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September 1, 2018

The Stand by Stephen King #GreatReadPBS

by Susan Roberts

The Stand
This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death. And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides -- or are chosen.

When a man escapes from a biological testing facility, he sets in motion a deadly domino effect, spreading a mutated strain of the flu that will wipe out 99 percent of humanity within a few weeks. The survivors 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 community in Boulder, Colorado; and Randall Flagg, the nefarious "Dark Man" who delights in chaos and violence.

The Stand by Stephen King is one of the top 100 Best Loved Books on the new PBS Series American Reads.

Have you read it?  Do you agree that it should be one of the top American books?
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I first read The Stand when it was published in 1978 and even though I rarely re-read books, I have re-read The Stand numerous times and each time I read it, I enjoy it more. To me, this is the ultimate book about good vs. evil.  On the good side, there is Mother Abigail and Stu Redman and the evil in the world is contained in the character Randall Flagg.

America, as we know it, no longer exists after a spill at a biological testing facility releases a flu virus that kills over 99% of the population. The survivors gather and create a society in either Boulder, CO or Las Vegas, NV.  Just like real life, Randall Flagg's followers in Las Vegas want to annihilate the peaceful group in Boulder.

The Stand was not the first dystopian novel but unlike others, its views still resonate with readers today.  It was written at an unlikely time - in the late 70s, Vietnam was over, Watergate was history and the Cold War had gotten quiet.  But we were beginning to see new stresses to our society - inflation, nuclear power issues, gas shortages and knew that things wouldn't stay calm in America much longer so this was a perfect time for a book about the demise of our country and our government.

Stephen King wrote about the timing of The Stand:

“Its writing came during a troubled period for the world in general and America in particular; we were suffering from our first gas pains in history, we had just witnessed the sorry end of the Nixon administration and the first presidential resignation in history, we had been resoundingly defeated in Southeast Asia, and we were grappling with a host of domestic problems, from the troubling question of abortion-on-demand to an inflation rate that was beginning to spiral upward in a positively scary way…The America I had grown up in seemed to be crumbling beneath my feet.”

Fun Fact about the Title

I wasn't aware that the title of this novel came from the Bruce Springsteen song Jungleland from the Born to Run album: “Tonight all is silence in the world/As we take our stand/Down in Jungleland.”

My Thoughts:

I've read this book so many times that I think about it at odd times - if I'm in an underground tunnel such as the tunnel between Detroit and Windsor, I think about Larry trying to get out of NYC in the George Washington tunnel.  If I am driving on a highway with no traffic, I think about what it must have been like after 99% of the country was gone. This book and its characters have resonated in my mind for a long long time - to me it's a sign that it's not only a good novel but that it truly is a GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL.

Other Interesting Facts about The Stand

  • A four-part mini-series first aired in 1994. The screenplay was written by King and he had a minor role.  The main stars were Gary Sinese, Rob Lowe, Ossie Davis and Ruby Lee.  I thought that the mini-series did a fantastic job of telling the story and creating a new audience.
  • There have been several attempts to make a film out of THE STAND but they have been unsuccessful.
  • THE STAND was first published in 1978.  King was forced to make drastic cuts to the books at the insistence of his publisher.  In 1990, it was released in its total and uncut version with all of the deleted pages restored which increased the page count from 823 to 1152 pages.
See other Great American Reads we've covered.

Buy The Stand at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads,  or Twitter.

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  1. This rules! I haven't yet read this book. Hopefully I'll get to it soon!

    1. When you read it, go ahead and read the expanded version. It's got some great info that the first version lacked. Hope you enjoy it.

  2. This is by far my favorite of all of his books. I have two copies of it on my bookshelf, including the revised hardback. It is terrifying yet compelling in so many ways. Definitely his best writing. Yes, it should be named one of the top American books. It's a must read for anyone who enjoys a good complex story.

    1. It's one of the few books that I re-read on a regular basis. Thanks for the comment.