The Stand is ultimately a tale of good versus evil. Like the best tales of good versus evil, there are people who personify good, people who personify evil, and the majority who are some of both, but must choose sides.
This all begins with a small virus, one with a death rate of around 99.9%. This leaves America (and the rest of the world, but the entire story takes place in the United States) with a much reduced population. A sociologist who is a character in the book suggests that people will begin with small settlements, basically resettling the world. But, at least in the United States, there emerge two polar opposites: Randall Flagg and Mother Abigail. Flagg is not human; Abigail is definitely human (and more than 100 years old).
After “the end of the world as we know it,” the two polar opposites begin gathering people to them, mostly through dreams. People begin forming groups, heading to Nebraska, where Mother Abigail is, or to Las Vegas, where Flagg is. The point is the journey, though, although the ultimate climax is satisfying, the journeys are the heart of the story: the journey from “civilization” to the polarization of the world, and the journey of people who are not sure if they are good or bad, and the journey resulting in the confrontation.
The central cast of characters includes a man from East Texas, a deaf and dumb man, and several others. (My only serious criticism of the book is the dearth of strong female characters, except for Mother Abigail.) The uncut version is richer, with more detail as to each character. The length is daunting to most people, but not, I am sure, to the avid readers who visit ClubReading.
King’s strength here, as in all of his books, is in the characters. Because he follows these characters so closely, they come alive. Stu and Nick and Larry are friends of mine, and could be of yours as well.