It is the rare book that entertains as well as it informs but The Stand by Stephen King succeeds where many others have failed. Originally, I bought this book because it seemed like a great travel book: long, heavy, thematic and epic in scope. After looking at it on my shelf for nearly nine months, I could not put it off any longer and reached for it since I have some time this summer. I was not disappointed - in fact I should have started it sooner.
I only recently began reading Stephen King and have enjoyed several other novels he has written including IT which can also rightly be called a masterpiece. However, that said, I have never read a novel that can properly stand up (pardon the pun) to The Stand. It is a post-apocalyptic tale that does not ever really cross into the fantasy realm. The novel is classified as horror fiction and the vision of a world devestated by a superflu is chilling, terrifying and at times downright awful. King has succeed in making the book more than just the simple elements of a great story. There are powerful themes and allegory at work here, in addition to an epic struggle between good and evil (probably the finest yet crafted in print); the writing is fluid and brilliant.
In the course of reading a long novel (this one clocks in at 1141 pages) there are always spots which drag and King had a few...that said, they were countable on one hand (name another thousand page book you can say that about!). King's forte has always been his characters and they are so well drawn here the reader finds themself living in the same, devestated world for the duration.
Yes, the book is long, but remains the most fascinating vision of a world completely destroyed. King's reconstruction of the world and his social commentary are spot on and haunting in their shattering reality.
Bonus: Never has this book been as topical as it is right now with the threat of a major outbreak of H1N1 virus looming next fall. At one point in the novel King mentions swine flu - once again ahead of his time. This is not a simple read, but it is a rewarding one and the pages fly at a clip. One of the rare books I dreaded finishing, as I knew it would probably be some time before I read anything this good again.