I’ve always been a bit fascinated with the end of the world. I think it goes back to watching (seemingly) endless episodes of The Twilight Zone with my dad when I was little. I thought Henry Bemis had the right idea, and every time I saw his glasses break, a tiny part of wee sj died inside. Even before I wore glasses (first pair in second grade, yo), I just KNEW my luck would be like his, and that I’d not be able to while away my post-apocalypse reading because my lenses would shatter, or I’d go blind or something else equally horrifying.
Enter the original version of The Stand when I was ~10 or 11. I already knew that amazing badass Randall Flagg from Eyes of the Dragon (see more on my near-life-long-love-affair with the Walkin’ Dude here). Then a few years later, I got my hands on the “uncut” version (which I still think sounds dirty, why do we call it that?) and fell even further.
My goodreads buddy Chris wrote a pretty fantastic review of this book that says most of what I feel, but he also said something in the comments that made me shout “YES! THAT!”
“[it's] the standard against which all end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it-and-I’m-not-feeling-that-fine-thanks-for-asking stories are measured. Flagg is absolutely my favorite King villain of all time—They definitely did not habla fucking español—”
No other post-apocalyptic tale measures up to The Stand, probably not just because no one else quite has his finger on the pulse of the everyman like Stephen King does, but also because none of those other books have a villain like Randall Flagg.
None of those other books have a Stu Redman for you to fall for along with Frannie; none of those other books have a Harold Lauder for you to shake your fist at in frustration; none of those other books have a Larry Underwood you’re HOPING will fulfill his nice-guy-after-all potential; none of those books have a Lloyd Henreid or a Trash Can Man with whom you can not only sympathize, but EMPATHIZE as well.
They may try, but they just don’t cut it.
(Justin Cronin, I’m looking at you.)
I especially love that we’re allowed to think evil was truly defeated until the last few pages. What can I say? I’m a sucker for a not-so-happy ending.
Part of the fun of re-reading all of Unky Steve’s work this year is reading them with Heather (because she’s a first timer to a lot of ‘em), and seeing her reaction to scenes and characters that haven’t been new to me in ages.
Watching her progress with The Stand was just as entertaining as I had hoped it would be. I knew before we even started who she’d love, who she’d hate, and which parts would make her exclaim.
It’s fun knowing a book inside and out like this, but I’m a little wistful I’ll never get to read it again for the first time.
Sidenote: I’ve read this book while sick before, but this week – for the first time – everyone around me was sneezing and coughing, while I stayed healthy. It added a completely surreal element to my reading, that I hope to not experience again.