In On Writing, Stephen King says that The Dead Zone is one of the few plot-driven novels he's ever writen -- meaning he had the whole story thought out before he started writing it down. I don't know if that's what makes this one SUCH a winner, but it really stood out, to me, as a wonderful book.
Forget the film. What's brilliant about the book is that we get inside both the lead character's minds -- Johnny Smith, a typical all-American "good guy" who has the limited ability to see the future because of a childhood accident; and Greg Stillson, a bonkers nutjob who is campaigning to be the next US president.
When Johnny shakes Greg's hand at a political rally, he has a vision of Greg becoming the President and sparking World War III. Everyone else loves Greg -- Johnny is the only man who can stop him...
Does that sound corny? The way it's written is ANYTHING but. Several scenes at the end made me cry as I'd become so attached to Johnny Smith.
This is my favourite Stephen King book by a (Green) mile. It isn't his horror stuff -- nobody turns out to be a huge spider at the end -- but a wonderful, character-driven, gripping story.