The Stand – Stephen King (Standalong)

Posted 27 July, 2012 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 28 Comments


This post marks the end of a nine-week readalong of The Stand by Stephen King. Thank you so much to those who decided to Standalong with me. I hope that you’ll share your final thoughts on the book in the comments section or via the linky down below.  This post will be a mixture of regular book post and some leading points.

Title: The Stand
Author: Stephen King
Published: 1978/1990; Pages: 1153
Narrator: Grover Gardener
Audio Duration: 47 hrs, 52 min
Genre: Epic Freaking Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5

In Short: At the end of the world as we know it everyone’s gotta take a stand.

Why I read/listened: Have always been curious about it but I started looking for The Stand seriously after learning it’s one of Debi’s favorite books. Knowing that I needed some motivation to actually get to it, I made it one of my 2012 “Things” and then enticed you all to join me. Smooches.

Thoughts in General: Right now as of 10:33 on Thursday night before this post published I liked this book. I wavered between a 4 and 4.5 rating but ultimately went with the 4.5 because I know that a year from now I’ll still be thinking about this book. I spent two months with these characters and though I’m so glad to be finished with the book I still want to know what’s going to happen next. The Stand is one of those books that will burrow under your skin and become a part of you…whether you want it to or not.

The book is long. Really long. And there are an extraordinary amount of characters (with emphasis on extra). The plot meanders and plods along and unlike some of the other Standalong participants I never felt the pull that I had to know what happened next. But even though The Stand is beastly [and next time I read it I’ll opt for the 400 page shorter original], there is such a richness in King’s creation that I have never experienced before. I’m not even sure the word “epic” is adequate–the level of detail was incredible and the characters were ones that I came to love and to hate because they were flawed and real. A small part of me wants to say that this book was too long but I’m just not sure that’s right. Do you think the book was too long? What would be cut?

Is The Stand scary? Last night when I was heading to bed in the complete dark I felt a red eye on me. I hadn’t even read The Stand that day. I literally ran into bed and pulled the covers over my head. But the book isn’t truly scary. There were definitely parts that would give me nightmares if I could see them (people mummified in their cars?!) but it’s almost more of a psychological kind of scary. Captain Trips seems utterly impossible but is it? Could the dark man reincarnate? Does the center hold? Going into The Stand I was convinced that this book was going to be scary and it wasn’t. Not in that way. Yes, I realize that this paragraph makes no sense. Did you find The Stand scary?

Major Spoilers. The ending of the book didn’t surprise me in the least. There were too many hints at what was going to arise but I wasn’t disappointed either. I’d love to know your thoughts on the ending–were you surprised or did you see it coming. I loved the last two lines and they’ll continue to stick with me: “Life was such a wheel that no man could stand upon it for long. / And it always, at the end, came round to the same place again” (1153). So much of this book felt like a good versus evil battle and the common belief is that one must prevail over the other but can there be one without the other? Even as Stu pondered what Glen would say about the Free Zone and the nature of society and the way that it functions hit me. What would have happened if those three hadn’t gone west to face the walkin’ dude? And since this is a spoiler section, can I just note that I’m royally pissed off about what happens to Nick and Larry? Nevermind the others but really King? Really?

The one quote I marked: The beauty of religious mania is that it has the power to explain everything. Once God (or Satan) is accepted as the first cause of everything which happens in the mortal world, nothing is left to chance…or change. Once such incantatory phrases as “we see now through a glass darkly” and “mysterious are the ways He chooses His wonders to perform” are mastered, logic can be happily tossed out the window. Religious mania is one of the few infallible ways of responding to the world’s vagaries, because it totally eliminates pure accident. To the true religious maniac, it’s all on purpose” (617).

Bottom Line: Hi guys. Can you all fly to Dallas so we can just get some coffee or drinks and chat about this one? Great! Thanks! I’ll even take you two-stepping at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth.

Serious Bottom Line: The Stand is an incredibly rich and complex novel with multi-layered themes and characters. Anyone who tells you differently is full of shit. But beyond being consumed by The Stand for two months, I gained an appreciation for Stephen King as a first time reader of his works. His writing and the story were truly living and breathing and perhaps a bit popculterish but almost unlike anything I’ve read before. I think I’m too timid to continue reading more King (though I am curious about 11/23/63) but M-O-O-N spells King, laws yes.

A Note on the Audio: When I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to reading this bad boy in 9 weeks (yes, I really am that lame), I opted to supplement with the audiobook version narrated by Grover Gardner. It. Was. Fantastic. I did listen on 1.5x for most of the book to keep up my pacing but I loved Gardner’s narration. His voice is gravelly, which took some time to get used to, but once I did I knew that he was the perfect choice of narrator. His voice added just the right amount of grit to really make this novel seep into your bones. Through Gardner’s narration the book truly came to life and when I had time to pick up the actual book I found that it fell flat in comparison. The time commitment on the audio is huge but I highly recommend it.

