I just finished reading The Stand again for what must have been the third or fourth time. It’s always been one of my favourite books, but I think I enjoyed it even more this last time – this is despite having recently watched the TV adaptation (which prompted me to reread in the first place) and consequently having fairly good idea of what was going to happen.

As I’m not going to bother summarising the book, for a basic introduction visit the wikipedia page here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stand

There’s not really much to write about – the best thing I can say here is to go off and read the book if you haven’t already done so. It is slow, but never ponderously so, and it does take a long time to get where it’s going, but you’ll still be sorry when it’s over.

One element that might be slightly unnerving is the superflu that takes out 99% of the human race. Although the 1990s setting (updated from the original 1980s setting in this "author’s cut" edition) removes the story a little from reality, it’s still interesting to bear in mind the impending bird-flu epidemic that people keep warning us about. While I don’t expect that to take out 99% of the world’s population, it’s still the closet frame of reference to a global pandemic that you’re likely to have while reading The Stand.

Another frame of reference to keep in mind is the very geographical nature of the good vs evil conflict. In the book the good guys are in Boulder and the bad guys are in Las Vegas (how fitting), which creates something of an east vs. west scenario.

While it’s hard to correlate the ideologies of the characters in the book with the current "good west" v.s "evil terrorist east" climate, it does again provide an interesting parallel to the present day.

Personally I think the "good west" is almost as bad as the "evil east" (in different ways) but that’s a different argument. One thing I did perhaps notice for the first time on this reading is how Stephen King is actually quite careful to illustrate that some of the people in Las Vegas are generally decent folk, albeit scared and taking themselves down the wrong path. Equally, the good folk of Boulder are not all that good – there are joy riders, alcoholics, budding militants, and general whiners (of course there’s also Harold and Nadine, but they were technically impostors all along).

In short this is not heaven and hell (which I think George Bush would just love us to imagine is the status of the war on terror) but just people – some go the right way, some go the wrong, and there are decent folk and corrupt folk on both sides.

Strangely enough this isn’t one of Stephen King’s favourite books (among the ones he’s written) but it is a lot of other people’s favourite book (among all the books that have been written).

As far as I know it isn’t in any way connected to the REM song Stand, either.