Finally – FINALLY – finished Stephen King’s the Stand after almost two years…
…and after two other previous attempts. 1400+ pages. It’s a beast.
I’m not going to review the book – there isn’t much more I could add after all these years of its existence – but it certainly is the type of story I enjoy talking about: ensemble cast, a struggle for survival, character connections, echoes of previous chapters playing out in other acts, big questions on humanity and society and evil, etc.
Because I enjoy large sprawling stories, it’s no surprise, as I was reading it, that later works of similar premise started to spring to mind, especially Lost and the Walking Dead. This is by no means a new thought. The creators of Lost have talked enough about using the Stand as inspiration – that is well documented so I don’t have to list those similarities here. Really, it’s the little things that stood out for me in terms of backwards connections that made reading the Stand an even more interesting journey. Because I’m familiar with Lost, whenever something happened in the Stand that felt similar – an image, a phrase, a conflict – it seemed to jump out from the page. One example is in New York when Larry Underwood is arriving from the West Coast to visit his mother before the flu has hit. He’s outside her building and notices that all that remains of one of two stone dog statues on either side of the steps going up to the door is a rear paw. Which immediately brought to mind the foot/ankle remains of the Statue of Taweret on the Lost island. It’s a small, unintentional echo, I’m sure. But it’s those small details that sometimes speak to the larger power of storytelling and influence and inspiration. More obvious examples include the use of the Man in Black descriptor in both stories, being fearful of “Others”, science vs faith, questions about existence, etc. Now that my reading of the Stand is complete, whenever I get to a rewatch of Lost it’ll be doubly fun to spot the connections in the TV show, now knowing that the book was such an influence.
Again, the Stand didn’t invent these premise lines and plot devices and images. Not my point. I just enjoy seeing how stories recycle and echo – backwards and forwards – throughout the creation of like-minded projects.
From the Walking Dead comic, and I have no evidence that the Stand was influential on this story, this is just me riffing, there are similarities as well – unintentional as they may be. The Stand uses ‘the Walking Dead’ phrase a few times – no big deal there. The Stand didn’t invent that. The conflict between Rick Grimes’ prison group and the Governor’s Woodbury town certainly felt like the Mother Abigail/Colorado vs Randall Flagg/Las Vegas conflict. Stu’s escape from the Stovington, Vermont Disease Center made me think of the Walking Dead’s first scene with Rick waking up in the deserted hospital. The Stand’s Glen Bateman and the Walking Dead’s Dale play similar roles within their respective groups, especially in terms of rebuilding society and what is right/wrong. Pregnancies, a worldwide pandemic, pockets of survivors, I mean, hell, is it any wonder Frank Darabont, who has worked on Stephen King TV/Movie projects in the past, was tapped to work on the Walking Dead when it hit TV?
Echoes. Through-lines. Connections.
I look forward to learning about works prior to the Stand that share all of those. Process and the way geek-related stories are built and layered are fascinating to me. And it certainly adds to the enjoyment of taking the time to absorb these works.
By the way, I’m also torturing myself by watching the 1994 TV mini-series. The actor playing Larry Underwood is dreadful. Laura San Giacomo as Nadine is an interesting choice. Rob Lowe as Nick Andros? Really, it’s Gary Sinise as Stu that makes it watchable so far. I’m about two hours in and something about his storyline feels grounded. Believable. The other storylines and their actors? Not so much. It’s also a game of Spot the Differences from the book: using Rita’s story for Nadine so as to meet Larry earlier in the story, Nick with two eyes, and, at the point that I’m at, I’m still not sure if Molly “Frannie” Ringwald is even pregnant. Two hours in, four more to go. And then I’ll probably grab the Marvel adaptation just because I won’t feel complete unless it’s all swimming around in my brain.
And yes, I know about the Dark Tower books. I’ll get there. Someday.
Anyone have any other thoughts or comments on the Stand or other stories like it drop them down below!