Last month, I suggested a reading order for the extended universe of Stephen King's The Dark Tower, a series I loved, but hadn't read any of since Volume 7: The Dark Tower came out in 2004. I realized that I missed the characters from the series, and wondered if the reading order I suggested would really hold someone's interest all the way through. I scoured some local bookstores, and then the internet for the hardcovers of the books, and prepared for my quest to read a Super Long series of books.
I know this seems a little early to say, but if you can make it through this section, you can make it through the whole chronology, as this is a long trudge through world building between an amazing first section of an epic, and the actual action of the third act. I ended up skipping some chunks of this section, and you can to, without fear that you're missing any part of the Dark Tower journey.
Voiceover: Meet Randall Flag. He's just a regular guy in a regular world.
(A guy wearing jeans and cowboy boots shrugs at the camera.)
Voiceover: Until one wacky summer when the American government accidently unleashes a supervirus killing billions of people, and the American survivors start to see him as Our Dark Lord, Satan.
(Guy In Jeans And Cowboy Boots's eyes turn red.)
Voiceover: It's like The Hangover but instead of a bunch of bachelors, it's hardened criminals doing community service by having to rebuild Las Vegas in a post apocalyptic world, while a bunch of hippies follow a crazy religious lady from Nebraska to Colorado.
(A pregnant lady, a filthy teenager, a kid holding a knife, a woman with a white streak in her hair, a guy holding a guitar and wearing sunglasses, a sixty year old professory type, and an average Joe are all playing hackey sack when a Very Old Black Woman shows up...a record scratches)
I don't think I ever watched the first TV miniseries version of The Stand, and I definitely haven't seen the remake, but I imagine they mainly skipped this second section. There are some necessary plot points to get us to the third section of the book, but there's also a ton of Mother Abigail backstory and a focus on religion that you, thankfully, don't find in most Stephen King books.
Scott Woods has a whole lecture on Stephen King's Magical Negro Problem, and that trope
is in full force in this book, as Mother Abigail is really given no depth, except that she's old, and people were really racist to her when she was young. Oh, and she thinks God has been speaking through her, and that's why she was Freddy Kruegering people in the first section of the book.
I skipped most of the chapters that focused on her. It was clear that, since she was one hundred and (mutters under breath) at the beginning of the book that she probably wasn't going to make it to the end, why bother getting to know her? We want to know more about this Randall Flagg guy, and how he convinced The Bad Survivors Of the Plague to go to Vegas and help him. And we get some perspective on that, but not enough.
What I like about the dividing up of people between Randall Flagg ad Mother Abigail is that it's not actually Good People vs. Bad People, it's mostly Efficient People vs. Dreamers. Everyone is flawed, and most people mean well. The people who don't mean well are in Vegas AND Boulder, and neither Flagg nor Mother Abigail really know their motives, which speaks to a more humanist view than the religious Good Vs Evil trope that's being set up for The Stand. And we still don't know what The Stand is or will be in this section of the book.
This is the longest section of the book, and it feels like it, at over 500 pages. As I said in the intro, if you can make it through this, you can make it through the whole chronology. It's not bad writing, it's just not as fun and attention-grabbing as the first section, and it's not as consequential as what follows, but you do get some quality time with Randall Flagg, who's going to be with us to the bitter end of this journey.
--I really did skip through most of the Mother Abigail story. It's tedious, and is clearly a White Dude from Maine trying to write about the difficulties of growing up a Black child in the midwest, and that's not what Stephen King is known for. Nor should it be what he's known for.
--Don't ever get too attached to anyone who seems like they might be a protagonist in this book. It will blow up in your face.
--Who says this chronology is long? We're already 2 parts in, and it's only 927 pages so far.