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dark_tower_ver6_xlgThe long, long-awaited movie adaptation of Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Tower’ opened this weekend. I was there. Twice. Here are my thoughts….

I first read The Gunslinger, book 1 of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series when I was 19, which is a notable number in the later Dark Tower books. Coincidence? I think not because as we know, and know very well, all things serve the Beam.

As anyone who knows me is aware, I used to be vehemently opposed to the adaptation of this series because come on, Hollywood, you jack up most of King’s stuff, admit it. And as much as I’ve always loved this series, I didn’t want it to suck on the big screen. 

Note that I once had quite the fangirlish chat with Michael Whelan on this very topic. We were of the same mind and I’m intensely curious about whether he’ll go see the film and if so, what he thinks of it.

Fast forward to the announcement of Idris Elba being cast to play Roland Deschain of Gilead, last of the Gunslingers and the line of Eld. To my disgust, many fellow fans on the internet had little temper tantrums regarding the actor’s skin color–I think these are the same kind of people who boycotted the new Star Wars movies and Wonder Woman because eww, icky wimmens and brown people. Well… all I have to say about that is fuck those jerks.

Anyway, back to me. *ahem* I saw that Elba had been cast and I became excited. Finally, I was looking forward to this adaptation—to see my beloved Gunslinger on the big screen. And my anticipation began to build.

Learning details about the project, such as the fact that it wouldn’t be mimicking the first book of the series, or really any book of the series, but would rather be a separate story which would incorporate many aspects of the series, made my anticipation even more intense. We all know how the book series ended, right? (Note that if you do not know, be warned that while this review doesn’t feature spoilers for the movie, it will definitely feature them for the books.) 

other worlds

Groundhog Day for Roland Deschain, yes? Destined to begin his journey anew, again and again until he gets it right. So… perhaps this movie is another of Roland’s journeys. Perhaps it’s one of those “other worlds than these” which exists on some other level of the tower. 

We know of some major differences between the series and the movie from the trailers, so let’s start  with some of those before I go on to fan-girl out about my feels.

  • Jake is obviously not the child of wealthy, indifferent parents as we see him in a normal bedroom and at one point, hugging his mother. Also, he seems to have a talent for drawing and he’s seeing a shrink.
  • Jake enters Mid-World intentionally, through a portal, rather than as a result of his death at the hands of Jack Mort. Further, though he visits the house (which he even finds differently) from The Wastelands, he isn’t pulled into Mid-World through a doorway opened with Eddie’s carved key, as when he arrives for the second time in the books.
  • Eddie and Odetta/Detta/Susannah are not featured in this adaptation… and, of course, there’s also no Oy.

But knowing the nature of this film ahead of time helped me to avoid disappointment at any possible changes. I was able to open my mind and enjoy it for what it was—a glimpse. A snapshot into the story of Roland’s quest for the Tower.

And I was not disappointed. Sure, there were some issues with the film, did you SEE their budget? I feel that they did a good job of not only capturing enough of Roland and Jake’s stories to satisfy fans of the books, but that they did a good job putting together a film that could also be enjoyed by non-readers, as well.

My boyfriend doesn’t read (yeah, I know) and he enjoyed the film. He had some nitpicks but we talked earnestly about what worked for him, and what didn’t, as someone utterly unfamiliar with Mid-World and gunslingers and ALL OF THE THINGS. Though he said it reminded him of films like Mazerunner and The Hunger Games franchise, he said that overall, “it wasn’t bad.” That’s relatively high praise from him, I assure you.

Anything else I want to discuss would spoil things for any who have yet to see the film so I will wrap up after a couple of general thoughts and hopes for the future of this franchise, namely the possibilities included here.

Despite the much-changed face of the story and the dramatic differences in Roland’s ka-tet, this film felt like the books. It felt right. Roland’s reactions to Jake’s world were very reminiscent of The Drawing of the Three and Jake was… well he was Jake. And I adored each moment with him on the screen. And the Easter eggs… guys, so many wonderful Easter eggs! Keep an eye out, many of them are easy to miss.

I have a great deal of concern that this adaptation won’t generate enough interest (or money) to continue with the plans for a sequel and/or a series for television as outlined here, but I hope that it does. I hope the series happens, I would adore seeing Wizard and Glass on the small screen. And Walter’s mention in one of the trailers that everyone Roland has ever loved has died by his hand gives me hope that we’ll see what happened when Roland took his test using David as his weapon; when he went to Mejis with Cuthbert and Alain; when the war was lost. I want to see it all.

