Book Review: ‘Salem’s Lot

This weekend in Salem, we had sweltering heat, upwards of 100ºF. Since our house is old with old windows and no A/C, we were feeling pretty wilted. Jeremy retreated to the cool basement to play computer games (first time in quite a while!), and I sat upstairs in the sauna—er, home theatre room—and mustered up just enough energy to hold a book.

‘Salem’s Lot is one of the King books I have been wanting to read for a while, but was never able to find when I thought to look for it. Finally, I got ahold of a copy, and read it in less than a week. This book was Stephen King’s second novel, written in 1975. It is a vampire story modeled on Bram Stoker’s type, but characteristic of King, it is set in a small Maine town called Jerusalem’s Lot.

As the title indicates, the town itself is much more the subject of this book than the vampires. It was several hundred pages before we first get a clear indication that vampires are the villains of the story, and at least halfway through before the main characters start to consider this. Instead, the focus is on the town: the grand passage of time—or lack thereof—in this small rural borough, and the more mundane ins and outs of its inhabitants’ daily lives. Although the story has a small core of heroes, the book weaves their activities together with those of the town’s locals, dwelling on the potential for evil that simmers everywhere just under the surface.

‘Salem’s Lot was a well written book. Although an early book, it has all the components of King’s best work: a scary, compelling plot with a supernatural twist, yet deeply connected to human nature through his detailed characterization of the rural town’s inhabitants. I also appreciated that it doesn’t end with a huge supernatural battle between good and evil, a device which seems rather forced in many of King’s later books—instead, the final conflict is both realistic and satisfying. Definitely a recommended book.

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