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.
You made it! You're 1,000 pages into the longest book on the list, and you finally have a vague idea of what The Stand actually is. It's a typo. This whole post-apocalyptic plague story is about the origin of the Nu-Metal rock group, Staind. As rock related merchandising goes, it's at least better than Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park.
Everyone good is flawed. Everyone evil is flawed. Nobody is as good a spy as they imagine when they watch espionage films. Having sex with someone you don't care about, just because you're lonely and don't like your neighbors won't necessarily get you killed, but it's not going to make either of you feel better in the long run. Everything's cyclical. Fanaticism will get you killed every time, no matter whether or not you think you or the focus of your devotion is benevolent, or lets you get away with your sinful behavior.
The last third of The Stand is much like the first third, in that it's a road trip story. Only this time, instead of a bunch of survivors journeying to stay alive, it's a bunch of survivors who all assume they're traveling towards their death. And they're not all wrong.
Having read this at very different parts of my life, I want you to know it's not a book with a satisfying ending (and I don't mean the tiny epilogue, which you should actually skip entirely), but I think it's the right ending for a story like this. I don't think it will make you angry or sad. It's just not a blockbuster ending, even though the beginning of the book seems to be setting up a blockbuster event.
There is, finally, a ton of Randall Flagg in this section. You get a peek at some of his villainous potential, and some of his fallibility. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, there's a short epilogue that shows you what happens to Flagg post-The Stand. SKIP IT. It's 20th century well-intentioned, maybe, racist, and in the the story of this chronology, completely irrelevant. If I were editing the books for this chronology, it would be one the two hundred or so pages I'd chop out. I'd replace it with the first chapter of the next book, The Eyes Of The Dragon, to give it that Nightmare On Elm Street ending that Randall Flagg sort of earns.
--It never gets easier in a post-apocalyptic world, huh? "Oh no, almost everyone is dead. What should we do now? Kill more people? OK!"
--Stephen King was really figuring out his voice in this book. In many ways, I enjoy the way he writes in this book more than his work from when he was a more Established Writer, and certainly more than his current status as a Legendary Writer. I'm certainly going to miss his voice in the next book.
--While not every agnostic character makes it out of this book alive, NONE of the religious people do. And given how all of the religious people behave, whether they worship God, Satan, Mother Abigail, Randall Flagg, themselves, or agnosticism (never get high on your own farts), I highly approve of clearing them all off the board.
--This book was only 1,153 pages from cover to cover. A breeze. And there's only twenty or so more books to go, right?