Long days and pleasant nights, sai.

Eld_gray

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The next highly anticipated installment in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series is book #14, Cold Days. November 27th is the magical release date and I’m really hoping to have finished NaNoWriMo by that day so that I can once more immerse myself in Harry’s version of Chicago and watch as he attempts to get out of the latest fine mess in which he’s gotten himself. Which mess might that be, you ask? Watch out! Blurb ahead!

HARRY DRESDEN LIVES!!!

After being murdered by a mystery assailant, navigating his way through the realm between life and death, and being brought back to the mortal world, Harry realizes that maybe death wasn’t all that bad. Because he is no longer Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard.

He is now Harry Dresden, Winter Knight to Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness. After Harry had no choice but to swear his fealty, Mab wasn’t about to let something as petty as death steal away the prize she had sought for so long. And now, her word is his command, no matter what she wants him to do, no matter where she wants him to go, and no matter who she wants him to kill.

Guess which Mab wants first?

Of course, it won’t be an ordinary, everyday assassination. Mab wants her newest minion to pull off the impossible: kill an immortal. No problem there, right? And to make matters worse, there exists a growing threat to an unfathomable source of magic that could land Harry in the sort of trouble that will make death look like a holiday.

Beset by enemies new and old, Harry must gather his friends and allies, prevent the annihilation of countless innocents, and find a way out of his eternal subservience before his newfound powers claim the only thing he has left to call his own…

His soul.

In preparation for new Dresden books, I generally do a series re-read… or a re-listen rather, since I absolutely love the job that James Marsters does on the audio books. Of course, James was unavailable to read for Ghost Story, much to the chagrin of many, many fans, myself included, but he is back to read Cold Days and I for one can’t wait to hear him voicing Harry & Company again!

But I digress… so odd for me to do that, sorry! Series re-read. There, back on track! For this book release, I won’t be doing a series re-read/re-listen. Why, do you ask? Well, the point of this post is to tell you why, so sit tight!

In preparation for the release of Ghost Story last summer, I re-listened to each of the first 12 books in the series (+ Side Jobs!) and then wrote reviews for each of them once I had finished. I did this, in part, in order to share my love of the series with the handful of people who actually read this blog, but also so that I would have a handy-dandy recap for each book in case an entire re-read/re-listen before future book releases was impossible for me. Much like it is now, what with my busy season at work, NaNoWriMo approaching, and my daughter’s Senior Year of high school in full swing and tons of college stuff to be done.

To be honest, my ‘reviews’ go well beyond what a lot of book reviews are meant to do, which is give you an overview of what the book is about and a general idea of the reviewer’s thoughts and impressions of the book, which is all fine and good. Of course sometimes a reviewer will go a bit further and vaguely mention something about the events that transpired in the book, usually sans spoilers, in order to entice people to read the book.

Ha! I scoff! MY reviews are somewhat… different.

First, they’re pretty much all way too long and second, they’re almost all so chock full of info and spoilers that one might never need to re-read the books!

I say re-read because darlin’, if you haven’t read them, you’re missing out on some kind of superawesometasticspecialness. Seriously. Jim Butcher has created characters that you will love and characters that you will love to hate who all occupy such a rich and fascinating world full of magic. A world that I not only want to revisit periodically by reading or listening to his stories, but one that I would actually want to GO to… to EXPERIENCE. Hell, to LIVE in!

Okay, caps lock off, I’m just trying to get the point across that this is a wonderful series that I’m sure you’ll enjoy, because I know everything about you. EVAREETHANG! So stop doing that thing that you’re doing that you think that nobody knows about. Seriously, shame on you. *tsk*

If you haven’t read the series and want to, don’t rely on reviews here or elsewhere to show you Harry’s world. You’d be missing out on 99% of it, easily. Start with Storm Front and have at it because the books, especially the early ones, are super-quick reads… or listens, if you’re a fan of audio books, and ohmyGod either format is so worth the time.

If you have read the series and you are just looking for a recap before picking up (or downloading) Cold Days and reading about (or listening to) Harry as Mab’s Winter Knight (dun-dun-dun-DUNNN), then dive right into the links below and I hope that I recapped the books sufficiently for you, and that you enjoy!

