WHAT IS THIS BOOK ABOUT?
The story begins with a virus killing 99% of the population. We meet several survivors in separate towns. They stay in town a while, then begin traveling on motorcycles, bicycles, or walking. The travelers start out alone or with one other person. Along the way they join with others. A man called Randall Flagg is creating his own empire, dictator style, with evil intentions. His headquarters are in Las Vegas, Nevada. Survivors with criminal tendencies are drawn toward Flagg. Good folks are drawn to Boulder, Colorado, where they form a community called the Free Zone.
Before I read any Stephen King, I thought most of his books would be about monsters, horror, screaming, slashing - things in horror movies. I was wrong. I’m finding a lot of depth and interesting character development. His bad guys are not all that different from some of the serial killers in mainstream crime fiction and thrillers.
The Stand has some paranormal, not a lot. Several characters have psychic dreams or a psychic sense at times. The Stand is one of Stephen’s longest books. The paperback is 1439 pages. I was never bored. I became attached to the characters. In the preface Stephen says “When I speak (which is as rarely as possible), people always speak to me about The Stand. They discuss the characters as though they were living people, and ask frequently, “What happened to so-and-so?”... as if I got letters from them every now and again.” Personally I feel that way. I’d like to think about the characters in the future.
Stephen makes everyday conversations interesting. There are many characters in this book, but it didn’t feel like too many. We are with a guy in Arkansas for 25 pages, then a guy in New York for 12 pages, then a woman in Maine for 11 pages. I like a linear time line and I like scenes with natural endings. And most of the time the scenes met these requirements. My biggest problem with Stephen’s book “It” was stopping scenes in the middle of action and jumping around in time. I’m pleased to see the author used “better methods” in this book.
This is a post apocalyptic world. By the end of the book some of the good guys die, but others have happy endings. Normally I would avoid books with this setup because I don’t want to be depressed. Other authors might tell this story with deep digging into grief and loss. This book was not done that way. I was pleased that I was not depressed.
I was pleased to see a romance. A couple meets, they eventually get together, and have a happy ending. For those whose don’t like abusive husbands, you’ll like this. This is the way guys should be. He cares for her happiness.
There is a homosexual rape scene in detail. Also there is a telling (after the fact) of women held against their will and repeatedly raped.
This is the expanded edition published in 1990. Much was cut for the 1978 edition. Stephen added back cut parts and a lot of new writing for the 1990 edition. I would not want to read the cut version.
IS IT PERFECT? NO.
I had a few questions that were not answered, such as why Flagg was losing his powers, and what was the purpose of the pregnancy. Also I did not like Flagg’s ending. I wanted something worse to happen to him.
The narrator Grover Gardner did an excellent job.
Genre: apocalyptic paranormal fiction
Ending: happy for many of the good guys, bad for most of the bad guys
Very good suspense. The ending was barely happy enough for me. This is not a fun and entertaining read. It’s suspense. We get to know many people in the town of Jerusalem’s Lot, which is well done and interesting. Good dialogue and events. I needed to take notes to remember them all, which I didn’t mind. The vampire Barlow and his human servant Straker are bad. But the thing that upset me the most was the mother who beat her ten-month-old baby. Other unpleasant people included a mean bus driver who would unfairly force some kids to walk home, and the married woman who sexually enticed a 22-year-old telephone line worker. He was reluctant to have sex with her, but she was difficult to refuse. There are many negative people but also some good people.
My favorite part was 11-year-old Mark. He was into comic books and monster action figures. Instead of disbelief when he sees the first vampire, he immediately plans to trick it by inviting the vampire in and then presses a crucifix to the vampire’s skin. (I’m shaking my head that he just assumed what was in his comic books would work. What if these real life vampires were different from his comic books? But what he did worked! Wow!) There were several situations where Mark was surprised with danger and reacted and attacked in his own unexpected way. I was impressed! He was at the age of kow-kapow-attack-back instead of cautious thinking or fearful hiding or fleeing. I was considering 3 ½ stars for this book, but Mark is the reason I rounded to 4 stars.
WHAT WAS MISSING?
I wanted a more complete ending. I wanted more about the survivors at the end - something toward their future.
The prologue is about 16 pages. It’s better to read after the book not before. Reading it before the book raised questions and was not helpful. After the book I went back and read the prologue and it made sense and I felt good about it.
CAUTION SPOILERS (This is what I wanted to know before I read the book):
When many people are killed or turned into vampires, it’s not as depressing as one might expect. Partly because there’s not much grief or time spent on good people being hurt. In the end Straker and Barlow are stopped which was important to me. As to other happy ending issues, some good guys died, but other good guys survived.
The narrator of the book is Ron McLarty and he does a good job. I love the Audible narrator who introduces the book at the beginning of the tape - don’t know his name. He’s much better than other Audible introducers.
DIFFERENT EDITIONS OF SALEM’S LOT:
If you plan to read the physical book (not the audiobook) I suggest you buy the Illustrated Edition published in 2004 and/or later. It has deleted scenes at the end which are not in the audiobook. Other reviewers liked them. One of those scenes is about a gang of rats in a basement. That was not in this audiobook.
Genre: paranormal suspense
I was intrigued and interested with many characters. Of course I loved the character John Coffey. I was so sad for him. And I cried for him. I kept thinking of what I would have done to save his life. I wanted the other characters to do more than they did, but that would have been a different story. So I reluctantly accept the story I got. At one point John says he’s tired of being alone, wished he had someone with him to tell him where they’d been and where they were going. Another line in the book that will stay with me was about a type of killing: “it happens every day all over the world. If it happens, God lets it happen and when we say I don’t understand, God replies I don’t care.” I think the idea of God not caring is behind a number of Stephen King books. So, I know I won’t always get a happy ending from him. But the way he writes dialogue and events and characters are so worthwhile that I’ll keep reading.
I have two complaints about this book - technical. This was written as a six part series, each part published separately. Therefore each part has a recap of prior events to refresh the reader’s memory. This “refreshing of memory” was redundant. I wish the author would have taken those parts out when publishing the single book.
My second complaint was the jumping back and forth in time. The narrator is an old man recalling and writing about what happened in 1932 with John Coffey. The 1932 story is frequently interrupted with things happening in the old age story. I was ok with some of it, but not when he jumped in the middle of a critical scene. That was artificial suspense, which made me mad at the author and took me out of the story. Both stories are good and important for each other, but I would have liked the switching done at logical stopping points, not in the middle of conversations.
The narrator Frank Muller was wonderful - as usual.
Genre: mystery with fantasy, death row fiction.
Ending: mostly sad, but interesting for some.
I am an entertainer...so I spend a lot of time on the road. I take my audio seriously. I appreciate great writing and outstanding narration.
I love The Stand enough that, when I heard this one put all the stuff that was edited out of the original, that I was interested enough to pick it up.
I still love the story...but did't really have the sense there was a LOT of new material. I liked "the Kid" -- but I can see why he was edited out -- and there's not much of that.
Very listenable...outstanding narration. Certainly worth a credit -- just don't expect to see a new landscape for King's outstanding vision.