Enough of my rambling…I’d love to hear your thoughts:

And seriously–what do you guys think about a #standalong twitter party? Weeknight? Weekend? The only day day that I could commit would be Saturday or Sunday when I’m not working.

Have you read The Stand? What did you think?

28 Responses to “The Stand – Stephen King (Standalong)”

  1. Congratulations on completing this chunkster! It’s a bit (really a lot a bit) too long for me to attempt reading or listening to, but I’m so glad it became a worthy audioread for you! I audioread 11/22/63 (my first King novel), so I can at least relate to his style of writing. Hooray for fabulous books! :)

    • *Joy – It was quite the commitment and if I ever read The Stand again I’ll do the 1978 release which is 450 pages shorter, but the audio was fantastic!

  2. I totally wish that you could all transport ourselves to a mutual meeting place, gab away, and then return back to our lives.

    I agree mostly with you. Like, the ending wasn’t a shocker but it felt right. How else could it end really, you know? Aaaand, it wasn’t really physically horrifying as much as it was psychologically. Plus, the idea of Captain Trips scares the bejeebus out of more more than The Darkman, but that’s primarily because I can’t really “buy in” to the Darkman, but I can totally see our gov’t (or any gov’t) make a big faus paux like CT and then try to cover it up. Paranoid? Perhaps. :)

    Also, absolutely. If anyone ever wanted to reread this, I’d go with the smaller version. Hell, if someone wanted to read this, I’d tell them to go for the shorter version and then find the bigger version just to read that god awful scene in the motel. Because that was the only one that was added that was AWFUL.

    • *christina – I have to admit that I kind of hoped that some of those folks who had died would suddenly be alive near the end. ;) Kind of like when Nick started appearing in Tom’s dreams. And yes–I can definitely see the political conspiracy aspect of the book. But the Dark Man did send shivers. The voice on audio was especially creepy!

  3. I think I almost passed out. I started holding my breath as soon as I saw this post was in my reader and popped over here. I was soooooo afraid you were going to hate it. And I am just soooooooo happy and relieved that you liked it!!!! Not because it would have hurt my feelings (I do know that everyone has different tastes, honest), but more because I would have felt guilty thinking that I had anything to do with you spending so much time on something you didn’t like. Know what I mean?

    And see, I told you it wasn’t scary! At least not in typical scary sense.

    Rich and I aren’t nearly finished yet (only around page 400)–should have known we wouldn’t be able to. After all, it’s hard enough to find time for myself to read–for both of us to find to it at the same time is exponentially challenging! I do have my thoughts written down in a post I wrote last time I read it (in 2008?) that I could link if you want, but otherwise I fear we won’t be finishing until Christmas. :P

    Oooh, and you now have me excited to give the audio version a try sometime!!! I’ve never been able to click with audiobooks, but this might be the perfect opportunity to try again since I’m already totally familiar with the story.

    Anyway, thanks for hosting this, Trish!!!!

    • *Debi – The general consensus for this one is we all really liked it or loved it so you definitely don’t have anything to worry about! My only complaint was the length but I think that’s because there are so many things going on right now that it was difficult for me to really dig in. I told my book club last night about you and Rich reading this together and we all agreed that you must be the happiest and most in love couple ever. ;) You’re definitely welcome to link your 2008 review if you’d like. And yes…this would be a great one for you on audio! Gardner really brings the story to life.

  4. I loved this book. LOVED IT. I will definitely be reading it again and may even pick up the audio version as well, since they never skimp on narrators for King books. I’m glad you pointed out that it really wasn’t that scary. I mean, I think the beginning was scary when Captain Trips/Project Blue started wiping everyone out (and especially for those who were sick at the same time reading it!), but overall, the book was definitely not as scary as I anticipated it to be. Those last two lines from the end were fantastic as well. I’d really like to pick up the graphic novel versions as well.

    Thanks so much for hosting, Trish! I’ve really enjoyed my year long project of reading more Stephen King and this was timed and planned perfectly to include this year. I was initially planning to read this in the fall but it actually was much better as a summer read.

    And hey, I’m down for heading to Dallas to chit-chat! We should just Skype it out. This book was fantastic and I need people to talk with, too! The TV movie was pretty horrid, I thought, so I’m really hoping that Ben Affleck does a better job in remaking it!

    • I also meant to add that you absolutely MUST READ 11/22/63. MUST. It is extremely well-written and polished and retains the beauty of King’s storytelling and even though it’s a gazillion pages, it reads quickly. That is a story you will not be able to put down! I’ve heard that the audio is incredible as well!

