Book Club Recap: Stephen King’s The Stand

Our Book Club discussed Stephen King’s The Stand on Sept. 7, 2011. This may seem like an unusual book club choice (and in fact, it must be, because no reading-group guides exist for the book online). We learned, however, that the book has a little bit of something for everyone: horror, suspense, action, humor, sci-fi, romance, adventure. It’s a meaty book that spans all genres.

We normally read one book a month, but with The Stand we expanded it to two months. Many people in the group were really into it, but didn’t have the time to finish the 1400-page tome in the allotted 30 days. We got attached to the characters, especially Nick and Stu. Frannie, not so much.

Even though King updated the book in 1990, it still felt stuck in the 70s at some parts, especially regarding the cost of things and an archaic (for the 90s) view of birth control. We weren’t sure why it even had to be updated. We also debated if the book would still be interesting without the sci-fi elements. Isn’t a pandemic wiping out most of the world’s population enough? Why add a villain, a Sauron-esque embodiment of evil? We felt his motivations and purpose were a little vague.

We wondered how long the people of Boulder would be able to survive just by foraging for food. Also, we wondered why some people thought it was a good idea to just leave the community and head back to their homes, as though they could just make medicine or something if they got ill. It’s not that easy. And, as someone said, “Stephen King don’t know nothing ’bout birthin’ no babies!” A woman who had given birth by C-section wouldn’t be able to later have a natural birth without serious complications.

One thing we couldn’t figure out: why was the superflu called Captain Trips? According to google, this was also a nickname for The Grateful Dead‘s Jerry Garcia, but that doesn’t explain why King chose it as a euphemism for the superflu.

Still, despite these nitpicks, it was an entertaining book and an even better discussion. It’s fun to wonder who you might become after the end of the world. Would you be a hero or a villain? Would you even be able to survive? And if you did, what would you miss most about civilization?

For next month, we’re reading Jeannette Walls’s The Glass Castle, a more traditional book club selection.

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