My Dresden Files reviews:

#1 – Storm Front

#2 – Fool Moon

#3 – Grave Peril

#4 – Summer Knight

#5 – Death Masks

#6 – Blood Rites

#7 – Dead Beat

#8 – Proven Guilty

#9 – White Night

#10 – Small Favor

#11 – Turn Coat

#12 – Changes

#12.5 – Side Jobs

#13 – Ghost Story

For more Dresden Files lurves, follow Jim Butcher on Twitter and Facebook, and if you do happen to listen to the audio books and think that James Marsters is teh awesome, then you can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Shop Indie for Dresden Files ebooks and print copies!

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As many of you may know, I’ve had something of a campaign going for several years to ensure that on the day I finally met the author that over the past few years had gradually displaced Stephen King as my favorite, he would recognize my name. I referred to it as My Diabolical Plan and it grew into something I never expected, thanks to my network of internet friends (all of whom I met through Dragonmount.com‘s Wheel of Time mailing list) that are able to go to many more Cons and book signings than I am able to attend.

It started simply enough, with me half-jokingly asking one such friend to tell Brandon Sanderson that “Paige from New Mexico says, ‘What’s up?!'” I believe that first request was to my good friend Melissa, aka Kiara. Said request was put forth nearly 3 years ago when she was going to be at a signing in Ohio for the 12th Wheel of Time book, The Gathering Storm. IIRC, she was a Storm Leader for her local signing and so (along with her husband Josh) would have most likely been the first of my group of close online friends to meet Brandon since he’d signed on to finish Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series.

I’m sorry to say that I’d not yet heard of Brandon when it was announced nearly 5 years ago that Harriet Rigney, the widow of James Oliver Rigney, Jr. (aka Robert Jordan) had chosen an author to finish her husband’s incredibly popular series. When that announcement came, a lot of WoT fans, myself included, picked up Brandon’s first books (Elantris and Mistborn: The Final Empire) to make sure ‘this guy’ was suitable for the daunting task before him. Heh… I’m kidding, but not really. Of course, reading those first books showed us all what a fantastic author he was and his fandom was augmented dramatically. Harriet had chosen wisely. We… I never should have doubted. My sincere apologies, Brandon.

I’ve bought and read (in multiple formats) everything that Brandon has published since those first two novels that I have come to love. I’ve read and re-read them all, and listened to the audio books, and re-listened to the audio books. I’m captivated by the elaborate worlds he builds. I’m fascinated by the incredible magic systems he creates. I’m mesmerized by the complex and interesting characters that he introduces me to, characters that I quickly come to care about as much as I care about my beloved Wheel of Time characters.

I’ve taken to pre-ordering each of Brandon’s books–signed, personalized, and sometimes numbered–from Sam Weller’s Booksellers, a bookstore that’s supported Brandon since his first books were published. I highly recommend them for any future books of Brandon’s… they have excellent customer service and their books arrive beautifully packaged and in perfect shape, unlike some books I’ve received recently from another source. *cough*Donald M. Grant*cough*

The first author signature I ever acquired in a book was Brandon’s, via his website and through Sam Weller’s. I’ve since, thanks to this past weekend, had them all signed… all hardcovers but for those first two paperbacks I picked up at a Dark Friend Social trip to a bookstore in Indiana, a couple of weeks after learning about Brandon finishing The Wheel of Time.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, blathering on as I’m wont to do, not unlike a certain Aes Sedai that I love. So back to My Diabolical Plan. Over the past few years, I have requested of several other friends the same thing I asked of Kia: that when attending a Con or a book signing to see Brandon, they tell him that “Paige from New Mexico says, ‘What’s up?!'” I know that Brandon meets thousands of fans and really, who would expect him to remember my name? I had the faint hope that between the unique wording and the fact that multiple people from Ohio to Georgia and from California to Australia were giving him the exact same message, then when I finally got to meet him in person, he would recognize my name.

So thank you to everyone that I asked to do this for me, even if you didn’t get the chance to do it. Thank you Kia! Thank you Josh, for the awesome WoT art that you created with a pen during a signing which you then had Brandon (and Harriet!!) sign before sending to me! Thank you Tiff! Thank you Jessica! Thank you Joanna! Thank you Matt! I also need to thank Anthony, who I also met on the mailing list but is in a rather different circle than the one which contains all of these other names… you didn’t fully understand my plan yet you approached Brandon at JordanCon in 2010 and said the thing. And I appreciate it!

If I have neglected to mention anyone else that has done this for me, please smack me around (just a bit, though) and demand that I include your name! My own efforts toward My Diabolical Plan were to request a couple of personalized books through Sam Weller’s over the past couple of years in hopes that the added repetition of “Paige from New Mexico” and “What’s up!” might help to cement my name in Brandon’s amazing mind. I’m obviously willing to bet on long odds. The upside of doing so is that the pay off, if it ever comes, is exponentially greater.

