The Stand – Stephen King


Full disclosure – this is one of my favorite books of all time. I remember the first time I read it, I was working at a telemarketing company and nights were slow. I know, the whole point was to make money and in order to do that you had to take phone calls but, lets just say I was a pretty poor sales person. I started reading this and it took me months to read it the first time. I felt that if I had to read “rundown boot heals” one more time I would scream. However, after getting use to Stephen King’s style, I can’t imagine (nor would I want to) a book of this epic magnitude to not include a few hundred descriptions of the same boot heals walking down those lonely summer roads.

The unabridged version of this book is really the only way to read it. I say this having never read the abridged version. I just can’t see how that version of this book (or any other abridged version of any book for that matter) can be worth your while. Stephen King has a forward in the unabridged edition that is quite comical in of itself. He implores the reader to read it before making the purchase. He wants you to know that this book isn’t a new book and the characters aren’t going to be doing anything different, but instead we would just get, more of the characters. More backstory on Trashcan Man and the rest. Again, my opinion here, the background to some of these characters is absolutely vital to the story. Yes, you can read the whole thing without learning more about Larry or Trashcan Man…but why would  you want to? Why wouldn’t you want to know the complexity of these characters? For at the end of the story you truly see how far each of them has come.

I have written papers about this book. No really I have. I won’t bore you, instead I will just give you my brief description and beg that anyone who loves Stephen King, mystery, fiction, intrigue, Post-Apocalyptic fiction, good/evil, or horror pick this one up and read it. The full version. No cutting corners.

The Stand takes place in 1990 when a government made super flu has been released and kills over 99% of the population in a matter of weeks. Havoc is unleashed, mass hysteria, looting, rioting, and your basic society breakdown ensue. The survivors are scattered all over the country, confused, scared, in shock and in great despair. With no idea or answer to the “what is next” ? question, they all starting having dreams that lead them to two opposing forces. One – a 108 year old black woman by the name of Mother Abigail, the other, a mysterious dark man that goes by the name Randal Flagg. The survivors band together and realize that the death, the hurt, and the blood shed, has only just begun.

It is an epic tale of good and evil, of survivors, of love and loss and of change (good and bad). It is a story that spans the entire country of America from Maine to Los Vegas. It has Stephen King’s optimism that people, for the most part are good, with his twisted little knife reminding us that some people are very bad.

I again – can’t even begin to say enough for this story except that you should read it. Read it and get lost in the stories within this story. Read and wonder if things would or could happen the way he describes. Or what you would do or wouldn’t do. Read it and wonder… and afterward say goodbye to the friends you made on page  3 as you close the book on page 1,153.



Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel


It is no surprise that I enjoy reading dystopian fiction. I like it for many reasons, but mostly I enjoy reading what other people think of humanity. You can tell how positive or negative they feel by the world they create when the world as we know it ends.

This novel reminds me a lot of The Stand by Stephen King. The Georgia Flu has taken out 99% of the population. (Capt. Tripps or Project Blue – a man-made super flu – killed off 99% of the population) Society must put itself back together. Instead of having a good/evil that puts the society that is left in two camps. It follows the more likely Glenn Bateman theory of a bunch of little societies popping up and being led by different forms of government. From Socialism to Dictators and everything in between. The way we can experience this, is by following the Traveling Symphony. The members of the group preform Shakespeare plays and play music while traveling around the mostly deserted landscape that used to be America. For 20 years they have done this, but of course, the good people aren’t the only ones that survived and as such, they run into problems trying to find some friends of theirs.

The whole novel sweeps back and forth through landscapes and over time, from before the flu to the present, going from one character to another and bringing the reader into a world where everything is gone. The internet, modern medicine, TV, cold food from the fridge, cooking on a stove, going to drive through for food, flying across great distances, getting in your car and traveling hundreds of miles in only few hours. Families, friends, jobs, useless degrees all gone in the blink of an eye and what remains is only what we are. Musicians, doctors, mothers, fathers, electricians, trying to find ways to find meaning in the new normal.

I think what I enjoyed most about this book was the other reason I like dystopian novels. I feel like most of humanity (not all) is stuck in rut. We live each day going about our business with very little thought to our futures, or even our present. We work, we sleep, we eat, we repeat and for what? Is that living? Or just existing. Two parts of the book stick out for me that make me feel like the author feels the same way. There was a monolog in the middle where a woman is describing her boss and she describes him as: “High-Functioning Sleepwalker” Deep. Because I look around and see a whole lot of “high-functioning sleepwalkers” every day. The second reason is a recurring phrase: “Because survival is insufficient” which is apparently originally from Star Trek. Again – isn’t it true? Just because you are alive doesn’t mean you are living.

Another thing that stuck with me is the way she would make you think about morality – one minute here, the next gone. There was one reflection where one of the characters was remembering making snow ice cream with his mother and brother. “Frank standing on a stool on his wondrously functional pre-Libya legs, the bullet that would sever his spinal cord still twenty-five years away but already approaching” again – deep. Thinking about it makes you think about your life, what events have shaped where you are and what events are still to come.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even if it took me a long time to read it. I would highly recommend this to anyway one wants to read as good dystopian novel.