Review: Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Posted January 15, 2013 by in Book Reviews / 14 Comments

Review: Salem’s Lot by Stephen KingSalem's Lot by Stephen King
Published by Anchor on 2008 (orig. 1976)
Genres: Fiction, Horror
Format: eBook
Pages: 674
Source: my shelves

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**This post has potential spoilers sprinkled all over the place, so if you haven’t read the book but plan to, you might want to come back later.**

Yesterday I told you the story of my mother’s experience with ‘Salem’s Lot. It was because of her story that I didn’t pick this book up until a week ago. I read a few of Stephen King’s horror novels as a young teen, but never ‘Salem’s Lot. If my mother could be that freaked out by a book, that was one book I didn’t want to touch. No way. Like my mother, though, I’ve always had a morbid fascination with vampires. I can’t remember how or when I first learned about them, but there have since been vampires who’ve scared the crap out of me, and vampires whom I’ve fallen in love with.

(Side story: I used to be so terrified of vampires when I was growing up, that I slept with my childhood blankie wrapped around my neck until I moved out of my parents’ house for the first time at the age of 19. [Oooo…19…Stephen King fans will know what an interesting coincidence that is.] No joke. I couldn’t sleep unless that blanket was around my neck so that the vampires–who I just knew were looking specifically for me–couldn’t sink their teeth into my neck. When I moved into an apartment with roommates, my fear of being caught sleeping with my blankie was greater than the fear of a vampire’s long, sharp teeth connecting with my neck. At least I overcame my fear of vampires…unlike my fear of werewolves. But that’s a story for a later date.)

So when I picked up ‘Salem’s Lot last week, it wasn’t without some trepidation, and I now understand exactly why my mother was so freaked out that night. Although I didn’t experience anything terrifying, some of the elements in ‘Salem’s Lot creeped me out quite a bit, even though I did most of my reading in the middle of the day.

Originally published in 1975, this is Stephen King’s second novel. The writing is better in ‘Salem’s Lot than it is in Carrie–the plot flows more smoothly and the storytelling is better–but it’s still not one of King’s better novels. (I actually rated this one star less than I rated Carrie, because it didn’t have the same emotional impact on me.)

For those of you who haven’t read ‘Salem’s Lot, it is about a small town in Maine–Jerusalem’s Lot–that falls victim to an ancient vampire. The main character, Ben Mears, lived in the Lot for a few years as a child, and has moved back to the town to write a book about the Marsten house–an old house in the town that seems to radiate and attract evil. The story actually begins with Ben and a young boy traveling to Mexico to escape and forget what has happened in the Lot. When we read the story of what happened to make Ben and this young boy flee to Mexico, Ben is telling the story to a priest there.

I’ve already said that the storytelling was a bit better in ‘Salem’s Lot than in Carrie, and I think the characters were better written in ‘Salem’s Lot, too. Each of the main-ish characters in ‘Salem’s Lot were better described and received more page time. Even so, I didn’t really connect with any of them aside from Mark Petrie (the young boy who ends up leaving town with Ben). What I loved most about this book was meeting Father Callahan (again)–I first read about Father Callahan in the Dark Tower series, and it was so cool to read about his origins in ‘Salem’s Lot. Reading about his fall from grace in this book makes his parts in the Dark Tower series stand out more for me now.

The parts that freaked me out the most in the story all dealt with children–I really don’t like it when kids are the horror. We all have this generalized view of children as sweet and innocent, so when those same children become something horrible and evil, it really does a number on me. I get all fidgety and uncomfortable and pretty grossed out. I mean, what would I do if my kids turned into vampires and tried to kill me in my sleep? What the hell? No. Just no. Although I know why this makes good horror, Mr. King needs to take that elsewhere. No, sir.

Have I told you yet how nervous I am to re-read Pet Sematary? Ugh.

While I think ‘Salem’s Lot can’t compare to some of King’s later work, it’s still a good book and I’d still recommend it to horror fans, especially those who like vampire stories. If I still lived in my parents’ house, there’s no way that I would have read this after sunset. I can fully empathize with my mother’s experience now. *shudders*

Read sj’s thoughts on ‘Salem’s Lot here.

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  • I don’t read ‘Horror’ in general, but might be reading a Stephen King novel for Books into Films. I’m already anxious about it! (Loved the blankey aside!)

    • It’s not a genre that I read often, either, although I’ll be reading a lot of it for this SK project. I’m concerned about making my nightmares worse (or more frequent), but I’ll take breaks from the project if I need to. 🙂

      • Yeah – my ability to suspend disbelief is great for most fiction, but completely screws me over for Horror/Thriller. I have horrible nightmares/dreams after I finish one!

        And you’ll definitely need a break, hasn’t he written like 50 novels or something?

        • Yeah, and a bunch of short story collections. I want to say that there are 70 or so books on the list, but I’m skipping some of them because I’ve read them recently.

  • I’ve got The Shining on my list of “books I need to finish” list. He is just TOO real for me with his writing and I get too emotionally involved. The only Stephen King book I remember finishing was Needful Things and it was AMAZING. I can still remember (and feel – if that’s even possible) that book almost 10 years later. I also read Bag of Bones but stopped when I was about 20 pages away from the ending because of how it ended. I won’t say anymore as I’m sure it’s on your list of upcoming reads.

    Tell me when you start The Shining and perhaps I will pick it back up again as well and finish it along with you :-).

  • Oh Heather I had to laugh at you with the blanket 🙂 But then your review has made me more scared to try out King. I wouldn’t want to go to bed and dream of vampires. I am that superstitious. 🙂 Great review

    • I have to laugh at myself now, too. Haha! I was ridiculous.

  • This is my favorite King novel. I remember I was reading it one night and I got so scared that I had to put it in the freezer and turn all the lights in the house on until I could calm down!

    • You put it in the freezer like Joey from Friends! Hahaha! That’s great!

  • I think ‘Salem’s Lot was the first Stephen King book I ever read. I liked that the vampires were all completely evil, and not at all sympathetic or romantic bad boys like a lot of contemporary vampire stories (vampire porn) try to portray them. To date, this is the only story that ever made vampires scary to me.

    • Have you read the Necroscope series by Brian Lumley? Those vampires are badass. I only made it through the first three books before I had to take a break…and that was probably ten years ago. Haha!

      • Never heard of it. I’ll have to find out. 🙂

  • I totally would never have read this book if I knew beforehand that it was about vampires (because that’s usually not my thing). But once I started reading it, I loved this book! I’m glad you gave it a chance!

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