Stephen King may not be the best remedy for insomnia... I think the only one of his novels I had previously read was Hearts in Atlantis, which I very much enjoyed. The Stand drew me in but I am not sure if I really enjoyed it. The story starts off as a gripping disaster narrative, as most of humanity gets wiped out by a flu virus (developed, of course, by the US military) and the few survivors begin to cluster together. Then we take a turn to the fantastic, as everyone begins to dream about an old black woman in Nebraska and a sinister white man in Las Vegas, who represent the forces of good and evil. I must say I found this set-up rather unsatisfactory in terms of world-building; the means and motivation of both sides remained rather unclear, with both the evil white dude and the nice black lady (who is incidentally almost the only person of colour in a very large cast of characters, apart from some stereotyped tribesmen at the very end) able to call on supernatural powers, which in turn fail them inexplicably at moments convenient to the forward movement of the plot. The struggle of the good guys against the bad guys made for thrilling reading, but the payoff is that the bad guys lose due to their own internal division, and the efforts of the good guys actually had nothing to do with the outcome, so all that struggle as pretty pointless in anything other than character-building terms. The version I got is the expanded 1100-page edition, but I suspect I would have been just as happy with the 900-page original. Good for long plane flights and the subsequent jetlag.