Then I picked up The Stand, which I had gotten at a charity booksale for 25 cents. Understandably for a 25-cent book, it's small - a cheap early 90s paperback of the variety you'd see in the FREE bin at the library instead of the sale shelves. I underestimated the sheer size of its contents.
My copy of The Stand is just over 800 pages long.
The Stand is, to me, a shining example of why the post-apocalyptic book scene - mostly in YA, since that's my corner, but probably in adult fiction, too - sucks. Okay? It does. It sucks. You wanna know why? Because no one wants to write good post-apocalyptic books. You wanna know why? Because they have to be 800 pages long. After they've been excised by publishers.
And very few people want to write a 1,100-page book. You see 500-page books not infrequently - good gosh, I don't want to think about how bleeding long Divergent was - but that's pretty much the maximum. Five hundred pages are when all normal, healthy brains start smoking out and sending off "we need a climax" signals.
No one has ever said that Stephen King has a normal, healthy brain.
And that's good! Because The Stand is what we need. We need a good example of post-apocalyptic fiction done, in the most realistic way that post-apoc can be done when you add in supernatural dreams and a villain who's second-cousin to some kind of demons.
I don't really feel qualified to judge The Stand. It's not contemporary, so it's hard to judge it by today's standards, even though, I believe, that it stands up fascinatingly well. (I saw a quote from this book on some pretentious Tumblr aesthetic blog the other day; at least some bits of the book have survived, even if they were taken brutally out of context. Par for the Tumblr aesthetic course.) Also, it's Stephen King. I have read so few King books, and there's such a reputation to get around.
Not to mention the book is so dang long. I forgot the details of the first 400 pages because I was too wrapped up in the last 400. And then I forgot most of those 400 pages. Oops.
There's also the matter of the ginormous cast of characters. I'd say about half of them end up very, very dead. (Including my favorite. Insert every single weeping gif.) None of the deaths are your everyday, run-of-the-mill meaningful deaths, that serve as closure for that character's arc. No. There is no closure. There are only corpses. It's brutal, and it makes it all the more shocking when some characters die - because nothing pointed to their death, because they're senseless. But this is post-apocalyptic spiritual warfare, and senseless is how the game is played.
It's a very serious book. Very heavy. I would recommend it wholeheartedly, though not to the faint of heart (or to those short on time). But if you want a King book that won't really scare you so much as make you know the meaning of dread, The Stand is a great place to start.