In the last couple weeks, there's been some odd Internet buzz to the effect that Warner Bros. and CBS are trying to turn Stephen King's The Stand into a feature film.
It's odd for several reasons: It's been tried before, and that effort ended up in "development hell" for a decade, partly because of the length of the novel. Eventually, ABC made a mini-series of King's post-apocalyptic epic, with decidedly mixed results -- some good performances marred by weak special effects and budgetary constraints. Well, leave it to Hollywood to try, try and, if necessary, try again. We'll see.
Meanwhile, if you have a few dozen extra hours on your hands, check out The Stand: The Complete & Uncut Edition. When it was originally published in 1978, King was forced by his publisher to cut a third of the book because of (you guessed it) the alleged budgetary constraints of a 1,200-page novel. I suspect the truth was that, at that time, King just didn't yet have the clout to get what he wanted.
Twelve years later, he did -- and with the same publisher, the duplicitous Doubleday! And while it's easy to criticize some of King's longer works as a colossal mess (tag; you're It), this novel of a "superflu" that kills 99.4 percent of the population can be very gripping.
The Stand is flawed. Some of the dialogue is fencepost-wooden, parts of the story bog down, and the bad-guy characters aren't developed enough. But when it works, The Stand thrills and chills the soul. King's ambition here was tremendous -- weave a plague story in with a supernatural situation -- but when it's clicking on all eight, it's one scary ride. Being a survivor in this world ain't what it's cracked up to be. Imagine: You've survived the superflu because you have a freakish natural immunity, but now there are almost no doctors, no hospitals, no law enforcement to stop the baddies, and so on. Oh, and by the way: You and your fellow survivors are all having the same dream -- and nightmare. The nightmare is about some godawful swaggering cowboy-type strongman named Randall Flagg who just might be the Antichrist, and it's your job to make your stand against him. Fun times, huh?
The Stand isn't King's best book; he became a better writer as he worked at it over the decades, and good for him, because some authors go the other way. But I do think that, with the possible exception of The Shining, The Stand is the best book of his early career.