“Show me a man or a woman alone and I’ll show you a saint. Give me two and they’ll fall in love. Give me three and they’ll invent the charming thing we call ‘society’. Give me four and they’ll build a pyramid. Give me five and they’ll make one an outcast.”
“Give me six and they’ll reinvent prejudice. Give me seven and in seven years they’ll reinvent warfare. Man may have been made in the image of God, but human society was made in the image of His opposite number, and is always trying to get back home.” – The Stand
“The beauty of religious mania is that it has the power to explain everything. Once God (or Satan) is accepted as the first cause of everything which happens in the mortal world, nothing is left to chance…logic can be happily tossed out the window.” — The Stand
“The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” — The Dark Tower Book I: The Gunslinger
“Go then, there are other worlds than these.” — The Dark Tower Series
I could literally go on with these quotes all day. We’ve covered Stephen King’s early years with a Scalpel and then focused on his incredibly productive 1980s; now we will wrap up the Tip of the Scalpel Stephen King series with A Tip of the Scalpel to Stephen King (Final Sequence): The Epics. And by The Epics we mean arguably King’s most amazing works, The Stand and The Dark Tower series.
The Stand is one of the most incredibly thorough and all-encompassing post-apocalyptic tales ever created, due mostly to the fact that the story begins before the outbreak occurs and shows you exactly the moment society began to break down and then takes you through the fall and resurrection of society. Larry Underwood and Tom Cullen and Stuart Bateman…Nadie Cross and Harold Lauder…Lloyd Heinreid, The Trashcan Man and, of course, the one character that ties both The Stand and The Dark Tower together, Randall Flagg. Although Flagg may not be the apotheosis of evil, he’s definitely an incredibly powerful malevolent force, who just happens to be extremely charming and incredibly interesting for the readers. He’s truly King’s greatest character, and readers are lucky enough to enjoy him in both of King’s epic tales.
The Stand was originally published in 1978 and re-released in the 90s in an uncut version with chilling illustrations by Bernie Wrightson. It is indeed King’s finest work. Taking us right from the doomed military base which spawned Captain Tripps, through the most incredible adventure, seeing death and devastation, seeing life thrive and humanity shine and seeing a force of pure evil intent on finishing what it started. I personally cannot think of a more all-encompassing, emotionally charged and simply perfect piece of horror writing. As you read about the survivors in Colorado you can feel the ominous presence of Flagg and his growing army ready to strike at any time and vaporize our brave pilgrims.
But as huge as The Stand is as King’s largest work in a single volume, The Dark Tower series dwarfs it by comparison. The work currently contains seven books with an eighth to be released on April 24. The newest chapter of the story is entitled The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole and although it is the latest addition to the saga, the subject matter of the book puts it between volumes four and five, making this a return to Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy in their prime, and not an extension of the story, which, those of you who are familiar with the absolutely perfect ending of the tale will attest, is basically impossible. The Stand takes you on a journey of loss and redemption, where The Dark Tower shows you an entire life. The life of The Gunslinger, Roland of Gilead.
How a writer could even sit down and begin to take on a project like The Dark Tower series boggles the mind. Thousands of pages that cross multiple dimensions with dozens of characters (including the author himself who addresses his own demons in tale). As a reader, by the time you finish The Dark Tower story, you are almost left breathless, missing the characters that you had spent so much time with, but appreciating the perfect ending King conjured for the story. Vampires, witches, burnings, lobstrosities, mafia hitmen and Roland’s own son are just a few of the ferocious evils our wanderers must confront during their incredible trek to discover the Dark Tower and the secrets that lie within. As a reader you fall in love with the stories and the characters, as a writer, you sit with your mouth hanging open, trying to fathom just how someone could create such a massive and beautiful story.
Throughout his legendary career, Stephen King has created stories and characters that have haunted our dreams, that have inspired us, frightened us and intrigued us. However it is with his two largest works, The Stand and The Dark Tower series that he has done his most impressive work. With the incredible Randall Flagg as a cornerstone of evil in both of the works, these two epic tales continue to this day to be the titles often named when a King fan is asked their favorite story by the amazing scribe.
We’ve looked at the beginning, the most prolific and the most incredible parts of the career of the greatest horror writer of our time. It is without hesitation and for one final time in this series that we grant a huge Tip of Doctor Gash’s Scalpel to Stephen King: The Epics.
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