This entire post is in response to all the people who claim that Swan Song is a 'rip-off' of The Stand. I say they are wrong and hold that the novel Dark Advent is closer to (albeit not a 'rip-off' of) The Stand With that in mind, I'll be looking at all three books simultaneously first The Stand by Stephen King, second Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon and third Dark Advent by Brian Hodges (the Advent link goes to dead message board but Mr. Hodges posted many times ... interesting stuff too).
First thing is the first impressions of the books.
LengthThe Stand is 1141 pages long.
Swan Song is 956 pages long.
Dark Advent is 448 pages long.
In terms of length alone The Stand and Swan Song are more similar.
Covers The Stand's cover has a guy dressed in white fighting a dude that looks like a crow. Also it fits the book and I'm not left confused.
Swan Song's cover show a giant rift in the earth with the sun setting behind it. A demon's face is superimposed on the sun. Looks like the sun/demonic head could be the mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion. Also the cover somewhat fits, even if the demonic head pictured doesn't fit the description of the Man With The Scarlet Eye.
The cover of Dark Advent shows a red faced demon. Inside of the cutaway portion of the cover a screaming girl is visible. This cover makes no sense. It has nothing to do with the contents of the novel. Dark Advent seems to have been the victim of some sort of publishing tomfoolery. Somewhere out there is a novel about a red faced demon and burning school children with the cover for Dark Advent. What cover that might be is beyond me. Perhaps a man with a briefcase would be the most appropriate.
Cause of The End
'The end' in The Stand came from a government experiment in biowarfare. It gets loose in some sort of accident and kills 99.4% of the population. It goes by several nicknames 'Captain Trips' 'Tube Neck' are a couple. More common is the moniker Superflu.
'The end' in Swan Song is complete and total nuclear war. From the description of it a great deal of suspension of disbelief has to be employed as the scenario as portrayed in the first few chapters would be unsurvivable. But since there is a heavy supernatural presence in the novel, it is perhaps reasonable to think that a supernatural guiding force also keeps certain key figures safe.
'The' end in Dark Advent is a souped up version of the bubonic plague. It is not released accidentally nor does it get out of hand when used as a weapon, rather it is released purposefully to kill most of the population.
The main conflict in The Stand is Good vs. Evil. A group of people who are more or less good gravitate around the figure of Mother Abigail. The other group, the opposition, align themselves with Randal Flagg, a demon. The group with Abigail don't seem to have a plan for the world that goes further than gathering together and maintaining a rough semblance of the world as used to be: The Constitution, courts. Order I guess. Flagg's group seems to not have a real plan either beyond destroying everyone who isn't a member of their group. Abigail's group ends up in Boulder Colorado and Flagg's group gathers in LasVegas.
In Swan Song the basic struggle is Life vs Death. There are four main groups of people the story follows. Swan's group (Josh, Rusty, Killer the Terrier, and Swan). Swan is Life. She holds the literal power of life in hers hands Sister's group (Just her and Paul) Colonel Macklin's Group (Roland/Sir Roland. Sheila, Colonel Macklin/Shadow Soldier) and The Man With The Scarlet Eye who always walks alone. He is the adversary. Together with Macklin's group ... he is Death. In the end it can be only Swan and He Who Walks Alone in a final battle.
In Dark Advent the basic struggle is between two main groups of people. The story follows Jason Hart, Erika, Caleb, Travis and Peter Soloman with a varied and sundry cast of 'others'. As the story moves on they all coalesce in St. Louis. The team of (for lack of a better descriptor) good guys (Jason Hart, Erika, Caleb, Travis) end up at Brannigan's Department Store and the opposition move into Omni Majestic Hotel.
The Stand is pretty heavy with William Butler Yeats' poem The Second Coming. 'Things fall apart; the center cannot hold' and what not.
Swan Song is heavily influenced by The Wasteland by T. S. Eliot. 'I do not find The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.' And so forth.
Dark Advent pays homage to The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe. (yes it's a short story not a poem ... whatever.)
The only song that really came to mind as I read The Stand was Don't Fear The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult. It's at the very beginning of the book and sets the tone very well. And on an unrelated note was one of the more brilliant parts of a mostly terrible miniseries.
Swan Song was war, death, and violence. Roland and Macklin are some seriously messed up people. The song I thought of most was War Ensemble by Slayer.
Dark Advent didn't seem to have much musical influence for me. Jason listened to music but nothing really stuck for me.
Sum it Up
I wrote this post because Swan Song and The Stand have been compared way too much. I don't know for certain if I have proven the case here but just trust me, The Stand and Swan Song are both fantastic books but other than the length and the time they came out they are totally different. OK other than dreams being a way for the characters to find each other ... nothing else. Even Dark Advent used 'The Dream' tactic for uniting characters.
This is open to all commenters. All you have to do is say 'hi' and post an e-mail address. The winner will receive a copy of The Stand, Swan Song, Dark Advent and a bonus title. Contest ends February 15th.