The Stand, Stephen King’s Apocalyptic Tale, shows what can happen when we mess with genetically altered viruses and prions and allows the readers to witness how civilization comes apart at the seams. The Stand with its well woven plot, takes the apocalypse head on. The novel was nominated for the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1979 and was adapted for both a television miniseries for ABC and as a limited series by Marvel Comics that was eventually collected in a trade paperback collection. Meet me after the jump.
Stephen King has been called the Master of Horror and rightly so. His stories reach a part of us that is tucked safely away in our psyche and we are forced to come face to face with monsters of every kind and sometimes that monster is us. This epic tale is a story of good vs. evil and is divided into three parts or as I call it, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.
Part One: Captain Trips
There’s an accident at a military base which had been working on a man-made super flu. One soldier escapes before the doors slam shut, sealing everyone else inside. The soldier tries to get his wife and young child to safety, but he’s already infected. By the time the dying Charles Campion crashes his car into the gas pumps in Arnette, East Texas, the pandemic has already spread, killing millions of people along with most domesticated animals. The plague (Captain Trips) brings about the total shutdown of civilization and the few survivors left are being pulled towards two different destinations and two leaders, Mother Abagail and Randall Flagg.
Part Two: The Border
One by one, through dreams where an elderly God fearing woman (Abagail Freemantle, the good) speaks to them, one group of survivors which include a pregnant Frannie Goldsmith, Stu Redman, Nick Andros, Larry Underwood, Ralph Brenter, Glen Bateman, Harold Lauder and Nadine Cross, find their way to Boulder, Colorado. This group struggles to rebuild a society with Mother Abagail as their spiritual leader.
The second group of survivors is drawn to Las Vegas by an evil man, who might be the Devil himself, Randall Flagg (the bad). The “Dark Man” or “Walkin’ Dude” as Flagg is sometimes called is a cruel and sadistic creature. He and his people are able to restore power to Las Vegas and rebuild the city, but life is not easy there. Flagg uses torture and other nasty forms of punishment to control the town. Flagg sends out several men including one very crazy dude (the ugly) called the “Trashcan Man” to locate and bring back weapons and other survivors.
Harold Lauder, feeling spurned by Frannie Goldsmith and jealous of the camaraderie of the others in the group, befriends Nadine Cross. Nadine, who is destined to be Flagg’s bride, helps Harold to build a bomb. The explosion kills Nick, a favorite character and several other members of the Free Zone Leadership Committee. Harold and Nadine escape and head out towards Vegas.
Part Three: The Stand
In part three, the book reaches its climax when four members of the Free Zone committee along with a dog named Kojak head out to spy on the inhabitants of Las Vegas. One is injured and left behind and the other three are captured by Flagg’s men. In Boulder, Frannie, who is in labor, is worried that her child will lack the immunity to survive the plague. In Vegas, Flagg’s plans to rule over good is hampered by the arrival of Trashcan Man and his nuclear warhead which is set off by the electrical arc (The hand of God) Flagg was using to quiet a dissenter. Was Flagg destroyed? All who lived in Vegas were, but in the expanded edition, it is hinted that Flagg survived and is gathering a new army on some beach in the South Pacific.
King was able to bring together some of my biggest fears on how we will all go extinct. Super viruses and killer prions already exist and have the potential to wipe out a large portion of humanity and while Pharmaceutical companies struggle to create vaccines that will hinder the spread of pandemics, the viruses and prions hamper their success by constantly evolving. Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy have already demonstrated how easily we can be knocked to our knees from natural causes and the global financial meltdown shows how bad and greedy people can cripple the survival of the free world. The Stand by Stephen King is a well thought out and prophetical warning of what the Apocalypse will mean for the citizens of Earth.