Striking a far less hysterical tone than in The Shining, King has written his most sweeping horror novel in The Stand, though it may lack the spinal jingles of 'Salem's Lot. In part this is because The Stand, with its flow of hundreds of brand-name products, is a kind of inventory of American culture. "Superflu" has hit the U.S. and the world, rapidly wiping out the whole of civilization--excepting the one-half of one percent who are immune. Superflu is a virus with a shifting antigen base; that is, it can kill every type of antibody the human organism can muster against it. Immunity seems to be a gift from God--or the Devil The Devil himself has become embodied in a clairvoyant called Randall Flagg, a phantom-y fellow who walks highways and is known variously as "the dark man" or "the Walking Dude" and who has set up a new empire in Las Vegas where he rules by fear, his hair giving off sparks while he floats in the lotus position. He is very angry because the immune folks in the Free Zone up at Boulder have sent a small force against him; they get their message from Him (God) through a dying black crone named Abigail, who is also clairvoyant. There are only four in this Boulder crew, led by Stu Redman from East Texas, who is in love with pregnant Fran back in the Free Zone. Good and Evil come to an atomic clash at the climax, the Book of Revelations working itself out rather too explicitly. But more importantly, there are memorable scenes of the superflu spreading hideously, Fifth Avenue choked with dead cars, Flagg's minions putting up fresh lightbulbs all over Vegas. . . . Some King fans will be put off by the pretensions here; most will embrace them along with the earthier chilis.