Literary Smackdown

That's right folks, it's Literary Smackdown time.  No holds barred, it's book versus book and only the strongest survive.

Did you know that Dolph Lundgren (Russian dude) speaks 5 languages and has a Master's degree in chemical engineering?  It's true. 

A couple of months back, after reading Justin Cronin's much-hyped epic The Passage, A Reader's Respite couldn't help but notice all of the comparisons readers everywhere were making between this novel and Stephen King's legendary epic, The Stand.

The problem for us was that A Reader's Respite had never actually read King's masterpiece.  (Pelt us with tomatoes if you must, but it's true.  He scared us after the clown-thing in It and we never read a word he wrote again....but you can read about that here.).

As it turned out, we were in good company.  Both Jill (A Rhapsody in Books) and Ti (Book Chatter) had either a) never read the book, or b) read it long enough ago that it had been lost to the brain-chasm that eats up minor book details like, say, the plot.

So it was that we formed The Fellowship of The Stand.  (Okay, so it was really just a discussion thread on GoodReads, but we're going for the dramatic here, so back off.)  We chose the uncut version which basically just means that it included every random thought King has ever had and that his original editor wisely left on the cutting room floor.  1141 pages.  Yet we persevered.  We triumphed.  Around the halfway point, Jen thought we all needed our own t-shirt:

The verdict?  The similarities between The Passage and The Stand were indeed remarkable.  Both novels feature a post-apocalyptic world that is the result of a government medical experiment gone bad.  Both focus on the few groups that survive.  And both use the setting of Las Vegas for some very, very bad juju going down.

But really, that's where the similarities end.  The Passage is a thriller and adventure story.  The protagonists seek to survive and avoid the so-called virals trying to make a meal of them.  Who are the "bad guys"?  Anyone infected with the virus....former friends, family members, or co-workers.  The virus is non-discriminatory.  The thrill of the story (the first in a planned trilogy, by the way) is how the non-infected survive.  Very tense.  Very page-turn-inducing.

The Stand, however, features over-arching themes that go far beyond a storyline of basic survival.  King's missive places survivors into one of two camps:  you're either a "good guy," drawn to gather with other good guys in Boulder, Colorado or you're a "bad guy," heading off to join the evil cadre who have settled in Las Vegas and plot to destroy all other survivors.  The reader immediately knows that these groups represent something.  But what? 

Religion?  Human nature? It's possible.  The leaders of each group of survivors are specifically aligned with God and Satan, respectively.  We found it fascinating that members of each group didn't migrate from one group to the other.  They were immediately and firmly entrenched as either a "good guy" or a "bad guy."  King's exploration of each character's background prior to the Apocalypse was key.  But is a person born with good or badness within them or are they the product of their environment? 

Simply put, King's novel is an epic saga about good versus evil, the choices mankind makes, and what that says about our intrinsic character.

So ends The Fellowship of the Stand and the only question that remains is: who wins the Smackdown?

A Reader's Respite read these novels a mere three months ago.  Today, we could give you a bare-bones plot sketch of The Passage.  But we could discuss with you for hours the meaning of the themes buried within The Stand.  We think King delivered a knock-out punch.

Post Script:  Don't miss out on Rhapsody in Books Weblog and Book Chatter's thoughts!

1 comment:

  1. The Stand is my favorite Stephen King book and actually one of my favorite books of all time. I just started re-re-reading Carrie so I may just go ahead and re-read all the other Stephen King books. I've never read the uncut version of The Stand before so I am looking forward to that. I really need to read The Passage though...


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