The Stand by Stephen King
Life was such a wheel that no man could stand upon it for long. And it always, at the end, came round to the same place again.
– Stephen King
This is my favourite Stephen King novel by far. It deals with the aftermath of the breakdown of the world, caused by a superflu. The characters are fantastic, and the narrative is hard-hitting and sometimes brutal in Stephen King’s style. It deals with themes of religion and God, good versus evil, survival, community, and friendship. The main chunk of the story follows one group of good characters who are converging on Hemingford Home, Nebraska, to meet a woman called Mother Abagail who has visited them all in dreams. Another group, comprised of bad characters and technical specialists, converge on Las Vegas to work for Randall Flagg, a supernatural drifter and the embodiment of evil, and both groups try to rebuild society.
Do yourself a favour and read the Complete and Uncut Edition, which adds 400 pages back to the novel which needed to be cut for the original manuscript to be published. This was because publishers did not think readers would want such a long book when it was first published. It adds back chapters that extend several characters’ stories, which really improve the novel. This book was perfect for me. It had a post-apocalyptic setting (and covered the whole buildup before the collapse), compelling characters with interesting backstories, and it left a lasting impression on me that left me wanting for more.