Friday, November 19, 2010

'Salem's Lot by Stephen King

The book's synopsis from the publisher's website:

'Salem's Lot, Illustrated EditionStephen King's second novel, the classic vampire bestseller 'SALEM'S LOT, tells the story of evil in small-town America.
'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 homecoming 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.

This is a rare novel, almost hypnotic in its unyielding suspense, which builds to a climax of classic terror. You will not forget the town of 'salem's Lot nor any of the people who used to live here.
I liked 'Salem's Lot. That's it. I just liked it. I didn't love it and I didn't fall head over heels for it, which is what I expected my reaction to be. I think that all the positive things I had heard before I read it made my expectations impossibly high and that was one of the problems. I kept hearing how scary it was, what a piece of classic horror it was and then it wasn't scary for me at all, didn't have that atmosphere of reality that I always find in King's books. By that I mean, no matter how impossible a story Mr. King tells, he somehow always manages to make it seem very probable indeed. And that's what makes his books scary for me. With 'Salem's Lot, I just didn't get that vibe at all. I suppose that the book didn't scare the pants off of me was my main source of disappointment. Otherwise, it is still a fine, gritty vampire tale.

The characters in 'Salem's Lot are developed beautifully. We already (it's one of the author's earliest novels) encounter King's signature scene with multitude of personalities. The beautiful thing is, you never get confused as to who is who and who did what. Some of the people there were simply bad without any supernatural influence and I wished a little that some horrible end would meet them but that didn't happen. I suppose in real life justice rarely does arrive and Mr. King simply tried to imitate this nitty, gritty reality of ours as closely as possible to make the whole vampire story seem possible as well. The writing is of course superb. I write of course because I never expect anything less from this writer. He really knows his craft. Sentences are clean, sharp and to the point. You will find no beautifying or overly longish paragraphs with unnecessary descriptions of every minute thing in here. Which makes 'Salem's Lot a pleasurable, quick read despite its length (roughly 550 pages).

If you're looking for some nice, traditional vampire action, this read is a must. Just like Stoker's Dracula, even if 'Salem's Lot is not the best of King (and it's just my humble opinion anyway), it belongs to the vampire canon that needs to be on the shelves of any self-respecting horror and the Undead fan.

Disclosure: I bought 'Salem's Lot.