The Stand, complete and uncut

2 medieval-appearing figures fight with swords
Dark, brooding eyes above carved cherubim

In 1978 Stephen King published a shorter version of The Stand to critical acclaim. He reworked and restored the cuts, added new material, and this 1,153-page novel became a 1990 bestseller.

A flu virus being tested by U.S. government labs as a biological weapon is accidentally released, causing the deaths of 90 percent of the American population. Survivors, who had natural immunity to the virus, begin to migrate in search of other survivors.

One group drifts into Boulder, Colorado, where a 108-year-old black woman with a deep Christian faith becomes the figurehead around which people attempt to rebuild America according to its Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

A second group drifts into Las Vegas, where a “dark man” attracts people who are uncomfortable with religion and representative democracy.

A clash between them is inevitable.

Although there is a supernatural element to the novel, its most terrifying elements are all-too-familiar aspects of human nature we see on daily newscasts. King draws all his threads together into a plausible ending, leaving readers with a great deal of uncomfortable reality to think about.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid readers in 2020 won’t read such a long book, no matter how good—and The Stand is the best of the King bestsellers I’ve read.

The Stand, complete and uncut, by Stephen King
Viking. ©1978, ©1990. 1153 p.
1990 bestseller #7; my grade: A

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

The Andromeda Strain: Be careful what you wish for.

Dot matrix diagrams
Computers are used to identify the organism causing the deaths.

The US military has sent small, unmanned satellites into space, hoping to find weaponizable microorganisms.

After being briefly bumped out of orbit, one of those satellites lands in Piedmont, AZ, pop. 38.

Within minutes all but two of the inhabitants — a baby and an old man — are dead.

A team of medical scientists chosen in advance for their varied expertise, are summoned to a secret subterranean laboratory in the Nevada desert to identify and contain the organism.

They work feverishly, sometimes brilliantly, often stupidly, trying to piece together what the deadly thing is.

Michael Crichton said he deliberately wrote in the “factual, non-fiction writing style of New Yorker profiles.”

Crichton intensifies the sense of reality by referring to scholarly journals, academic conferences, and including copies of documents in the text.

The characters are barely more than CV highlights. What they do is more important than who they are — and even what they do is done inside man-sized, inflatable plastic suits to keep them from contamination.

Crichton’s writing is good. His musings on the hazards that personalities bring to collaborative projects are still worth rereading.

The dot-matrix printed documents, though, are a blurry reminder that Andromeda is approaching its fiftieth birthday.

The Andromeda Strain: A Novel by Michael Crichton
Alfred A. Knopf, 1969. 295 p. 1969 bestseller #5. My grade: B.

© 2017 Linda Gorton Aragoni