Sunday, October 28, 2012

Book Review: 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King




Title: 'Salem's Lot
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: October 1, 1975
Source: received as a gift in a book swap

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

'Salem's Lot is a small New England town with white clapboard houses, tree-lined streets, and solid church steeples. That summer in 'Salem's Lot was a summer of home-coming and return; spring burned out and the land lying dry, crackling underfoot. Late that summer, Ben Mears returned to 'Salem's Lot hoping to cast out his own devils... and found instead a new unspeakable horror.

A stranger had also come to the Lot, a stranger with a secret as old as evil, a secret that would wreak irreparable harm on those he touched and in turn on those they loved.

All would be changed forever—Susan, whose love for Ben could not protect her; Father Callahan, the bad priest who put his eroded faith to one last test; and Mark, a young boy who sees his fantasy world become reality and ironically proves the best equipped to handle the relentless nightmare of 'Salem's Lot.


My Review:


My love for Stephen King knows no bounds.  It started when I was in middle school and read The Shining for the first time.  Since then, I have meandered my way through the majority of his more famous works, and many of the less well-known ones too.  But for some reason, 'Salem's Lot eluded me until now.  I decided Halloween time was the perfect season to take care of that!

And what can I say that hasn't already been said?  This is a vampire story that makes me question why I ever wasted time reading the Twilight series.  (Not that I didn't already question that, but...you know what I mean.)  The Volturi have nothing on Kurt Barlow.

There is a lot of the violence and horror that Stephen King is known for (not surprising, since this is one of his earliest works).  The book did a great job keeping me up at night, wondering if the neighbors were going to try to climb through my window and go for the jugular.  Automatic literary scare points for that.  But as is typical of King horror, it isn't a mindless string of bloody deaths and empty storylines.  You get connected to the characters (and yes, you have to say some grotesque goodbyes to some many of them).  King includes a prologue that I kept referring back to throughout the book, because in the beginning, it's hard to make full sense of it--but by the end, you want to go back and re-read it to see all of the "ah-ha" moments he added in.  He's a master of putting a small detail on page 20, and then having it come back to punch you in the face on page 323, when you've fairly well forgotten it.

And of all the characters in the book, I have to say I rooted for Mark Petrie the hardest.  I read a book blog post last week that was stellar--it talked about the way Stephen King writes so many whip-smart child characters, who are often able to triumph over evil opponents in ways that adults cannot.  (If you wrote that post, email me!  I want to reference it, boo to me for not bookmarking it.)  Mark Petrie is a perfect example of this.  At just ten/eleven years old, he's not who you'd probably pick first on your ultimate vampire-killing team.  BUT YOU SHOULD.  And King references many times where Mark, as a child, is able to act swiftly and forcefully because he is not laden with the need to overreact or overthink situations, as an adult would:
"With no pause for thought or consideration (both would have come to an adult--his father, for instance--and both would have undone him), Mark swept up the cross, curled it into a tight fist, and said loudly: "Come on in, then." (p 262)

I had vaguely noticed this in other King novels (It, The Shining, Firestarter, etc.) but I think it was illustrated more strongly in Mark's case because in the group of people making the last stand against the vampires, he is the lone child surrounded by adults.  King sees a power in children that many other authors do not, and it translates well in the horror genre where so many evils await.

Oh, and the ending?  Was awesome.

I could go on for days (there are also a lot of metaphors about how 'Salem's Lot illustrates American society after Vietnam...), but I'll let you Google that stuff and stop here.  Obviously, I loved this book.  It's a horror novel with so many twists and complexities, you won't want to put it down.  Plus, it's the perfect pick with Halloween coming up in a few days!

3 comments:

  1. One of my favorites from the master of horror. Love this book, and it is absolutely perfect for this time of year. The book cover of this printing is superb!

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  2. Agreed! That's the cover on my copy, it's great.

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  3. I've only read two King novels - The Shining and Carrie, but there are always several of his books in my local charity shop. I'll be keeping an eye out for this one when I pop down there in a bit! =)

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