Update: I had it gently pointed out to me (no smacking around!) that at the same signing during which my friend Josh drew Mat Cauthon and had it signed by both Brandon and Harriet, that another friend at the same signing, a super-awesome friend by the name of Justin (and he is seriously super-awesome, did you see me mention that he didn’t smack me around at all?), told Brandon the thing and then actually had Brandon personalize his own book thusly: ‘Justin, tell Paige from New Mexico, “S’up!”‘ Holy shit, right?!

Now, I’ve known for years that Justin was a cool guy because back when he was still a member of that Wheel of Time mailing list (where I met him virtually, we’ll hopefully consummate our years long friendship with a hug sometime soon), he volunteered to be my Keeper when the other members chose me to be Amyrlin. We didn’t actually role play on the list, not seriously, but we did play around and act silly and Justin was one of ‘my peeps’.

So dude… thanks. Very much. You rock. Literally. ;o)

Update #2: I had another good friend point out to me this morning that I had neglected to mention her contribution to My Diabolical Plan. So yeah, my friend jeandiata has said the thing to Brandon twice! When at signings both for The Gathering Storm and Towers of Midnight, IIRC. I also met jeandiata through the Wheel of Time mailing list and I think it’s going on something like 7 or 8 years since we first met virtually. We met in real life around Christmastime in 2007 at the aforementioned Dark Friend Social where I picked up Brandon’s first two books in paperback, so we’ve already consummated our virtual friendship with a real one! Of course, this was just after Brandon was chosen to finish the WoT so my friends and I discussed him a lot at that get-together! So, jd… my apologies for omitting you! Double thank you, honey!!

Update #3: Yeah, I forgot another one! I got a virtual smack-down yesterday via Google Talk from another good friend that I also initially met on Dragonmount.com’s Wheel of Time mailing list. Oh, yes, I did finally get smacked down! Howard wasn’t as oh-shucks-you-forgot-li’l-ole’-me! gentle in his reminder as were Justin and jeandiata. :o) Which is cool, I deserved the smackage!

So… Howard met Brandon at, IIRC, a WoT signing in Omaha and he not only said the thing, he also had Brandon sign an Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians book plate for me. Yay! So my sincere apologies to H for forgetting him, too… and my eternal admiration and thanks for his willing and enthusiastic participation in My Diabolical Plan!

To make a long story longer, My Diabolical Plan was a success. When Brandon was in Melbourne, Australia  in April of this year for Supanova, I had another friend of mine relay the same message. When Matt, my friend and faithful Warder these past 8 years, sent me a text message to tell me that he had told Brandon the thing–and that Brandon had recognized my name!–I knew that he would be the last friend I would ask to do this for me. I had planned to attend a signing for A Memory of Light after the release of the final WoT book early next January and at that time, I’d see if my long odds paid off.

To my delight, I learned shortly after the Supanova in Melbourne that in August, Brandon would be attending a small Con here in Albuquerque, New Mexico which is only a couple of hours north of the small town in which I live. As I’ve relayed to many people, I nearly exploded upon hearing that news. I was going to get to meet him some FOUR months earlier than I’d planned! I conned my 17 year old daughter Rachel into attending with me and I invited Angie, my friend and fellow WoT fan from Albuquerque to join us. I hurriedly booked a hotel room and purchased weekend passes. I anticipated. I fretted. I counted the months, the weeks, the days. It was a little bit ridiculous, to be honest.

I didn’t care.

I was finally going to meet Brandon Sanderson. After 5 years of growing to love his writing, after 5 years of admiring him more and more, not only for his dedication to his work and to his own fans, but for his unwavering dedication to The Wheel of Time and to Robert Jordan’s  legacy and loyal fans, I was going to finally meet him.

If I may digress a bit, because that’s something I rarely do and I ask you to indulge me, I’d like to expound a bit on the subject of Brandon finishing The Wheel of Time. He was, as I’ve learned over the ‘net these past years and as was relayed by him in person over this past weekend, rather terrified of taking on the task of finishing this epic series. Terrified that he’d screw it up. As he told us in one of his lectures at Bubonicon 44, he thought long and hard on whether or not he should accept the offer. He didn’t want to blunder the job and be responsible for screwing it up. Finally, realizing that if he declined and somebody else took the job–and somebody else would take the job–and then they screwed it up, he would still be responsible for screwing it up. So, thank the Light, he took on the formidable task of finishing the last Wheel of Time ‘book’, figuring that at least he could do his best to screw it up as little as possible.

