I stand up to Stephen King’s The Stand: Uncut Edition

Badass Book Report

I’m a big Stephen King fan. I’ve read a lot of his work. My favorites are probably his short story collections; Skeleton Crew, Night Shift, Four Past Midnight, etc.

Skeleton Crew eyes of the dragon Misery

As for his regular novels, I’ve read several, but my favorites would probably be Eyes of the Dragon and Misery.  However, I had never conquered what is considered King’s magnum opus. I had never read The Stand. I can’t tell you why I never read it.  There is probably a bit of intimidation in there, but nonetheless, it remained a hole in my King reading.  I think it was my reading of The Gunslinger that kept me from reading The Stand.  I hated The Gunslinger, but that’s a tale for another time.

The Standalong

Then Trish from Love, Laughter and Insanity decided to start up The Standalong.  It was a group read-a-long of King’s The Stand.  I thought, if I’m ever going to read this book, then it needs to be NOW.  So I signed up and started reading the book on June 3.  Here are my thoughts.

First the good, because I don’t want to just bitch.  The book was well written with well written characters.  There are many parts I found fascinating like the spread of Captain Trips, the devolution of society as it realizes everyone is dying.  The rebuilding of society in the Boulder Free Zone.  Flagg’s Las Vegas community.  Those all were interesting and I enjoyed reading about them.  However, the main fault of the book is that it’s too damn long.

The Stand comic

I read the uncut version.  I thought if I’m going to read this book, then I’ll read the original “author’s vision”.  The uncut edition paperback I have is 1138 pages long.  1138 pages.  I was reading it for the entire month of June.  I had to stop around page 700 to read two other books as an intermission because, like I said, this book is just too damn long.  It’s exhausting to read, especially considering the type of story.

Like I said the book was well written with good characters, but I just didn’t really connect with any character.  Well, I take that back, I liked Nick and Tom Cullen.  I really liked Tom Cullen, especially when you see more of him at the end.  I also liked Larry later on in the book, but really didn’t like him in the beginning.  And I was a little annoyed with Stu and Fran.  There was way too much sappy, puppy love between them and the constant mentioning of their sex life was out of control.  I get it.  They are in love.   You don’t need to draw me a map.

But, back to the story’s length.  I still say King needs a really good editor because he tends to follow rat holes that sometimes work, but sometimes just do nothing.  We had nearly 100 pages devoted to back story for Mother Abigail and none of it was ever referenced again.  And none of that, I felt, was really needed by the time you reach the end.  Many of the introductions of the characters are overly long.  Larry’s story was like a novel unto itself.  The exodus to Boulder seemed to take FOREVER.  Once everyone got there, though, I enjoyed it.

Next, the devolution of society during the outbreak.  That was probably another 100+ pages or so in which we just get beat over the head with how bad things are and how horrible people are acting towards other people.  It was depressing.  And it just kept going on and on and on.  A few judicious trims in these sections would have made for a better novel, in my opinion.

The Stand mini-series

Now, the ending.  And there’s going to be spoilers, so just get over it.  This book has three endings.  “The Stand” of the title happens in Las Vegas.  You’ve read over 1000+ pages to get to this mythical standoff with Randall Flagg and it all ends <SPOILER, DAMMIT> in a disappointing nuclear bomb explosion that kills almost everyone</ SPOILER>.  And the nuclear explosion wasn’t even caused by the people that went to Vegas to take “The Stand”.  It was caused by Flagg accidentally igniting a bomb that Trashcan Man stupidly drove right into the heart of the city.  WHAT?  REALLY?  No big standoff?  No big moment for Larry to be the “stand up guy”?  Everything just goes BOOM because Flagg got careless?  Hm.

So that ending was disappointing.  Ending #2 involves a surprisingly not dead Stu trying to get back to Boulder to see Fran give birth to the baby.  And he hooks back up with Tom.  This ending helped redeem some of the disappointment of the Vegas affair.  Ending #2 is fun to watch Stu and Tom survive the Southwest winter and rely on each other to make it back to Boulder.  It ends with Stu and Fran deciding to leave the Free Zone and head back to Maine with the baby, living on the road on their own for a while.  Then Ending #3 happens with the supposed resurrection of Flagg which, seems to me to completely undermine the sacrifices of Larry and the others in their quest to confront Flagg.  So back to disappointment.

So now, at the other end of the book I’m a little disappointed.  I actually had trouble reading a book for a few weeks afterward while I digested my reading of The Stand.  I’m of two minds.  King is a great writer.  He writes good characters and the stories he envisions, especially in this book, are epic and I appreciate that.  Unfortunately for me, this book couldn’t live up to the epic, sprawling tale King wanted.  The ending fell completely flat and I had to wonder why I made the long ass journey for what I got in the end.

I won’t say this was a bad book.  It wasn’t.  For me, it was just disappointing.  I see why people like it, and if I had read this back in high school or college, I’d probably be totally in love with it.  But reading The Stand today, I just felt the journey wasn’t worth the destination.  If I ever read it again, I’ll read the edited version.  But I honestly think this book would have been better around 6-700pgs.  I was feeling “story weary” around page 800.

