by Stephen King
Many people have rated this Stephen King’s best novel. I was intrigued to find out why, so I set out to read it over Christmas and New Year.
The characters are interesting and very well drawn. Unlike many of King’s novels, there is no one central character, but a cast of several characters whose ‘back stories’ are cleverly developed in this massively long novel (I read the 1990 extended version). The back stories of these characters add to the story and the reader’s overall enjoyment.
The plot is a real page-turner, as with most of King’s novels. There are baddies and goodies, a demonic arch-baddy who appears to have supernatural powers and an unlikely spiritual leader of the ‘good’ side. The heroic characters have flaws, and they develop as the story progresses.
Unlike many of King’s novels, whose geographical setting is entirely or predominantly in Maine, this story ranges over wide areas of the USA, both in elaborating the back stories and, more especially, in the ‘road trip’ elements constitute large chunks of the story: first, as the survivors of the cataclysmic event battle their way towards their goal communities, and in the last few chapters as the survivors of the ‘stand’ struggle back towards the community they have helped to form.
The novel tackles the subjects of faith, good and evil, the breakdown and formation of societies, social responsibility … to name just a few of the ‘big’ themes that sit alongside the personal, direct minutiae of daily life that King is able to paint so convincingly.
Is it my favourite Stephen King novel? It’s too early to say; I have only read four of his novels plus some short stories. But I was not disappointed in this one.