In my not so humble opinion, there was no screwing up at all. There were different writing styles, sure. There were a few inconsistencies, mostly regarding characters, that I saw a lot of whiny about on the internet. I simply did not care. We were getting an ending. WE WERE GETTING AN ENDING! I honestly don’t feel that any supposed Wheel of Time fan that gripes about either how Brandon has “botched” the series (Light, but that makes me bristle!), or about the fact that Brandon ended up writing three books instead of one (though he essentially wrote it as, and does consider it to be, one gigantic book), or about “how long it’s taking” has the slightest inkling of how damned grateful they should be that they’re getting an ending at all.

The author died before he could finish this epic series that he considered his opus. He knew that he was going to die. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to finish the series himself. To ensure that his fans would see Rand face the Dark One at the Last Battle, Robert Jordan labored long and hard to complete certain scenes and to outline others. He wrote what he could and when he became too ill to write, he dictated audio notes. He tasked his wife with finding an author to complete the series the way he wanted it completed. He did that for us! For his fans!

Even now, nearly 5 years after his death (which occurred on my 37th birthday), it brings me to tears to consider how much of his dwindling energy Mr. Jordan spent to get as much done as he possibly could. He cared about his fans a great deal, I think, to go to the lengths that he did to ensure that we would see the ending to his series that he had always wanted us to see. I will be forever grateful for his efforts to finish sharing his story with us. Thank you Mr. Jordan, from the bottom of my heart.

Further, I personally feel that Harriet is a bloody genius for choosing Brandon to finish this series. I’m sure that there are many other capable authors that might have done a fine job, but Brandon is such a huge fan of the series and has taken such painstaking care to ensure that it’s done as true to Robert Jordan’s vision as possible, that I really think that it was meant to be that he finish it. The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills. Thank you Harriet, for choosing Brandon… thank you so very much.

Lastly, I think that Brandon has gone well above and far beyond in executing the finale we’ve all been waiting for. He expected to write one book and even though he feels that he’s truly written one book, it was so massive as to require being split into three books. The couple of years(ish) that was most likely expected to complete said one book, has turned into nearly five years.

During this extended period, Brandon has worked on and published many of his own books (many, many books!), he has taught a creative writing class at his alma mater BYU, and he has become a father. Twice. Well, technically his first child was born just before Harriet asked him to complete the WoT, but what’s a few weeks, eh? What it comes down to, is that Brandon is a really busy guy, without taking into account the time he’s invested in The Wheel of Time. I don’t know when the man has had time to sleep! Brandon… thank you, thank you, thank you.

Okay, was that too much of a digression? Well… yes, yes it was. My apologies for keeping you, but not really. I’ve said all of these things many times before and I’ll say them all many times again if I feel the need. What’s happened with this series is pretty phenomenal and as fans, we should all be grateful to all parties involved.

So… back to Bubonicon 44, which took place this weekend in Albuquerque. I donned my Great Serpent ring and my dream ter’angreal and drove up Interstate 25 Friday afternoon with my daughter. The adrenaline was already pumping and I think I was actually thrumming with anticipation.

We arrived too late to make the Opening Ceremony though we were there in plenty of time to meet Angie and to catch the first panel that featured Brandon as a panelist. We attended every single panel that he was on throughout the course of the weekend, as well as a reading/Q&A (after which I was too chicken to approach him, to my daughter’s disappointment, or perhaps it was disgust!), and a couple of signings.

Happily, I wasn’t frozen with terror when introducing myself to Brandon’s assistant, Peter Ahlstrom after Brandon’s reading/Q&A on Saturday. We had interacted on Facebook for some time prior to the Con and so I felt a bit more comfortable (though still quite nervous!) when approaching him to chat for a few moments. He was very friendly and Rachel, Angie and I enjoyed a nice conversation with him (which included some great tidbits about Brandon!) before we headed out to scarf down our 2nd and last meal of the day before our full evening signing/panel schedule. It was such a pleasure meeting you this weekend, Peter!

It was at the first of  Brandon’s two signings that I finally introduced myself to him as “Paige from New Mexico”. Yes, he recognized my name. No, I did not faint as some of my friends teasingly (or maybe not so teasingly) suggested I might do.

