One of the reasons why I would never club Stephen King together with any of the other best-selling writers of his generation (Grisham, Archer, Patterson, Sheldon and so on) is this :-None of them match King's calibre as a story-teller. They don't even come close.
If somebody spins an intriguing tale, his characters get in the way of my enjoyment of it.
If somebody excels at characterization, his plotting is rather unconvincing.
If somebody plots a story well, then his writing turns out to be flat.
(And if you're unlucky enough, some of them mess everything up.)
But Stephen King, possesses that rare talent of getting everything right - the story, the unraveling of the plot, the imagery, the underlying implications, the characters, the backdrop, the world-building, the writing - down to the very last detail.
He can grasp your attention at the onset, reel you in slowly but surely, give you nerve-wracking moments of pure anxiety, make you visualize a scene exactly the way he must have imagined it, feel for the characters in his story as if they were people of flesh and blood you were familiar with and, at some point, render you completely incapable of discerning between reality and the make-believe world of his imagination. And you're caught in the same nightmare as the characters of his book are plunging deeper into with every passing moment. The Stand
is one such Stephen King creation. Arguably known as his best written work yet, The Stand
, I'm happy to inform readers, deserves every bit of the praise and adulation it continues to receive worldwide till this day.
Now don't get me wrong. The book is nothing new when you glance at the blurb. It is nothing you haven't already read or known about because it is the story your mom/dad/grandma must have read to you as a kid - while you listened moon-eyed with wonder and awe, overcome with emotions you couldn't quite fathom.
It is the ever-fascinating and timeless tale of good triumphing over evil that you have come across enough times yet can never possibly get over.
It is that same story, but
with a distinct Stephen King-esque flavour.
Add a dystopian, post-apocalyptic, anarchic world in the grip of an epidemic that claimed most human lives to the eternal conflict between good and evil, and the summation result will lead to The Stand
But it is so much more than this simple one-sentence summary. Every character, every plot device, every written scene has been constructed and put together so fastidiously in this book that at the end of it one feels that the reader is assigned with the task of collecting and preserving every piece of the gigantic puzzle to form this humbling, larger-than-life image the author had begotten.
Everything is done so ingeniously, that the mesmerized reader can only sit back and watch this spectacle of gargantuan proportions unfolding right in front of his/her mind's eyes.
Horror, psychological ramifications of events, political intrigue, war, chaos in the absence of a centralized administration, a crumbling world order, basest of our human tendencies - King doesn't shy away from exploring the entire gamut of human actions and emotions in a world where nothing of the old establishments has survived.
This man can write. There's no doubt about it.
In terms of sheer volume, scale and narrative sweep, it is an epic. In a way it is The Ramayana, The Mahabharata, The Iliad and The Odyssey
or a concoction of all the elements that transformed each one of these stories into epics the world will never cease to look upon with the utmost respect.
It is the story that never becomes stale despite the number of years you insert between the time you read it first and read it for the umpteenth time in some other form. It is the story that transcends barriers of language, culture, religion and history and will always be told and retold in possible ways imaginable, for as long as humanity survives.
It is the story you are bound to be won over by even if you're snotty enough to swear by your copy of Ulysses
and frown upon the Stephen Kings of the world of writing simply because they don't have much of a chance of ever winning the Man Booker or Pulitzer or *gasp* the Nobel Prize.
It is the story of good, evil and everything in between. It is the story of love and hatred, loyalty and betrayal, sin and redemption, fate and co-incidence, rationality and the inexplicable. Of unalterable mistakes and innocence lost. Of the goodness of the human heart and the face of the Devil.
At 1100+ pages, it was rather much too short.
I almost wished for it to never end.
But then again one can always re-read to start the cycle of awesomeness all over again.