First edition cover
|Cover artist||John Cayea|
|Genre||Post-apocalyptic, Dark fantasy|
|October 3, 1978|
|Media type||Print (hardcover and paperback)|
The Stand is a post-apocalyptic dark fantasy novel written by American author Stephen King and first published in 1978 by Doubleday. The plot centers on a pandemic of a weaponized strain of influenza that kills almost the entire world population. The few survivors, united in groups, establish a new social system and engage in confrontation with each other. In writing the book, King sought to create an epic in the spirit of The Lord of the Rings that was set in contemporary America. The book was difficult for King to write because of the large number of characters and storylines.
In 1990, The Stand was reprinted as a Complete and Uncut Edition. King restored some fragments of texts that were initially reduced, revised the order of the chapters, shifted the novel's setting from 1980 to 10 years forward, and accordingly corrected a number of cultural references. The Complete and Uncut Edition of The Stand is considered to be King's longest stand-alone work with its 1,152 pages, surpassing King's 1,138-page novel It. The book has sold 4.5 million copies.
The Stand was highly appreciated by reviewers and is considered one of King's best novels. It has been included in lists of the best books of all time by Rolling Stone, Time, the Modern Library, Amazon and the BBC. Reviewers praised the believability of the story, the relevance of the issues raised and the liveliness of the characters, but criticized the protractedness of individual episodes, the plot dualism and the deliberate denouement. A self-titled miniseries based on the novel was broadcast on ABC in 1994. From 2008 to 2012, Marvel Comics published a series of comics written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and illustrated by Mike Perkins. A miniseries to air on CBS All Access completed production in March 2020.
The Stand was also planned by King as an epic The Lord of the Rings–type story in a contemporary American setting:
For a long time—ten years, at least—I had wanted to write a fantasy epic like The Lord of the Rings, only with an American setting. I just couldn't figure out how to do it. Then . . . after my wife and kids and I moved to Boulder, Colorado, I saw a 60 Minutes segment on CBW (chemical-biological warfare). I never forgot the gruesome footage of the test mice shuddering, convulsing, and dying, all in twenty seconds or less. That got me remembering a chemical spill in Utah, that killed a bunch of sheep (these were canisters on their way to some burial ground; they fell off the truck and ruptured). I remembered a news reporter saying, 'If the winds had been blowing the other way, there was Salt Lake City.' This incident later served as the basis of a movie called Rage, starring George C. Scott, but before it was released, I was deep into The Stand, finally writing my American fantasy epic, set in a plague-decimated USA. Only instead of a hobbit, my hero was a Texan named Stu Redman, and instead of a Dark Lord, my villain was a ruthless drifter and supernatural madman named Randall Flagg. The land of Mordor ('where the shadows lie,' according to Tolkien) was played by Las Vegas.
While writing The Stand, King nearly stopped because of writer's block. Eventually, he reached the conclusion that the heroes were becoming too complacent, and were beginning to repeat all the same mistakes of their old society. In an attempt to resolve this, he added the part of the storyline where Harold and Nadine construct a bomb, which explodes in a Free Zone committee meeting, killing Nick Andros, Chad Norris, and Susan Stern. Later, Mother Abagail explains on her deathbed that God permitted the bombing because He was dissatisfied with the heroes' focus on petty politics, and not on the ultimate quest of destroying Flagg. When telling this story, King sardonically observed that the bomb saved the book, and that he only had to kill half of the core cast to do this.