Before I met Brandon, he had been rather larger than life in my mind. He’s this incredibly talented author whose words had the ability to fill many a solitary hour with mysterious mists, rotting magical cities, deadly storm-blasted landscapes, and the unique and interesting characters that occupied each of these settings. Those characters employed fascinating magic systems that had me re-reading scenes, chapters, entire books… so that I might better learn and understand them. When you place someone on a pedestal in your mind, it makes it extremely difficult to approach that pedestal and introduce yourself to that person. You don’t want to impose, you don’t want to interfere… you especially don’t want to be overlooked or dismissed.

But within moments of first speaking to Brandon, I was able to reconcile the person sitting in front of me with that incredibly talented author on the pedestal in my mind. He was just a guy. Just an incredibly friendly guy who was engaging, easy to talk to and quite funny, though I had already known that from his writing. But he was just a guy… a guy who happened to also be that aforementioned incredibly talented author.

Rachel and Angie were also very impressed at how approachable Brandon was during the Con. Of course, I’d heard about his outgoing personality. I’d been told how great he was to talk to and hang out with. For years, I’ve followed him on Twitter and Facebook, and have kept up with his blog on his website. I’ve seen how fan-friendly he can be, how forthcoming he is with information about his writing process and progress. But it’s different when you experience it firsthand. It’s different when that pedestal that seemed so solid and daunting and bloody huge in your mind, begins to shimmer like a mirage as you approach, and then it’s gone and you see what’s real and not what was imagined.

Brandon is real. I was very impressed with how easy he was with his fans and with his peers. He was respectful to (and respected by) everyone and he was very flexible in regards to fan requests for signings and pictures. He was also very gracious with fans, he accepted gifts and answered questions with equal enthusiasm. I wish I’d recorded the Con Toastmaster’s (Michael Cassutt) speech that introduced Brandon as the Con’s Guest of Honor. It was spot on and much more eloquent than what I’ve managed.

I know I’ve rambled (and rambled and rambled) but if you know me well enough to understand what a big deal it was for me to finally meet this author who ousted the former #1 Author on my extensive bookshelves (edged you out, Steve… I’m sorry for that, but we’ll always have Boulder, and Midworld, say true), then you’ll know why this blog entry didn’t just summarize the few brief moments I spent with Brandon over the course of this weekend. This was huge for me.

The icing on the cake, the cherry on the sundae, the one thing that just tied a bow around this weekend? I raised my hand to ask a question during his last panel today and Brandon pointed at me and said, “Paige from New Mexico”.

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The Stand

Author: Stephen King

Format: Audible audio book

Narrator: Grover Gardner

Publisher: Random House

Audio Release Date: 2/14/12 (Original Doubleday release 1/1/79; Complete & Uncut release, 1/1/90)

Length: 47 hours 56 minutes (Complete & Uncut HC, 1152 pages)

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Website synopsis:

One man escapes from a biological weapon facility after an accident, carrying with him the deadly virus known as Captain Tripps, a rapidly mutating flu that – in the ensuing weeks – wipes out most of the world’s population.

In the aftermath, survivors choose between following an elderly black woman to Boulder or the dark man, Randall Flagg, who has set up his command post in Las Vegas. The two factions prepare for a confrontation between the forces of good and evil.

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Publisher’s summary:

This is the way the world ends: with a nanosecond of computer error in a Defense Department laboratory and a million casual contacts that form the links in a chain letter of death.

And here is the bleak new world of the day after: a world stripped of its institutions and emptied of 99 percent of its people. A world in which a handful of panicky survivors choose sides-or are chosen. A world in which good rides on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abagail-and the worst nightmares of evil are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the dark man.

In 1978 Stephen King published The Stand, the novel that is now considered one of his finest works. But as it was first published, The Stand was incomplete, since more than 150,000 words had been cut from the original manuscript. Now Stephen King’s apocalyptic vision of a world blasted by plague and embroiled in an elemental struggle between good and evil has been restored to its entirety.

The Stand: The Complete & Uncut Edition includes more than 500 pages of material deleted, along with new material that King added as he reworked the manuscript for a new generation. It gives us new characters and endows familiar ones with new depths. It has a new beginning and a new ending. What emerges is a gripping work with the scope and moral complexity of a true epic.

For the hundreds of thousands of fans who read The Stand in its original version and wanted more, this new edition is Stephen King’s gift. And those who are reading The Stand for the first time will discover a triumphant and eerily plausible work of the imagination that takes on the issues that will determine our survival.