    • *Natalie – I’m so glad to hear that you loved this one! I definitely think that I’ll listen to 11/22/63 rather than read it but I have heard such wonderful things about it and I have full faith in King as a storyteller after reading The Stand. I was funny to watch all of the cold tweets at the beginning as we all came down with something. Glad to have kicked that–need to get the tshirts Fizzy Jill found about surviving Captain Trips!

  5. Ok, love your post! I think you hit the nail on the head with so many of your thoughts. It’s not scary in the way I thought it would be, but it is psychologically scary to think about the way people can treat each other.

    As you know, I read the original version and so far everything I’ve heard is that I made the right choice. It was still incredibly rich and long, but it never felt too long to me and it flowed really well. I guess the ending is different in the extended version and we know for sure that the Dark Man reincarnates, but I’m glad mine didn’t end that way. I liked the uncertainty of knowing they might have been suceessful and they might not.

    So anyway, I loved the book and like you said, I think these characters will stay with me for years. It completely changed my opinion of King and though I’m not going to go read any of his horror stuff, I do think I’ll check out 11/23/63. Thank you for hosting this, you are awesome!

    p.s. I seriously wish we could all just hang out and tlak about this book. So much more to discuss!

    • *Melissa – Especially the element of the Dark Man was incredibly scary–you need to try to get your hands on a copy of the extended version so you can read the last two or three pages. It definitely raised the hair on my arms! And I agree that we could probably talk about this one for hours–it’s so hard not to read this book and feel utterly connected and invested in the characters’ lives!

  6. Giant deadline fail for me, as I am nowhere near done, but I will be returning to this post to add my thoughts when I make it to the end.

    • *Missy – I honestly wasn’t sure if I was going to make the deadline either! I finished the book at 10:15 last night (past my bedtime) and then crammed in this post. Just squeaked by. ;) Take your time but I do really want to know what you think when you’ve finished!

  7. I’m a King fan from back when his books weighed under 10 pounds a piece.

    Seriously, I believe his real strength is in his characters. Whether we like them or not, his characters tend to captivate in some way, and we can follow them into whatever situation they encounter. That made it harder to accept some of the deaths at the end.

    I read it a hundred years ago, without the extra pages. Congrats to you all!

  8. I didn’t think it was that scary. Especially after watching the mini-series. Although every time I see a crow now I cringe. Or is it a raven?


    Christina has laid down the IT gauntlet. Did you see?? And I’m taking 11/23/63 on vacation with me tis week. We’ll see if I actually open it.

  9. Kay

    Trish, I didn’t get to participate in the read along with you, but THE STAND is one of my favorite books ever, ever, ever. And I recently got it on audio. I think I’ll be listening to it this fall. The first time I read this book, I was just stunned by the epic nature of the good vs. evil battle. So much to think about. And, for good to triumph, there are always sacrifices. Any great saga has them. I think they are necessary. Glad you enjoyed it. It’s a great read!

  10. I spent enough time going over my history with this book in my review of the audio version, so I won’t do that here, simply say that The Stand is my favorite book of all time, and the characters, good, bad and evil feel like family to me.

    Is The Stand scary? For me, no, And yes. The Supernatural elements aren’t, but I can’t sit in a movie theatre, hear someone cough, and not get a bit if the shivers. For me, the scariest part was the second wave of kill offs or what I call they “No Great Loss” section. King outlined all the ways we can die in his changed world, and it always scared the crap out of me.

    I’ve always viewed the final confrontation between The Three and the Walking Dude as a bit of a letdown, but one that was sort of necessary. RF has a rich history in the entire opus of King’s writing and I think that ending works better the more you know about the character. But, I sometime wish the ending was a bit less passive.

    I’m glad you liked the Audio version. I was so scared about starting it, because I love GG as a narrator, but, this is The frakkin’ Stand. This is Larry and Nick and Stu and Glenn and Frannie and M-O-O-N spells Tom Cullen. Yet, I definitely loved the audio and give major props to GG for the work he did, and to his wife for teasing me about it during the recording process.

    Well, I’ll shut up now. Just loved the post, and props to all your standalong cohorts.

  11. What a great post. I finished The Stand also, it was long! I can’t add anything more to what you’ve said. I didn’t particularly enjoy this one, but felt I needed to give King a try. I think the end was really predictable, and I was a little annoyed at some of the “unfinishedness of it”. Yes I believe Captain Tripps can happen. And I do believe in good triumphing over evil. Unfortunately the cost of humans lives was way too high. I’m sure I wouldn’t read this one again, even in the shorter version. I want to read a feel good book, life is difficult enough.

  12. O.K., Trish, now I’m going to be seeing a red eye when I go to bed tonight. :-D I enjoyed reading your thoughts — you reminded me why I enjoyed this book so much when I read it 25 years ago.

