This might be the best book he's ever written. The general consensus seems to be that The Stand is the best of his books, but just now I don't feel that way. It doesn't have the intensity of The Stand or pull you in quite so much, but it's also more consistent. I found the characters to be more interesting, and consequently, I cared about them more than I did the characters in The Stand. I plan to re-read that one (perhaps this year) so that I can compare them more competently (it's been years since I read The Stand), but this one had a kind of tenderness that the other lacked. If The Stand is a sledgehammer, this one is a butterfly. A vampire butterfly maybe, but still a butterfly. Maybe I've been in a weird space while reading it, but that's how it came across. It manages to pair the beautiful nostalgia of stories like The Body with an adventure only fit for a boy's childhood nightmares, creatures only fit to be defeated when dressed in pirate garb and charging around an empty backyard at ten years old with a plastic sword in your hand. I feel like, in some ways, he's spent a lot of his career trying to find this delicate balance again.
I also found that this one largely avoided what I call King Syndrome, which is the ability to build a book up so well that any ending would be a let down. At least, I prefer to think that's what happens; that his buildups force his endings to be let downs rather than that the man lacks the skill to properly wrap up a story. He talks in On Writing about how plotting sucks the fun out of the writing process. I think there's truth to that, but I also think it helps explain his issues with closing out a story. Whatever the cause of this issue of his, I didn't really experience it with this one. The ending here isn't perfect, but there's a lot to love about it.
I don't really find his work scary, per se, but this one had moments of some creepiness, which I think is about all I can expect from a book. It didn't turn out to be anything like I expected. Knowing I would read it one day (it's long so I took a while to get around to it) I've never seen the mini-series and been sure to stay away from spoilers. I'm glad I did. I don't know exactly what I was expecting, but it wasn't this. Once again, it's about all I can hope for in a book.
Overall, an exceptional work by the standards of the King catalog and well worth the time (which, at nearly 1100 pages is no small commitment) to read.