I started this book back when I was in my twenties. Put it down after around fifty pages or so. (Can’t remember exactly.) At the time, it just seemed to go nowhere. I didn’t get wrapped up in the characters or plot at all. So I set it aside and didn’t think much more of it, except to always wonder when it was referred to as one of King’s best books.
In the intervening time, I’ve become a big Stephen King fan, and so I finally decided to give the book another go.
I really enjoyed it.
Part of that is, no doubt, due to the fact that I’ve changed as a reader. I must have. My response to the text was completely different. The characters were very well drawn, the plot was riveting (albeit a bit slow and preachy at times, hence the 4 stars instead of 5)–it’s a great read.
Another part of how much I enjoyed it is likely due to the fact that there’s been this huge post-apocalyptic trend in literature lately, and this book is a great example of that. No zombies involved, but there might as well be. It takes place in 1990 (the exact date has been switched, depending on the version you get. It’s supposed to be the near future, regardless.) A military-made superflu escapes into the wild, killing over 99% of the population. The book traces the way society devolves, and then what happens to society as the survivors try to pick up the pieces.
One of King’s strengths (to me) is his ability to focus on characters. I really enjoy how he basically comes up with a situation, comes up with a cast of well-rounded characters, and then lets the characters loose into that situation. They take it from there. You have the feeling that the plot is inevitable. The characters do what they would naturally do, and they deal with the consequences. Rinse and repeat. It seems easy, but having written some books myself, I know how hard it really can be. The Stand is an excellent example of this.
I will say I was slightly let down by the ending. It seemed to be building toward a fantastic climax, and . . . I don’t want to spoil anything for you. I just thought it was going to zig, and it zagged instead. Still good, just . . . different. The book is definitely pretty harsh. Language, violence–the whole nine yards. So avoid if you don’t want to read anything disturbing. This *is* Stephen King, folks. But then again, King books rarely feel like horror to me. They feel like . . . people in bad situations dealing with them as best as they can. I know that sounds strange, but I guess the difference to me is that it’s not shock for shock’s sake. It’s much different (in my opinion) than the slasher horror flicks they have today.
Anyway. Highly recommended. But it’s a really long read, so be in for a long haul. But it’s a fun haul, so that makes up for it.