  13. I’m still reading…a little over halfway and I have the longer version too…oy! I didn’t read anything here but will return in the next day or so to catch up :)

  14. I know I wouldn’t have gotten it done if I hadn’t decided to LISTEN to it – the audio worked great for me (though I did not like Gardner’s stupic bad guy voice nor any of the females.)
    I’m a bit (a lot) out of the blogging habit and really hoped I would have had a post. Will try to do it this week.
    One of my fave readalong experiences! Thank you.

  15. I’m with Snowball, I read it 20 + years ago when it first came out, and parts of it made me shiver, and when some of the characters die (especially one particular one) I cry! big time. He is one of the best writers of characters, some of the most-spot on dialogue, ever. I couldn’t join in with read-along, though I will be reading it soon. It was fun to see all of the reactions to it during your read-along :-)

  16. *Snowball – Wait–his books haven’t always been 10 pounds a piece? ;) I absolutely agree with you on the character development–they are fascinating and horrifying and sympathetic and disgusting. But any way you slice it they seem to be all so real!

    *softdrink – FINE I’LL READ IT WITH YOU GUYS. BUT I WON’T LIKE IT. nahnahnahnahbooboo

    *Kay – I hope you enjoy the audio version of this book! I really loved listening to it and thought that Grover Gardner did a fantastic job. I did increase the speed to 1.5x and thought it worked out just fine (I did this mostly for the time factor–48 hours is a huge commitment!). I agree with you about the sacrifices–I just didn’t like some of the sacrificial choices! ;)

    *theguildedearlobe – One thing that I’ve loved about the Standalong experience is learning how many people are absolutely passionate about The Stand! It is a fantastic book and while I don’t think I’ll read it again for years I would love to experience it again in the future. I do agree with you on the ending–the final stand between the characters. After all of the build-up it felt a bit anticlimactic and I have to admit that I’m pretty upset about some of the sacrificial choices that King makes with the characters. But I guess that’s the way things go, huh? I’ll need to go check out what else Gardner has narrated.

    *Irene – Congrats on finishing the book Irene and I’m sorry that you didn’t enjoy it but I do know what you mean about life being difficult enough. The books I tend to read tend to be a bit sadder than real life and I’m not sure why that is exactly. My book club always wants something happy to read but we always end up settling on something serious or with heavy topics! Hope your next book is much more uplifting.

    *Stephanie– Oh yes, the red eye is pretty dang creepy, huh? Glad you loved this book too!

    *Peppermint Ph.D – No rush! Hope you’re enjoying. ;)

    *Care – See–sometimes peer pressure is good. I’m hoping that it is the same for IT (wahhhhh, I’m scared!!). Gardner doing the female voices didn’t bother me as much as the Randall Flagg tittering near the end. It was definitely cringeworthy! Reminded me of Voldemort a bit. so so glad you joined us my dear.

    *Susan – I was really impressed with the descriptions in the book as well as the character developments. King was definitely long-winded but by the end of the book I felt that I truly knew the characters. Like you I was also very sad and affected when some of the characters I loved did not make it to the end. I hope you enjoy your re-read!

    *Mari – I’m glad you’re enjoying it–honestly if not for my own deadline I’d probably still be reading it as well. Had hoped to READ more than listen but oh well…

  17. I agree that the Captain Trips/government conspiracy part of the story is the more realistically scary part (and to that point, I’m currently reading The Hot Zone by Richard Preston which is making a fabulous/terrible follow-up read), but I’ve never woken up in the middle of the night, swearing that I just heard something, gotten the heebie jeebies, and been sure, SURE, that if I come out from under the covers and look over in the corner I’m going to see a government guy in a lab coat holding a petri dish. No. What I’m sure I’m going to see is some dark, ominous figure lurking in the corner or, worse yet, hovering right over me prepared to do me some sort of bodily harm!

    Although, now that I think about it, that petri dish guy would be kind of creepy. I mean, you know he wouldn’t be there with *good* news…

    Well, either way, I really enjoyed the book, and I’m glad I read the uncut version. I can’t imagine it being anything other than what it was, especially the ending! I wanted to know where and when we ended up. Were we back at the begining, hundreds of years before our story began? Were we in the few seconds immediately following the bomb blast? Were we at some point in the far future, after the world had repopulated and civilization and technology had made a full recovery? Or were we at the beginning of the exact same story, and will it play out the same way again this time around?

    I also loved Stu and Nick and Tom and Kojak (Kojak!), but I’m surprised by all the strong disliking of Frannie. She wasn’t my favorite, but I thought she did all right, probably better than I would have done at her age and in that situation.

  18. Hi! I’m so sorry I’m late with my conclusion post, but I added it to the list. Thank you so much for organizing this, I don’t think I would have read it this year again if not for this! :)