by Stephen King
Fiction — Horror
**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.
(To learn more about Stephen King, please visit his official website.)
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