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My thoughts, which I hope are mostly free of major spoilers:

Those who know me well know that I am a huge fan of Stephen King’s writing. I’ll buy anything printed with his name on it and will greatly enjoy most of it because even bad Stephen King is enjoyable for me. Part of my enjoyment of King’s writing stems from the fact that his characters are so well-written and so believable that as a reader (or listener), I’m sucked right into the story and as I get to know them, their triumphs and terrors, their worries and their struggles become my own.

I’ve read and heard many opinions on King’s work and not all of them favorable. But one common opinion, generally of fans of the work, is that King doesn’t write about extraordinary people, he writes about regular people who encounter extraordinary (and sometimes supernatural) situations and occurrences. Sometimes those ordinary people in King’s stories become more than what they were because of what happens to them or around them, and sometimes they become less. The Stand is full of characters that do both.

This is a story that begins with a large and varied cast of characters who are spread far and wide across the United States, and who eventually come together for one reason or another. As the synopsis above declares, a man-made flu has wiped out 99% of the population and the people who survived, through a series of dreams, are drawn by one of two people: Mother Abigail or Randall Flagg, to one of two places: Boulder, Colorado or Las Vegas, Nevada. During the course of their journeys, people join up with others that they find along the way and friendships are forged, or enemies are made.

Some characters find a stronger version of themselves as they cope with the disaster and its aftermath, and then struggle to find a new life and build a new future for themselves and their new friends and loved ones. Other characters make the decision to abandon what they had been, or could have been, to pursue power and revenge. One thing King does so well in writing these characters is to make them so complex that you find yourself almost understanding the motivations of, and maybe on the verge of sympathizing with, someone who is in the process of turning to the ‘Dark Side’. Almost.

The Stand is, at its root, a story of good versus evil. Literally. Followers of God-fearing, God-praising Mother Abigail converge on Boulder in the ‘good guy’ camp and followers of creepy/evil/scary Randall Flagg gather in Vegas in, for lack of a better descriptor, the ‘bad guy’ camp. The bad guys are planning a military-style assault on the good guys, for no other reason than that Flagg wants them to. Hey, scary-ass dude that talked to them in their dreams wants them to do something, they do it regardless of how reluctant they might be, by God. Or by the other guy, rather.

Some of the people who have migrated to Vegas are criminals of one flavor or another but many of them seem to be reg’lar type folks, as several residents of the newly dubbed “Free Zone” in Boulder come to realize when they have cause to go to Vegas. Members of the Free Zone have no beef with the new residents of Las Vegas, they just don’t want to be attacked while trying to build a new life, a new family, a new community… a new society. So they look to Mother Abigail, one of the most colorful and likeable characters in this story in my not so humble opinion, and to a few chosen–or self-chosen, rather–leaders to decide how to best handle the threat from the West.

One thing that strikes me about this story is how King outlines each new society. Mother Abigail’s flock, for that is indeed what they are, are brought together and held together, by love. By the need for love, by the need to not be alone. To not be lonely. There’s an inherent need in man to be with others of his kind. To feel companionship and to have shared experiences and King hits this nail on the head so profoundly that you actually ache with loneliness when certain characters experience the same sad and horrible state. The longing to not feel that way anymore is what holds the people together in what becomes the Free Zone in The Stand. The survivors want things as simple as community and friendship. Loyalty and love.

Las Vegas, on the other hand, is full of fear. Dripping with fear. Seething with fear. People go there thinking they’ll have freedom to do whatever they please. No more rules, no more laws, no more oppression! Only they find themselves well and caught under the worn-down boot heels of a blue-jean wearing tyrant. One who can drive a man insane just by looking at him. They’re pretty well stuck there and they quickly come to realize that it’s dangerous to even toe the line, much less cross it. It’s dangerous to say anything untoward about their new leader… maybe even to think it. So best not. Best not.

Many of King’s works have some kind of religious, social or political commentary, but thinking back through his many books that I’ve read, I don’t know that any were quite as blatant as The Stand. The underlying theme is as I mentioned before, literal good versus literal evil and as simple as it may sound, it’s a powerful message. So many of those people that went to Vegas weren’t inherently evil. They were also lost and alone and looking for companionship in a world turned upside down. They just wanted to belong to something again.

Yet rather than choosing Mother Abigail, they chose The Dark Man who admittedly, appeared to many of them as a priest of some sort, or as a hero. He was cool. He was sexy. He promised them things. Promised them a place. Perhaps, promised them power. And before they were aware of what was happening, they were ensnared. They were trapped. They just plain didn’t know, or didn’t want to know, what they were walking into.

