Book Review: The Stand

The Stand

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Easy read; Very Long (1,150-1,200 pages depending on the edition)

Summary
A mysterious flu-like disease sweeps across the country, then the world killing 99.6 percent of the population. While the disease is 100% fatal, not every one contracts it. The story follows a few different people (some before, some after the flu) that all plan to meet up with a 108 year old woman in Nebraska, before moving to Colorado. Others do not follow the woman, but instead the ‘dark man’, and meet in Las Vegas. Those in Vegas plan to destroy those in Boulder, and eventually take over the world. Those in Boulder prepare to make their final stand (get it?).

If you’ve read much Stephen King, you know there will be twist and turns and other weird things, it can be hard to tell where he is going, because he probably wasn’t sure as he was writing it. My version of the book was the ‘complete and uncut’ version that was republished in 1990. The original was released in 1978, but was about 400 pages shorter. You can read his intros to the book for the explanation, though I still found it somewhat strange, as the book is broken into three ‘books’, why not just publish a trilogy?

My Thoughts
Actually, I’ll start with my dad’s thoughts. King is probably his favorite author and he has read all of his books (including the first publication of The Stand), and according to him, it is a toss-up between this book and Salem’s Lot as King’s best. When I asked other King fans about this, they tended to agree or call Salem’s Lot a close winner, so I guess I know what to read next.

Despite the massive size of the book, it really reads quite quickly. Much of the book is dialogue, so the pages aren’t that full. As always, King writes conversations and peoples’ thoughts so well that speed threw most pages. Some people complain that it drags, but I didn’t really feel that, though I felt he was oddly disproportionate to different times and scenes.

I found the story and people to be compelling, especially the early part of the book, post-flu. It kind of reminded me of the TV show ‘Last Man on Earth’, except most of King’s characters are far more intelligent and resourceful. I found myself thinking, that was smart, I’ll have to remember that…just in case. The first few hundred pages will really make you think, and the rest you read quickly with anticipation as to how it will end. If you enjoy Post-Apocalyptic fiction or are a King fan, this is definitely a book to put on your list.

*Spoilers (am I required to do that for a 40 year old book?)
This isn’t necessarily a spoiler, but I read the book in June and people at work started calling in sick, saying they had a summer cold, a phrase I had never heard before. Honestly, I started to get a little paranoid. I have three final thoughts, to of which are critiques, but it it will ruin the ending if you haven’t read it; so, you’ve been warned. First and foremost, the ending with Trashcan Man blowing everyone up is stupid and even worse it is completely unrelated to the guys who walked there. The didn’t need to be there, Trash might have killed everyone regardless of their presence. Other problem also with the ending, it was really stupid that Stu and Fran drive back to Maine. Boulder had just turned the power back on and had doctors and a functioning hospital, but they leave despite having an infant and her being pregnant again. Finally, with chapter with Stu and Tom making their way back to Boulder are some of the best writing and sweet/sad story lines you may ever read. Probably makes up for the other parts I didn’t like. Definitely worth the read.

Book Review: The Fall of Hyperion

The Fall of Hyperion

This is the second book in a series, check out my review of the first book – Hyperion.

My Rating – Must Read

Level – Quick, easy read; fairly long at over 500 pages.

Summary
This is a continuation of the first book, Hyperion, so the story line of the Pilgrims in continued, but there is also the introduction of another main character story line. To avoid spoilers (if that is a think for a book published over 20 years ago), I’ll say the Pilgrims all meet the Shrike, all have their stories (more or less) meet a resolution, and find out that their stories are even more intertwined than they knew.

The additional character is Joseph Severn, a Cybrid for the personality/memory of John Keats. Much of the book takes place from his vantage point. Not only his own story, but he is inexplicably tied to the Pilgrims and view what is happening to them in his dreams. CEO Gladstone puts him up in TC2, so that he can keep her apprised of the Pilgrims.

Severn/Keats and the Pilgrims stories also mix together, as does the Ousters, for a few twist and turns you don’t expect coming, including a few new back stories.

My Thoughts
One quick thought, that I didn’t put together form the first book, but become more apparent in this one, why does the cover art show the Shrike with only two arms?

As for the actual content of the book, as much as I enjoyed it, I have to admit, it wasn’t as good as the first. However, if you’ve read the first, this is still a must read. If you haven’t read the first, go read it, then come read this one. This is still a great work of fiction. He is writing during the early days of the internet, but his future thoughts on what it could be come are frightening and a little ephemeral, and in some parts could best be described as ‘trippy’. Smart phones were more than a decade away when the book was published, but the equivalent he uses, sure sounds like them, especially if we were to lose them now; from page 480

“After seven centuries of existence and at least four centuries where few citizens existed without it, the datasphere…simple ceased to be. Hundreds of thousands of citizens went insane at the moment – shocked into catatonia by the disappearance of senses which had become more important to them than sight or hearing.”

The Pilgrim story conclusions are interesting, though some are unsatisfying, and at Severn is not an interesting character. However, the book touches on some of the wildest ideas of AI and has so many intertwined stories and crazy new back stories, it is well worth the read.

Book Review: Hyperion

Hyperion

My Rating: Must Read

Level: Fairly easy read, long (almost 500 pages) but reads quickly

Summary
This is the first book the the Hyperion Cantos series and centers around the stories of seven ‘pilgrims’ as the travel to the distant world Hyperion and a voyage to meet the Shrike. The story take place 700 years in the future, where we have left Earth after it’s accidental destruction and colonized multiple planets throughout the galaxy.  On the ship, each pilgrim – the priest, the soldier, the poet, the scholar, the starship captain, the detective, and the consul – tales their story.

Each mini-story is incredible and interesting in it’s own right. But it is nothing less than impressive they way Simmons weaves the stories together with histories, biologies, geographies, ecologies, and political back stories of a dozens worlds and scores of peoples. It is an amazing, sprawling, interwoven, epic fantasy.

My Thoughts
I’m not a huge sci-fi fan, but I was impressed with this book and honestly shocked that it ins’t more famous. The shear volume and intricacies of the stories and back stories are impressive. I actually found myself staying up late to read and being excited to come back to the book to see what would happen next. I ordered the next book in the series as soon as I was wrapping this one up.

I don’t know how much I should concern myself with spoilers for a nearly 30 year old book, but I’ll just say the pilgrim stories for the priest and scholar were so fascinating to me, that they are worth the price of the book alone. Either one could be it’s own novel, and the concepts Simmons put are great thought experiments.

Of course, the book being so old, there are interesting parts that are oddly anachronistic now, which make them especially funny being projected in the future. For instance, one of the top technologies is the personal fax machine. But his concept of the ‘all-thing’ is basically our modern internet with smart phones, so that was interesting to see. Overall, a great, fun book that is a must read for anyone who likes sci-fi or fantasy, but also for anyone who enjoys thoughtful fiction.