Mother Abagail directs them to Boulder, Colorado , where they struggle to re-establish a democratic society called the "Free Zone". Meanwhile, another group of survivors is drawn to Las Vegas by Randall Flagg , an evil being with supernatural powers. Flagg's group is able to quickly reorganize its society, restore power to Las Vegas, and rebuild the city with the many technical professionals who have migrated there.
Flagg's group launches a weapons program, searching what remains of the United States for suitable arms.
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Mother Abagail, feeling that she has become prideful due to her pleasure at being a public figure, disappears into the wilderness on a journey of spiritual reconciliation. During her absence, the Free Zone's leadership committee decides to secretly send three people to Flagg's territory to act as spies. Harold Lauder and Nadine Cross, who are disaffected Free Zone inhabitants tempted by Flagg, stage an attack on the committee with a bomb. The explosion kills several people, but most of the committee members avoid the explosion thanks to Mother Abagail's return.
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The Complete and Uncut Edition expands on a character seen only in flashbacks in the original novel: The Kid, modeled after spree killer Charles Starkweather. He states to the Trashcan Man that he intends to kill Flagg and take over as leader in Las Vegas when he arrives. In response, Flagg causes a pack of wolves to descend on the two travelers, allowing the Trashcan Man to flee unharmed, but the wolves kill The Kid after a standoff.
The stage is now set for the final confrontation as Flagg's group becomes aware of the threat from the Free Zone.
No pitched battle occurs, however. Instead, at Mother Abagail's dying behest, four of the five surviving members of the leadership committee—Glen Bateman, Stu Redman, Ralph Brentner, and Larry Underwood—set off on foot towards Las Vegas on an expedition to confront Flagg.
Stu breaks his leg en route and persuades the others to go on without him, telling them that God will provide for him if that is what is meant to happen. The remaining three are soon taken prisoner by Flagg's army. Flagg gathers his entire collective to witness the execution of Brentner and Underwood.
Moments before they are to be killed, the Trashcan Man arrives with a retrieved nuclear warhead. Flagg conjures a magical ball of energy in an attempt to silence a dissenter, but it is transformed into a giant glowing hand—"The Hand of God"—which detonates the bomb, destroying Las Vegas and killing all of Flagg's followers, in addition to Larry and Ralph.
The inhabitants of Boulder anxiously await the birth of the baby of Stu's lover Frances Goldsmith. She had been pregnant before the plague began by her boyfriend. They fear that the child may not possess an immunity to the superflu and may die, implying a permanent end to humanity.
Soon after she gives birth to her son, Stu returns to Boulder, having been rescued first by dog Kojak and then by Tom Cullen, the only survivor of the three Free Zone spies. The baby, Peter, manages to fight off the superflu.
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The original edition of the novel ends with Fran and Stu questioning whether the human race can learn from its mistakes. The answer, given in the last line, is ambiguous: "I don't know. The Complete and Uncut Edition follows this with a brief epilogue , "The Circle Closes", which leaves a darker impression. While Stu, Fran, and baby Peter leave Boulder and return to Fran's hometown in Maine to establish a home front in the east, an amnesia -stricken Flagg wakes up on a beach on an unknown island, having somehow escaped the atomic blast in Vegas by using his dark magic to teleport away at the last second.
There, he begins recruiting adherents among a preliterate, dark-skinned people, who worship him as a deity. One source was Patty Hearst 's case. The original idea was to create a novel about the episode because "it seemed that only a novel might really succeed in explaining all the contradictions". The author also mentions George R. Stewart 's novel Earth Abides , which describes the odyssey of one of the last human survivors after the population is nearly annihilated by a plague, as one of the main inspirations:.
With my Patty Hearst book, I never found the right way in This article called up memories of a novel called Earth Abides , by George R. I wrote—just to write something: The world comes to an end but everybody in the SLA is somehow immune. Snake bit them. I looked at that for a while and then typed: No more gas shortages.
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That was sort of cheerful, in a horrible sort of way. For a long time—ten years, at least—I had wanted to write a fantasy epic like The Lord of the Rings , only with an American setting. I just couldn't figure out how to do it. I never forgot the gruesome footage of the test mice shuddering, convulsing, and dying, all in twenty seconds or less.
That got me remembering a chemical spill in Utah, that killed a bunch of sheep these were canisters on their way to some burial ground; they fell off the truck and ruptured. I remembered a news reporter saying, 'If the winds had been blowing the other way, there was Salt Lake City. Scott , but before it was released, I was deep into The Stand , finally writing my American fantasy epic, set in a plague-decimated USA. Only instead of a hobbit, my hero was a Texan named Stu Redman, and instead of a Dark Lord, my villain was a ruthless drifter and supernatural madman named Randall Flagg.
The land of Mordor 'where the shadows lie,' according to Tolkien was played by Las Vegas. While writing The Stand , King nearly stopped because of writer's block. For the heptapods, all language was performative. Instead of using language to inform, they used language to actualize. Sure, heptapods already knew what would be said in any conversation; but in order for their knowledge to be true, the conversation would have to take place. Not simply to guess at it; was it possible to know what was going to happen, with absolute certainty and in specific detail?
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Gary once told me that the fundamental laws of physics were time-symmetric, that there was no physical difference between past and future. I liked to imagine the objection as a Borgesian fabulation: consider a person standing before the Book of Ages, the chronicle that records every event, past and future. Even though the text has been photoreduced from the full-sized edition, the volume is enormous.
With magnifier in hand, she flips through the tissue-thin leaves until she locates the story of her life. The thought of doing just that had crossed her mind, but being a contrary sort, she now resolves to refrain from betting on the ponies altogether. The Book of Ages cannot be wrong; this scenario is based on the premise that a person is given knowledge of the actual future, not of some possible future. How can these two facts be reconciled?
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A volume like the Book of Ages is a logical impossibility, for the precise reason that its existence would result in the above contradiction. And we knew free will existed because we had direct experience of it. Volition was an intrinsic part of consciousness. Or was it? What if the experience of knowing the future changed a person? What if it evoked a sense of urgency, a sense of obligation to act precisely as she knew she would? Explain it by saying that a difference in the index of refraction caused the light to change direction, and one saw the world as humans saw it. Explain it by saying that light minimized the time needed to travel to its destination, and one saw the world as the heptapods saw it.
Two very different interpretations. The physical universe was a language with a perfectly ambiguous grammar. Every physical event was an utterance that could be parsed in two entirely different ways, one causal and the other teleological, both valid, neither one disqualifiable no matter how much context was available. When the ancestors of humans and heptapods first acquired the spark of consciousness, they both perceived the same physical world, but they parsed their perceptions differently; the world-views that ultimately arose were the end result of that divergence.
Humans had developed a sequential mode of awareness, while heptapods had developed a simultaneous mode of awareness. We experienced events in an order, and perceived their relationship as cause and effect.