But they learned. Oh, yes. They learned. And they got to the point where they were afraid to so much as utter his name. A fact that was thrust into the faces of a handful of them by a member of the Free Zone that had been a professor of sociology before. Glen Bateman, upon encountering some of Flagg’s men commented as follows when he realizes that the men won’t say the name of their chosen master:

“Are you afraid? Are you so afraid of him you don’t dare speak his name? Very well, I’ll say it for you. His name is Randall Flagg, also known as the Dark Man, also known as the Tall Man, also known as the Walkin’ Dude. Don’t some of you call him that? Call him Beelzebub because that’s his name, too. Call him Nyarlathotep and Ahaz and Astaroth. Call him R’yelah and Seti and Anubis. His name is Legion and he’s an apostate of Hell and you men kiss his ass. Just thought we ought to have that up front.”

Glen Bateman is one of my favorite characters in this story if for no other reason than that he had the guts and gumption to make this pronouncement. Sure, when I met Glen Bateman alongside Stu Redman on a lonely New Hampshire highway, he may have seemed a bit pompous and overblown… but that was before I knew him. That was before Mr. King showed me who he really was… what he was really made of. This is what I mean when I speak of the way King’s characters are written. Some of The Stand’s characters have stayed fast and firm in my mind over the many years since I last read this book, even though many of the details of the story had faded.

Don’t read The Stand just for the great post-apocalyptic story that it is. Don’t just read it for the epic struggle between good and evil, though it’s worth it for that. Read it to get to know the amazing characters that Stephen King created to act out his end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenario. Read it for Stu Redman and Frannie Goldsmith, for Nick Andros and Mother Abigail. Yes, even for Randall Flagg (who you may see in other works by Stephen King, do you ken?), for Lloyd Henreid and the Trashcan Man. Read it for Larry Underwood, who ain’t no nice guy. Read it for Kojak and for Harold Lauder and for Tom Cullen. Who could ever forget Tom Cullen? “M-O-O-N, that spells Tom Cullen, laws yes!”

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Afterthoughts:

If you’re a fan of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, you’ll know that this story is one of many stand-alone SK works that is connected in some way to that series (hint: the previous link leads to a page which outlines said connections, but ‘ware spoilers). If you haven’t read The Dark Tower series, what’s the matter with you?

Grover Gardner did a fantastic job on the narration of this audio book. Those 48 hours just flew by! But seriously, I thoroughly enjoyed his reading and recommend his other works on Audible which are linked to above. But, so that you don’t have to scroll back UP through this entire post, I’ve included it here for your convenience. You’re welcome.

For the first annual World Book Night event in the United States, I signed up to be a book giver of this very book. I was accepted and received 20 specially printed paperback copies of The Stand, which was my first of three choices out of this year’s selection of books, to gift to members of my community. To see my thoughts on World Book Night and my experience as a book giver, check out the previous post in this blog. Or just clickity-click right here.

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Fave quotes:

“Baby, can you dig your man?” -Larry Underwood

‘The unreality was trying to creep back in again and she found herself wondering just how much the human brain could be expected to stand before snapping like an overtaxed rubber band.’ ~lonely thoughts of Frannie Goldsmith

“I spent most of my life feeling like the only Cro Magnon in a herd of thundering Neanderthals.” -Harold Lauder

‘No one can tell what goes on in between the person you were and the person you become. No one can chart that blue and lonely section of hell. There are no maps of change. You just… come out the other side. Or don’t.’

“All of the old soldiers have faded away and left their playthings behind.” Glen Bateman

‘What kind of world was it where God would trap a person like a bug in a puddle of gasoline? A world that deserved to burn, that was what.’ ~wayward thoughts of the Trashcan Man

“That wasn’t any act of God. That was an act of pure human fuckery.” -Larry Underwood

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want for nothing. He makes me lie down in the green pastures. He greases up my head with oil. He gives me kung-fu in the face of my enemies. Amen.” -Tom Cullen

“Goodbye East Texas. It’s been pretty goddamn good to know you.” -Glen Bateman to Stu Redman

“Oh pardon me… it’s just that we were all so frightened… we made such a business out of you. I’m laughing as much at our own foolishness as at your regrettable lack of substance.” – Glen Bateman to Randall Flagg

‘And the righteous and unrighteous alike were consumed in that holy fire.’

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