The 1978 edition of THE STAND was published in a truncated version since King’s publishers believed that it would be too long in its original form. The new edition reinstates what had been cut, updating the novel as well so that it is now set in 1990. Thus revised, THE STAND is a massive 1,153 pages long. Within this length, King is able to be more than merely a horror writer. There is room for science fiction, fantasy, romance, and social commentary.
THE STAND opens with a deadly virus, the “superflu,” accidentally released from a military lab doing biological warfare research. Because of this accident and a chain of events that leads to contact with one contaminated person after another, 99% of the world’s population dies within a couple of weeks. King describes in agonizingly grim detail what death under these terms is like. Life for ordinary Americans is shattered by the incurable superflu. Under the sheer weight of mass death, the small number of survivors must find a way to cope with a world that has been permanently altered.
For the remaining portion of THE STAND, these survivors must not only find a way to form a new society, but also fight against an evil that has risen out of the destruction of the civilized world. The survivors attempt to build a new society in Boulder, Colorado. The moral leader of this new society is a black woman known as Mother Abagail. She is 108 years old and understands that the struggle against the evil Randall Flagg and his enormous powers will not be easy. Various characters either rise or fall to the occasion as they are presented...
(The entire section is 655 words.)