“When asked, “How do you write?” I invariably answer, “One word at a time,” and the answer is invariably dismissed. But that is all it is. It sounds too simple to be true, but consider the Great Wall of China, if you will: one stone at a time, man. That’s all. One stone at a time. But I’ve read you can see that motherfucker from space without a telescope.”*
You know what else you can probably see from space? The Stand. Coming in at a whopping 1,153 pages, this is one hulking brick of a book. But it’s SO good. And there are very few things I would remove. Pretty much everything here is purposeful and builds on the story. *So maybe this quote isn’t from the actual book. But it’s from the preface and I loved it so much I went back and read it a few times.
The Stand is split into three books. The general consensus is that Book I is by far the best, and I would have to agree. The most chilling and horrifying parts of the story are packed into the first third(ish).
“He felt his fear twisting and turning inside him beneath his poker face. Sometimes it was big and panicky, trampling everything: the elephant. Sometimes it was small and gnawing, ripping with sharp teeth: the rat. It was always with him.”
The most powerful parts in this book (at least for me) were the chapters in Book I that gave snippets of what was happening across the country during the Captain Trips outbreak. Some of King’s shortest writing is some of his best (stop laughing. Yes, I know this book is more than 1,000 pages. Yes, I know how this probably sounds). He’s able to pack a lot of horror into just a few words. King’s ability to observe and describe some of the most mundane aspects of life and turn them into nightmare fuel will always amaze me. Now, Books II and III definitely fall more on the fantasy/epic side rather than the horror side. There are some scary bits throughout, but if you can handle the horror in Book I, you can for sure make it through the rest of the book.
There are a LOT of characters in this book. Some of them get what they deserve (good or bad). Some don’t (…good or bad). You’ll likely love some and loathe others, but each one is memorable on their own. We meet most of them in Book I and get pretty fleshed out stories from each throughout Books II and III.
Unsurprisingly, Randall Flagg gets some of the best character descriptions i’ve read in King’s writing. Flagg is almost vampiric in his description. He moves at night, he rests during the day. He’s “a tall man of no age” with “no soul but a sense of humor.” I won’t spoil anything beyond that, but Flagg is…interesting. And Constant Readers will know he’s featured in some of King’s other works.
“Love didn’t grow very well in a place where there was only fear, just as plants didn’t grow very well in a place where it was always dark.”
Maybe reading arguably the most well-known book about a global pandemic during an actual global pandemic wasn’t a good idea. But there are a lot of things here that someone pre-2020 could not have appreciated. For better or worse, my experiences this year made The Stand seem that much more real and that much more relatable. I understand there’s been a surge in sales for this title, and that makes total sense. We strive to understand what scares us. And honestly, we’ve been home for six months now, snuggled up safe and sound with our Internet and electricity fully operational. Reading The Stand might make you realize that you really don’t have it so bad, after all.
And lastly, KOJAK IS A GOOD BOY.