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Will you choose between good and evil, or will you be chosen?

There was a time when Stephen King had to do as he was told by his publishers; funny, I know, right? Nowadays the man can do no wrong. He could publish a completely blank novel and it would still sell by the truck-load, and it would still be better than a lot of books published recently. Back in the early days, when he was still under the control of ‘the man’, Stephen King wrote ‘The Stand’ and, in typical King fashion, it was great. Now the world has bowed to King`s genius he has revisited ‘The Stand’ and published an updated version, full of all the bits that were edited out of the first edition due to lack of space.

I’ve just finished reading the latest edition, and not surprisingly, it’s FANTASTIC!

The U.S. Government in the late 70s has been working on a weaponised super-virus, 99.9% effective. Unavoidable, incurable, indiscriminate, and totally deadly. Almost.

The book starts with the virus escaping from the secure facility where it was developed and the first few chapters cover the two weeks or so that it takes to wipe out most of America. We also start to meet the handful of people that are immune to the virus as they go about their day-to-day lives, before everyone they’ve ever known dies from the super-flu.

The survivors share a common  experience, and slowly they began to form small bands of travellers, moving across the now empty USA towards Nebraska, and Mother Abigail. Not everyone in life is a good guy though. The naughty boys, the troublemakers, the crooked, are drawn not towards Mother Abigail, but against her; held together collectively by evil.

I love post-apocalypse books. I like to fantasize about what it would be like to wake up one day and not have to pay any more bills, to be able to do what ever you liked, take what you want, because there’s no one left to stop you. ‘The Stand’ deals with post-apocalypse really well. You really get the sense that life just curled up and died, but so quickly and so brutally that nothing could be done to organise what was going to happen tomorrow, or next week, or ever again. You have ideas along with the characters, but then King puts the most obvious barrier in your way that you question why you didn’t think about it and you and the character have to work out a way around it together.

The language in this book is brilliant. Emotive, passionate, beautifully descriptive; you can almost reach out and touch the vivid imagery in your mind. The characters are all perfect. They’re funny, sarcastic, human; you’ll be able to associate every one of them with someone you know. The latest edition is a mega-book, but as you read it you realise that not a word of it is wasted, none of it is filler, and you’d happily read another thousand pages of the lives of Stu, and Fran, and Tom, and Randall.

The best thing Stephen King does is keep his stories just at the boundary fence of Weird-Shit Ville. The phenomena, the abnormalities, the miracles, the down-right what-the-hells are just on the borderline of believable. They don’t register off the scale on the not-in-a-million-years-O-meter and that’s what makes them scary and thrilling. ‘The Stand’ is exactly that. We don’t know if 0.01% of the population are a little bit in tune with each other psychicaly because we’ve not experienced a mass extinction, but we don’t know for definite that they aren’t. And that is what makes King, and ‘The Stand’ so good.

Stock up on supplies, call in sick, and spend a few days in isolation reading this book. I urge you.

* * * * * – 5 out of 5. My first 5* book, this is a must-read!

The Stand by Stephen King is available now in many formats, read the latest edition though.

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