It's very likely that I have a new favourite book. Yes, you heard me god-damn it!
The stand was something of an epic undertaking for me. Wanting to squeeze some value out of my audible subscription before I clicked cancel, I decided to download one of the longest audio-books I could find. The Stand was the winner, with a running time of 47 hours and 47 minutes. It took me about 6 months to find time to listen to the whole thing.
The choice wasn't totally random; one of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman, referenced Steven King as inspiration, and Stephen King had referenced Lovecraft (another favourite) as an influence on him. So I figured I'd probably get something out of it.
Boy, was I in for a treat. Mind = blown.
The Stand is the story of a post-apocalyptic battle for the human soul. That description sounds kind of cheesy, but it's a pretty succinct one, so I'll stick to it.
"But why do you like it so much Sam? Why is it the best book you've read all year?", I hear you ask, probably. Well, I'll tell you, with the help of our old friend, the bullet point.
- Apocalyptic scenario
- Fantastic characterization
- Great villain
- Supernatural elements
- Enthralling plot
- Actually scary
- Had to bite back tears on multiple occasions
I don't want to go into an overly detailed description of the plot. It's such a joy to experience the narrative as it slowly unravels that I'm desperate not to spoil even the slightest thing. However, I do want to convince you to read it, so I'll give you a brief one.
Set in the U.S. during the year 1990, we follow several characters as they face the outbreak of a mortally infectious super-flu, a pandemic capable of wiping out 99.4% of the entire population.
As if this wasn't enough, the survivors begin to have strange and often terrible dreams, some of a dark man, a wandering stranger. If I may, I'd like to quote a brief description of this faceless man, because it's a beautiful piece of horror writing:
"He looks like anybody you see on the street. But when he grins, birds fall dead off telephone lines...the grass yellows up and dies where he spits. He's always outside. He came out of time...He has the name of a thousand demons. Jesus knocked him into a herd of pigs once. His name is Legion. He's afraid of us...He knows magic. He can call the wolves and live in the crows...He's the king of nowhere."
The plot certainly takes it's time, and while the impatient might wish it moved a little faster, or complain of self-indulgence on the authors part, I personally revelled in the unhurried way the narrative gives you time to really stop and smell the roses. The result is a story with incredible depth. Many undercurrents, subplots and themes run concurrently, mixing and weaving together into a true masterpiece of storytelling.
The sheer range of thought and feeling this book conjured in me was awesome. The Stand is one of those books that I'll take with me for the rest of my life, and I encourage anyone in search of a novel with substance to give it a go.