SPOILER ALERT!
The Stand - Stephen King

My favorite part of this gigantic King novel is the beginning: seeing how the superflu wipes out humanity and how the remaining characters survive and come together. After that, things got dicey for me. So much time is spent in the Free Zone that I wondered what was happening in Vegas, and when we got to Vegas in the last part, things were already falling apart. There's such a build up of some storylines that I think it was hard to make them pay off (perhaps the slimmer version of the novel worked better in that regard). Nadine's story in particular ended rather abruptly, and she was one of the more fascinating characters. In addition, Flagg is felt to be such a huge threat, but in the last part his power is already fading, and you know things will basically work out all right. I suppose pacing in general didn't work for me in the second half. By the end, what unfolds feels anti-climactic, and Stu and Tom's journey home dragged.

 

The other central beef I had with the book was the characters. I can't say I had a favorite or cared overly much for particular characters. Women in particular are generally given short shrift and stereotypical roles. I liked Dayna, the spy, but she's killed off quickly. Otherwise, the game ends up being in the hands of men, whose characters develop noticeably over the course of the narrative. I wish more post-apocalypse stories resembled The Walking Dead, where women aren't relegated to being only mothers or victims.

 

There were moments and sequences where I was thoroughly engaged, excited, horrified, frightened, but not enough for me to love this book. I don't read as much King as I used to, but I always wanted to read this one. I'm glad I finally did despite not liking the book as much as I'd anticipated.