Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Stand

I'm reviving this here book club!

As most of you know, I just finished reading our most recent selection, The Stand by Stephen King. It was a long slog at 1140 pages! It was particularly slow because I have been reading myself to sleep each night here at Toolik and sometimes only get in a page or two. :)

All in all I enjoyed the book and appreciated this chance to check out a fan favorite from a prolific modern writer. This book was much easier to read and follow than many of our book club selections, which I think gives it its 'pulpy' feel that many critics scorn, but which also likely contributes to its popularity.

I think The Stand's biggest strength is the plot. I am admittedly a sucker for post-apocalyptic story lines and so I particularly liked the beginning of the book where the plague set in. Later I thought the book went in a different direction with its metaphysical elements. I was personally less excited about that part of the book since I am biased toward realism, but it was an interesting choice and I'm sure a lot of King fans like that twist on the usual post-apocalyptic story.

In contrast to the solid plot, I thought the characters were a little weak. They were not bad, but certainly did not grip me the way a really good character like Ignatius or Balram does. For example, I don't think I would meet anyone in the real world and think, 'oh yeah, he reminds me of Larry Underwood.' His more colorful characters were a little gimmicky and one dimensional like the mentally impaired Tom Cullen, the deaf-mute Nick Andros, and the pyromaniac Trashcan Man.

King writes with a very clear and very plain style, which may also contribute to his popularity. At first I didn't like the writing style, but it grew on me and I came to appreciate the quality of his craft after a while. It's good writing without a lot of unnecessary acrobatics and idiosyncrasies. His really basic character names--Fran, Nick, Larry, Glen, etc--are representative of the style. I did like his occasional use of adventurous metaphors and his effective incorporation of crude language and topics, which I think can be hard to write well.

So, in summary, while I never got totally sucked in to the book, it was a fun read and a solid story and I 'm glad to have read it. Oh, one last thing: it was really fun that the book was set in Boulder! I enjoyed reading about all the locales that I know well there.

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