The Stand almost defies classification. While it is certainly a horror story in the sense that frightening events and supernatural powers are depicted, it also qualifies clearly as science fiction or epic fantasy and even as a political allegory. This last aspect is immediately apparent in the events which open the novel: Nearly all of the world’s population (99.4 percent) is killed in only three weeks after a superflu virus escapes from a U.S. Army biological warfare installation. The world as all have known it is destroyed.
A few people inexplicably survive to pick up the pieces. Stu Redman, a laconic Texan, is taken to a disease laboratory in Maine, where the few remaining government scientists hope to discover what has given him immunity. Realizing that the government plans to use him as a guinea pig, Redman flees the laboratory and soon meets Glen Bateman, formerly a New Hampshire sociology professor. Other survivors throughout the country also appear: Nick Andros, a deaf-mute genius, is wandering around rural Oklahoma, where he meets the retarded but amiable Tom Cullen. Larry Underwood, a rock singer on his way to New York, finds the city devastated. Soon, they and other characters begin having disjointed, prophetic dreams of a “dark man,” Randall Flagg, the personification of evil, and of Abigail Freemantle, a black woman more than a hundred years old who serves as God’s instrument and prophet. Each character is drawn toward one of the two: Some find Freemantle in her old cabin in a Nebraska cornfield; others follow Flagg in what appears to be the beginnings of a reborn American society in Las Vegas.
Flagg gathers to himself a large number of average-citizen types, who are deceived by his cunning into believing that they are salvaging civilization. He has also claimed many of the dregs of surviving humanity, such as Donald Elbert, a mad pyromaniac, and Lloyd Henreid, a mass murderer. Together, they help Flagg assemble a massive arsenal of destruction. As his technological power grows, Flagg begins to display supernatural powers: He can transform himself into animals and control minds.
With little more than Freemantle’s goodness and visions to guide and inspire them, Redman, Bateman, Underwood, and Ralph Brentner (a good-hearted farmer) undertake a long and torturous journey on foot to Las Vegas, where...
(The entire section is 965 words.)