This is the way the world ends...
...not with a bang, but a whimper. So proclaims T. S. Eliott in the opening sequence of the mini-series based on this book, and the statement describes "The Stand" quite aptly. But reader, be warned: while the world may end with a whimper, some things do indeed end with a bang.
Steven King's "The Stand," over a thousand pages in length and not for the light reader (or the faint of heart), tells the tale of a world-wide mass extinction caused by an escaped bio-weapon created by the U.S. government, and then continues to describe the experiences of the less than one percent of the population who, for some reason, survive.
The survivors find themselves drawn into a supernatural battle of good vs. evil, and, in true Steven King fashion, the characters are each introduced with in-depth backrounds, personal quirks, and a blurring of altruistic and selfish traits that leaves you guessing at times as to which side they are on. And indeed, not all of the characters are standing on the same side of the line at which they began.
This work of fiction will scare the hell out of you. Although the last half of the book is complete fantasy, the first half is so realistic in its progression that you are lead to believe, by the middle, that, for instance, it is perfectly feasible not only for unrelated people all over the country to have the same recurring dreams about a holy old black woman and a demon in human form - but that the woman and the demon could exist. The scary part is that by that time, you have already come to fully accept the premise - that the U. S. military developed an incurable deadly virus with a close to 100% communicability rate, accidentally released it into the country, and then purposefully infected the rest of the world while trying to cover it up until the bitter end.
The scenes detailing the military rule and the horrific mass deaths (and murders) which ensue are nightmarish in their clarity. My personal favorites are the gratuitous blurbs about the "final cut" - deaths which occur as a result of the breakdown of society, such as recently orphaned children falling into wells and dying 20 hours later "as much from fear and misery as from shock and hunger and dehydration." The completeness of the tale makes you wonder if Steven King bore witness to this very chain of events in a parallel universe.
I suggest this edition of the novel for two reasons:
1. This version is the unabridged one. The story was initially released with much of the character development omitted due to the added cost of printing the pages! Once King gained clout in the world of fiction (and got rich enough that he could), he had it re-printed with all of the depth he intended it to have. And besides, for the sake of getting the complete picture, what is an extra 200 pages when the total work is 1152?
2. This edition is a gorgeous hardcover. Need I say more?
So, in conclusion, if you are a Steven King fan, or an american citizen with a healthy dose of skepticism as to how our contry is run, and are not squeamish about the darker side of human nature, you NEED to buy this book! You will get sucked into a journey through evil and trying times in a very possible modern-day world, and come out the other side with a greater understanding of the necessity of faith and love, and, in the words of a cricket, to "always let your conscience be your guide." I hope you enjoy this book as much as I do!