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12 Responses to “I stand up to Stephen King’s The Stand: Uncut Edition”

  1. Granted, I’m certainly not a huge King fan (I tried to read “It” years ago, but soon became disgusted by King’s obsession/disgust of menstruation), but out of the novels I’ve read, this was my favorite. But I’ve always been a sucker for dystopian books. The length wasn’t an issue for me, but I don’t believe I read the “uncut” version. (Those are always dangerous. As you found here, there’s a reason some people are “authors” and others “editors.” I have the same problem with “Special Editions” of classic albums; as normally I just want to hear the stuff that made the cut.)

  2. We get it Pax! It’s long! 😉 I agree with you on many points here but where I struggle is that I SO WANT TO LOVE IT WITH ALL MY HEART that I feel like I’m forcing myself to lean that way. If it weren’t for the audio and my deadline I think that this could have dragged on for a long time. I give it 10 years and then I’ll read it again–the original version–and see how it goes. The extra 500 pages was too much for me. And it’s funny because so many people say that at the end they wouldn’t cut a page. Really?!

    What’s really interesting is that the 800 pager doesn’t seem to have the ending #3. Would you be more satisfied with that? I actually liked #3 but definitely wanted more of a stand. especially if characters that I liked so well had to sacrifice themselves.

    So…have you seen the chatter on twitter with many of the #standalong group about the #italong in September? Join us join us join us! 🙂

    • I have no desire to read It. You are on your own there. But if you start up a read along of Needful Things, I’m in.

      I know it’s probably controversial, but like I said, I’d cut like 300-400 pages out.

      • Aww, come on! We’ve got clown noses! IT’ll be fun (hardee har har).

      • As you can see from Jill’s comment I am not alone. I’m making them hold my [virtual] hand (since they threw me under the bus). 😉 There’s still time… Muahahahahaha.

  3. So on ending #3. This is where the king mythos really kicks in as Randall Flagg is less a being, and more of an idea of evil. He can’t really die. Flagg is basically the evil in most if not all of King’s books (either literally popping up like in the Dark Tower) or under different names. This is something I find fascinating about kings work, and the Dark Tower which is at the center of it, where all the books are connected to some degree.

    I 100% agree that the ending of the Stand is annoying. I was so pissed with the three characters (particularly Larry) sacrificing themselves only to have circumstance be the culprit. Honestly, this is King’s biggest failing as a writer. In like 90% of his books there’s all this amazing character story build-up and then bam, he introduces a hollow monster that can never live up to the character’s he’s built and it’s just very anticlimactic.

    What I love about the book is the world he built. As demented as it sounds, it’s a world I was interested enough in to want to visit. Honestly I never cared all that much about the eventual fight between the forces of good and evil, it just played a little too cliche for me. But I loved the journey there. It plays for me much like the Lord of the Rings books. Love the journey and the world, hate the ending battles.

    I know you couldn’t get into the Gunslinger, but if you ever want to dip into King again, I suggest reading The Drawing of the three. Great characters, interesting story and world and it’s the start of a fun trilogy within the 7-book Tower series. The Tower books do start to fall apart around book 6, again because he’s a master at building worlds, but he doesn’t always play well within them…

    • I agree Shawn, I like the world and the build up of the societies. I just think there didn’t need to be as much of a build up as there was. I’ll continue to read King because I like his writing. As a matter of fact, I have 11-23-61 on my desk ready to read soon.

      • 11/23/61 is a much better book structurally, and the ending is satisfying. You will enjoy it. Also, Insomnia is another great book with a great ending.

  4. The part that I would cut in heartbeat (besides most of Mother Abigail, and all the depressing shit with no purpose) is the scene where they have to operate on the guy (see, I can’t even remember his name) and he still dies. I get it…the world is changing. But you don’t need to introduce 10 gajillion new characters to prove that point.
    Still. I enjoyed the book way more than I thought I would.

  5. I’m reading this right now but I’m only like 30% through, and it’s taking me forever. I’m not a fast reader by any means, but I’m determined to see this through.

    I like it a lot so far, but I agree with you, it’s just too damn long.

  6. I find that I am never 100% satisfied with Kings books, although there are always huge pearls to be dug out of every oyster he places before us. The Stand is a perfect example. There are a TON of great character moments, and examinations on society as a whole, and some great themes of good vs. evil and the many shades of gray in between… but ugh so much padding starts to drag it down and kill it after a while. I think of all his books, IT was the most perfectly crafted, the best beginning, middle, and end… and he sticks the landing. King almost always flubs one of those. I am completely in love with his short fiction, and it feels like that’s where he really does shine. Smaller, bite-sized chunks. In fact, IT almost reads more like a series of short stories in some ways, with obvious connected themes, locations, and shared characters. But so many chapters of the book could have been lifted directly out, placed into a book of his short stories, and enjoyed. In fact a lot of his short stories actually feel like they were unused ideas from IT. There are a few places where he meanders unnecessarily, like in some of the “historical” details… but for ANY fan of King’s short fiction, I recommend IT wholeheartedly. (and on a side note, read some Joe Hill too. Heart Shaped Box is the best book King never wrote… but it feels like he wrote it, in a manic frenzy of lightning and bloodshed)

    • I just learned that Joe Hill is King’s son. Wonder if you knew that? Also sounds like you need to join the IT readalong. 😉 (yes, Pax, I am using your comment section to lure folks over to my dark side)

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