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Question on a Stephen King novel

  1. Jun 30, 2014 #1
    If you've read "The Stand", you'll remember the part where all the scientists in the underground facility die when the virus is released.
    I was always confused by this because the virus took weeks to kill everyone else, but the scientists seemed to have died on the spot while going about their stuff.
    Can a very highly concentrated dose of virus really make you drop dead instantly?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 30, 2014 #2


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    No, but you shouldn't let that get in the way of a good story.
  4. Jun 30, 2014 #3
    I haven't read this in years, but I recall there's a passage where he describes the progression of the disease. I'm pretty sure it took less than a week from infection to death for any individual who contracted it, not weeks.

    Since you have the book, could you quote the part about the dead scientists? I think you may have misread it. I think they end up dead at their posts, but the implication is that this is because they tried to continue their work during the illness, not because it killed them instantly.
  5. Jul 1, 2014 #4
    See that wouldn't make sense, because the guard at the begining only had "40 or so" seconds to get out of the base before it locked down and he explicitly stated that "they were all d-e-a-d down there" as he escaped.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2014
  6. Jul 1, 2014 #5
    What page number is that? I'll look for a copy.
  7. Jul 1, 2014 #6
    I'm reading the complete and uncut edition (which came out in recent years), not sure if the extra material is canon or not. (I think it should be)
    Also, when Starkey takes one last trip down to the lab he mentions guards who had died to the disease in their bullet-proof posts. This would suggest that something killed them very quickly or they would have made an attempt to escape instead of sitting down and waiting to die.
  8. Jul 1, 2014 #7
    OK, I found the "complete and uncut" at the library.

    The character who claims the scientists were all dead, that it killed them pretty quickly, actually had no way of determining that. He bolted as soon as the code red came up. He should have been locked in with all the others, but they explain the emergency locking mechanism didn't work as fast is it was supposed to, and he just barely made it out. He bolted as soon as the red emergency warning came on. There was no way for him to know anyone's condition. He never checked, he just ran. So, you can dismiss his assumption it was "pretty quick". It could be he's exaggerating to light a fire under his wife so she'll leave instantly with him, or it could be he saw some dead people on his way out and assumed the virus had just gotten free right before the alarm sounded. King doesn't seem to explain that claim, that I can see.

    We know from all the subsequent cases described it takes about 12 hours to show symptoms, and death came about 2-3 days later. There's no telling how long the disease had been free in the compound before the scientists realized it and sounded the alarm. Obviously, since he's the one who spreads it to the world, the guy who escaped had already been infected before the alarm sounded. It took him something like 3-4 days to die, and he kept driving till he lost control and crashed.

    The guards who didn't try to get out, I would assume, were doing their job and mindful of the fact that if they left they'd just be contaminating the whole world. They were going to die anyway. No point in killing other people as well, or in letting other infected people escape to do so. I don't see the fact they died at their posts as proving they died suddenly.

    I didn't re-read the whole book, of course, but there's no explanation in the first 4 chapters of how anyone in the compound got infected to start with, how the virus got from test tube to human host. And, hence, we have no knowledge of the time lag between that happening and the sounding of the alarm. King is more concerned with the story of how it got from the lab to the general population. The character, Campion, does seem to think it killed the others just about instantaneously, but that's obviously something he assumed, not something he witnessed.
  9. Jul 1, 2014 #8
    Thanks for the thorough response, good to see another fan of his books.
    Seems to be some plot holes here, if you examine things carefully you'll notice that.
    1.One of the scientists died with his face in a bowl of soup, this seems very very odd. I mean he must've fallen unconscious while having the soup, but then that would mean that he was already delirious and suffering from the disease well before sitting down.
    2.You'd think a facility working with biological weapons would have much tighter security, there probably would have been hourly check ups and round the clock surveillance. Containment and detection of contamination would probably have been their number one concerns, thus it seems unlikely that the disease could have been released for hours without anyone noticing.
  10. Jul 1, 2014 #9
    Tell you the truth, I'm not much of a fan of his anymore. I think he failed to keep his mojo current, somewhat like Steven Spielberg. They were both groundbreaking at the start of their careers, but both failed to evolve fresh new tricks. (Regardless, I really liked 11/22/63.)
    Were I writing it I would create an accident where scientist gets something sticky on their space suit, like: they spill some jelly on their shirt at breakfast without noticing. Jelly gets transferred to exterior of space suit while they are getting it down off the hook before putting it on. While they're in working with the virus, that part of the suit would get folded over and stuck down with some virus protected in the fold. The chemical shower they take when exiting the hot zone would fail to get into this protected pocket. The pocket would get pulled open while they are removing the suit, thus exposing them to the virus. No one would have any idea about the exposure till someone became symptomatic. There'd be a period of denial and rationalization before actually testing that person for the virus. And, by then, it would be too late.

    Anyway, Stephen King is one of the worst authors for technical or scientific accuracy. He seems to get something completely balled up in every book.
  11. Jul 1, 2014 #10


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    Yeah, but when taken for what it is ( fiction) they are all still damn good stories

    The Movie version of Christine ( the possessed car) always sent major shivers up and down my spine every time it straightened itself out

  12. Jul 2, 2014 #11
    Personally, I thought the mist was the best movie based on his stories.
    The story throws you in a done and done again environment but somehow manages to make it original.
  13. Jul 2, 2014 #12
    Movies usually have a strange and uncomfortable relationship to the books they're based on. You get the author's plot without any semblance of the deep reading experience. You spend 16, 25, 40 hours with a book, but a movie flashes by in under 2 hours. If you've read the book first, the movie usually disappoints.

    For my money, though, The Dead Zone with Christopher Walken was the best movie based on a King book.
  14. Jul 2, 2014 #13


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    My experience with reading the book first is that I form mental images of them in my mind, how they look, talk, etc... Then the actors are nothing like the book characters. The plot changes for the needs of the movie, things are wrong. Very few books I've read first where I actually enjoyed the movie.
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