Posted by: Ele Quigan | November 19, 2013

The Stand – Stephen King

It’s been a long time since I went through my Stephen King phase. Long hours in second hand book stores looking to add to my collection, random purchases of his short stories, hard covers, to one epic mistake of deciding to sign up for doubleday back in the days when you received 3 for $10 promises in the mail (only to realise you needed to commit to $40 per month to keep going…)

I’m not even quite sure why I was drawn to the absurd horror of small town Maine, maybe being from a small town myself I felt I could always see something beneath the cracks.

The Stand was always my favourite.

Rough premise if you haven’t read it, plague kills 99.99% of the population – released through an accident at a military complex. As people start to realise how few of them are left, they begin to look to move to where other people are. And dream.

Through these dreams they realise which way they want to turn – I guess in a nutshell – to good, or evil.

Amazingly, while this seems a basic premise – even now, probably at least 20 years after I read it the first time, it still holds an incredibly amount of weight.

The evil always seemed so straight forward. Natural. That people would gravitate to law and order. Some people would want to be controlled, some people would want to go where the power is on. Where people want to protect their set of society from anything happening. To remove the bad things (drug addiction/alcoholism/whateverelse), a genuine chance to start again and set the record straight. All well and good until you realise they are actually about to crucify someone.

The dark side has eyes. All seeing, power of the beast – through crows and wolves – always watching. The eyes are red, more piercing than expected, which I thought I was fine with – until I woke up screaming one night, actually screaming, frightening my poor otherhalf to death while he tried to calm me down.

It’s hard to explain what that was like, I wasn’t expecting to be that effected. Sure if I’m honest, I couldn’t read it without the light on, but I’ve never ever (even back through all the R L Stine, Anne Rice, and Stephen King that hadn’t happened before).

I’m not sure if it’s that I felt that I was being watched? or if I guiltily was thinking about what side I probably would have joined in the same situation, I’m not sure.

It’s interesting going back through pre-internet fiction, where communication was phone, not even mobile. Where a government can hold information back without it leaking (I guess NSA details not included), traffic, escaping, information about the rest of the world is hidden… Sure far fetched, but it’s food for thought.

For the first time in a while I considered highlighting text and pulling out quotes, it’s more of a treatise on society than I remember. How would our world be reconstructed if the same thing happened. Could we at all do it positively? Without hate? Without mistrust? Without weapons and bombs and chemical weapons and instruments of fear?

“Show me a man or a woman alone and I’ll show you a saint. Give me two and they’ll fall in love. Give me three and they’ll invent the charming thing we call ‘society’. Give me four and they’ll build a pyramid. Give me five and they’ll make one an outcast. Give me six and they’ll reinvent prejudice. Give me seven and in seven years they’ll reinvent warfare. Man may have been made in the image of God, but human society was made in the image of His opposite number, and is always trying to get back home.”

Seems relevant even now?

I don’t really feel this book has dated at all, which I’m really surprised about. I’m tempted to spend the winter ploughing back through the catalogue. Needful Things, Tommy Knockers, It – to see if they all still have the same impact they used to.

I read the extended edition – sure it’s a massively long read, but well worth it.


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