Title: The Stand
Author: Stephen King
Narrator: Grover Gardner
Audiobook Length: 47 hours, 56 minutes
“When a man escapes from a biological testing facility, he sets in motion a deadly domino effect, spreading a mutated strain of the flu that will wipe out 99 percent of humanity within a few weeks. The survivors who remain are scared, bewildered, and in need of a leader. Two emerge–Mother Abagail, the benevolent 108-year-old woman who urges them to build a community in Boulder, Colorado; and Randall Flagg, the nefarious “Dark Man,” who delights in chaos and violence.”
Thoughts: Horror – a feeling of intense fear, anxiety, or hopelessness; something that causes a very strong feeling of fear, shock, or disgust. The Stand is a horror story through and through, and after reading it, one has no problems understanding why Stephen King is considered the master of the horror story. On this post-apocalyptic cautionary tale, Mr. King takes readers on the ultimate emotional roller coaster, through the highest of highs, the absolute lowest of lows, and everything in between. Along the way, his very large cast become more than characters on a page but take on a life of their own.
Mr. King is not afraid to go for the emotional jugular when it comes to storytelling. No one character is safe, leading to some of the most upsetting scenes in the entire book. At the same time, because no one is safe, there is an air of realism in spite of the supernatural elements, which makes the reader feel like everything unfolding could really occur. Death can and will happen to the best and worst among people, and Mr. King is just reminding readers of that fact. It is a potent piece of writing that keeps one’s heart in one’s throat throughout the novel.
Grover Gardner does an absolutely masterful job narrating this tome. With its extremely large cast of characters, a listener could easily get confused without any differentiation between characters. Mr. Gardner’s performance is subtle but very effective, so that one needs nothing but vocal cues to understand who is speaking at any point in time. He captures their fear, their doubts or absolute certainty in their cause, their joys, pains, and so much more with the least amount of inflection. Through his performance, listeners receive a clearer picture behind each character’s motivation, thereby providing its own character development beyond what is written on the page. Very few narrators would be able to pull of the audio version of The Stand, but Mr. Gardner completely nails it.
One can easily see why The Stand is considered one of Mr. King’s best pieces of work. It really does have it all – a terrifying image of the brute force of a pandemic and its terrible aftermath, good versus evil, survival at its most instinctual, deep character knowledge, romance, humor, and so much more. It is by turns horrifying, thrilling, mystifying, thought-provoking, and utterly breathtaking. Mr. King sweeps the reader into his post-flu world within the first few harrowing sentences and does not let them go. The Stand just may be one of the best examples of a modern-day epic to date and well worth the time involved to either listen to it or read it.
Acknowledgements: Mine. All mine.