and podcasts. In one such example from the official podcast on November 6th, 2006, Carlton says: ‘So, in fact, our model in many ways have been other things, including Stephen King’s The Stand, which we acknowledge as kind of a way you can tell a long, sprawling, character-based story.’”
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Cuse is also quoted as saying that The Stand acted as a blueprint for early episodes. “It was this very long, character-oriented book that hung on a high-concept premise that the entire nation had been infected with this super-flu, and it was the equivalent of people crashing on this mysterious island. Both based on incredibly intricate and involved character dynamics,” he said.
Knowing that the creators of my favorite show were so heavily influenced by The Stand made it a must-read for me after the show’s completion. And I did start reading it about a year after the final episode of LOST aired in 2010; however, this book is huge, and I was in the middle of graduate school, so I set it aside. Then, in the fall of 2013, I decided that I would finally get back into the story of The Stand, but this time I did it in the audiobook format.
The spiritual themes in this book are by no means subtle. One of the leaders of the good guys, Abigail, is a devout Christian, and feels that God has been preparing her for this battle all her life. While I’m unsure of Stephen King’s religious beliefs, he does a good job of representing Christianity in the character of Abigail. Other characters mention “The Hand of God” intervening in order to aid them against the evil forces. Finally, in many ways, the main villain in this story, Randall Flagg, has some very direct ties to Satan himself.
There is a part of me that wants to give this book the full five-star rating because it really is a fantastic epic. Still, there were some parts of the book that were so disgusting and so disturbing that in the end I feel best about giving it a four-star rating.
For more on The Stand, listen to Ben and I discuss the book in the following two episodes of our podcast: