Welcome back to King of the Dark, our special summer series on the B&N Podcast devoted to the imagined worlds of Stephen King. Every week this summer, Liz Braswell and Louis Peitzman join B&N’s Bill Tipper on an odyssey through an American master’s bookshelf. We’re taking on some of his biggest books — more or less in the order they were published, and we’ve arrived at week eight of our journey, and what may be the most monumental of our destinations so far.
In 1978, Stephen King published a post-plague-thriller-adventure-epic titled The Stand; it drew on the author’s longstanding ambition to write his own, American-set fantasy epic in the vein of the Lord of the Rings, and the sprawling plus work took in a huge cast of characters, a story that combined science fiction and fantasy to stage a battle between the forces of light and darkness, playing out in a decimated American west. It was a hit — But King’s original manuscript was hundreds of pages longer — and in 1990, the “Complete and Uncut” edition was published, followed by a star-studded 1994 miniseries adaptation. We sat down with the thousand-plus page edition for a confrontation with the super flu, the villain Randall Flagg, and King’s riff on America’s dreams of apocalypse.
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Stephen King’s apocalyptic vision of a world blasted by plague and tangled in an elemental struggle between good and evil remains as riveting and eerily plausible as when it was first published.
A patient escapes from a biological testing facility, unknowingly carrying a deadly weapon: a mutated strain of super-flu that will wipe out 99 percent of the world’s population within a few weeks. Those who remain are scared, bewildered, and in need of a leader. Two emerge—Mother Abagail, the benevolent 108-year-old woman who urges them to build a peaceful community in Boulder, Colorado; and Randall Flagg, the nefarious “Dark Man,” who delights in chaos and violence. As the dark man and the peaceful woman gather power, the survivors will have to choose between them—and ultimately decide the fate of all humanity.
Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read
(This edition includes all of the new and restored material first published in The Stand: The Complete And Uncut Edition.)