The Stand: The Complete & Uncut Edition - Stephen King Upon finishing The Stand, I asked myself: what is the point? I was not asking myself this question in the existential way King likely intended; I was not asking, “what is the point of living if society always goes bad at some point?” No, I was asking: what is the point of these 1300 pages? What was the point of this massive ensemble of characters, many of whom met senseless deaths? This book was not affecting in a way that made me ponder the futility and fragility of human life, though I believe that was “the point.” The Stand is an example of a book with an excellent message obfuscated by horrible execution. In The Stand, a superflu virus basically kills everyone in the world, leaving a feeble few to resurrect human society. Imagine, for a moment, that you are one of the select 0.6% who has survived the virus. You wander for days before encountering another person. Eventually, you find a group of comrades and decide to carry on humanity’s torch and develop a society, that natural human state. What would you want your society to be like? Would you simply re-ratify the American constitution and readopt all of America’s social conventions, even if these conventions include the inferiority of women, the dominance of Christian religion, and environmental destruction? I hope you’re saying no, because such a society would be dreadfully unimaginative and guilty of the same failures as the pre-flu society. Yet much of The Stand amounts to just that: the reinstitution of the fallen American society. It’s such a bummer! The reason I love post-apocalyptic stories is that they amount to a reset button, a perfect juncture to objectively criticize past societal failings and progress to a more advanced state. Characters in The Stand don’t treat it that way; rather they simply revert to a previous state. I think that reversion is a bit unrealistic. Why would the women of The Stand fall back to their inferior position? Wouldn’t they view this as a chance for equality? The women of The Stand remain oppressed, however, and nothing changes for the better. Now this static social state may be due to King’s overall thesis in writing this book. He seems to suggest that many humans are inherently bad and as a result, there will never be a perfect human society, superflu reset button or no. But I don’t know if I accept his thesis because his plot never explored all the possible scenarios. We never get to see the people negotiate a new social contract and emerge from the State of Nature; the “new” society they create is already social and inherits all the faults of the old. Ensconced somewhere in these 1300 pages is a good book. A very very good book with a fascinating overarching idea. Unfortunately, everything positive you can take out of this reading experience is slathered in deadly flu microbes, meaning it’s impossible to find these positive aspects without suffering a little. In the end, The Stand is just too much. There’s too much exposition, too much denouement, too many characters, too many logical flaws; and all of this is for one interesting idea that is not sufficiently investigated.