I had thought of writing this as a 300-word review, but for a book that can't limit itself to 300 pages, that seemed a bit much to wish for. In fact, this book has 1,200 pages, which I’m pretty sure makes it longer than both the Bible and War and Peace. That, combined with the fact that I was reading it in German (hence the subtitle "Das letzte Gefecht," meaning "The Last Battle/Encounter"), goes a long way in explaining why I’ve not mentioned Sitzbook in a month or so.
So, The Stand. Its plot is basic but intriguing: A virus wipes out over 99% of the world’s population, and the reader follows the survivors in the U.S. as they try to rebuild society. The "good” people group together in Boulder (yes, that Boulder), and the "bad" ones go to Las Vegas. I’ve not read a lot of Stephen King’s books, but this one seems marked by the fact that he really takes his time with the story, although that’s a good thing. He gives us a lot of time to get to know his characters, which helps us empathize with them--and sometimes even with the “bad” ones.
This is an important and positive aspect of the story, in my opinion. The book never actually calls the “good” or “bad” people good or bad, and that’s why I put the words in quotation marks. It seems to indicate that anyone has the potential to be good or bad, and where we go in life depends on the decisions we make, along with a healthy dose of fate (as seen in the form of the indiscriminate virus, as well as other plot points).
I had actually read this book about 14 years ago on the recommendation of Shannon, who worked at my dad’s clinic. She said that it was one of her favorites, and I remember reading it very quickly during a trip I took to Germany in 1997. Some parts of the book were still in my head all these years later, which is pretty remarkable, since I often forget things that happened just yesterday. I guess that speaks to King’s ability to describe a scene or to flesh out a character’s personality. In any case, it was a nice, new experience to sort of “re-discover” this story and its characters, since I don’t normally read books more than once.
Plus, one aspect that I really liked about this reading was the Boulder setting. The first time I read it, I hadn’t even been to Boulder, which is kind of strange, seeing that it’s only an hour away from Fort Collins, where I grew up. But in the meantime I spent about 6 or 7 years there studying at the university, driving buses, and delivering flowers. Having that geographical context and “insider” knowledge was great for me, since it really helped me visualize the story. King used all sorts of real-life Boulder settings such as various streets, Muenzinger Auditorium at CU, the Table Mesa shopping area/strip-mall, and even Eben G. Fine Park at the end of Arapahoe Avenue. Although I guess it’s not universally a positive thing (I suppose it may "kill imagination" or something), having these real-life landmarks sure made a big difference when I drew a mental picture of the story in my head.
In any case, that’s about all I’m going to say about this book. If you like Stephen King and haven’t read this book for some reason, then you definitely should. If you don’t like Stephen King, then there’s likely nothing I can do to convince you otherwise, and trying to force this lovely doorstop of a book on you would only be counter-productive. So, to conclude this review, I’m going to throw out some of the quotes that I liked the best. Obviously, they’re in German, since I read it in German, but if you don’t speak German, then can you really call yourself “educated”? I’d say no.
Anyhow, here we go:
(From p. 407; Larry Underwood is remembering Glen Bateman’s words):
Soll ich Ihnen sagen, was uns die Soziologie über die menschliche Rasse lehrt? Ich fasse mich kurz. Zeigen Sie mir einen einzelnen Mann oder eine Frau, und Sie werden einen Heiligen oder eine Heilige sehen. Zeigen Sie mir zwei Menschen, und sie werden sich ineinander verlieben. Geben Sie mir drei, und sie werden das bezaubernde Ding erfinden, das wir „Gesellschaft“ nennen. Geben Sie mir vier, und sie werden eine Pyramide bauen. Geben Sie mir fünf, und sie werden einen zum Paria stempeln. Geben Sie mir sechs, und sie werden das Vorurteil neu erfinden. Geben Sie mir sieben, und in sieben Jahren erfinden sie den Krieg neu. Der Mensch mag nach Gottes Ebenbild erschaffen worden sein, die menschliche Gesellschaft aber ganz sicherlich nach dem Ebenbild seines Gegenspielers, und sie will immer wieder nach Hause.
(From p. 612; Not really a big plot point, but at least it slams on Nebraska):
Mit Nebraska war etwas nicht in Ordnung, ganz und gar nicht in Ordnung. Etwas, das ihm angst machte. Nebraska sah so aus wie Iowa... aber es war nicht so.
(From p. 679; Funny because what Glen doesn't want to accept, is exactly what's happening):
Glen schüttelte den Kopf. „Nein, ich kann den Gedanken nicht akzeptieren, daß wir alle Figuren in einem post-apokalyptischen Spiel zwischen Gut und Böse sind, Träume hin, Träume her. Verdammt, das ist irrational!“
So, that's it for this review. Thanks for reading, and have a great day!