There are plenty of pitfalls that drag epic, amibitous novels down; plots that don't hold up for a thousand plus pages, characters that grow tiresome, repetitive themes that feel like a broken record halfway through the book.
The Stand avoids all of these. The cast is large and varied enough to keep multiple plot threads going, but not too large to become confusing. And as many as there are, none are superfluous to the plot, all serve a purpose that is revealed before the finale. The plot is intense and ambitious, but divided into segments it is managable and sustainable. Daunting certainly at 1200+ pages, but always building towards the inevitable conclusion. The theme is as old as storytelling; the ultimate battle between good and evil, the eternal cycle of death and rebirth. But King manages to present these timeless themes with mythic, Biblical imagery melded with a down-to-earth humanity that makes them fresh and exciting.
This book is a chilling, thrilling home-run. At the end of the book (and at many places throughout) I felt as though I'd been completely wrung out. The amount of emotion the reader invests in this book is one of the greatest of any book I've read. Its exhausting and exhilirating at the same time. One for the ages, truly not to be missed.
This is my favorite Stephen King book, and one of my top 10 books of all time. My first copy literally fell apart from re-reading. If you read the original version, make sure you pick up a copy of the Uncut verison, which contains almost 200 extra pages and several storylines (such as that of The Kid) which were left out of the shorter, original publication.
A word of warning; I don't suggest reading this book when you're not feeling well. I got caught in a flu epidemic several years ago that landed me in the hospital on two occasions. I was bored and started to re-read, and ended up practically giving myself a full blown anxiety attack. *L*
"The Stand" is my favorite book of all time. I love books dealing with the end of the world, and this, in my opinion, is the best one. A "super-flu" kills 99% of the world's population, and the remaining one percent gravitate towards either Mother Abigail, an old woman, or Randall Flagg, basically the devil. The book is very much good vs. bad, with a definite religious tint to it overall. Admittedly, the book is longer than most (1200+ pages), but it is full of detailed characters who will stay with you long after you finish. This is one book you will want to read again.