Review: ‘Salem’s Lot – Stephen King

I have spent a lot of hours reading Stephen King but have always been hesitant to branch out from a few books that I know and love. 11/22/63 and Under the Dome have occupied days of my time! After having listened to the audiobooks several times each and reading the print versions twice I was left wanting more. My next foray extended into the Dark Tower series. Through that I came to realize slowly that Stephen King’s works all live in the same universe. When dear Father Callahan popped up several books in and mentioned his connections to ‘Salem’s Lot my brain went into a tailspin! My suspicions were confirmed!

I have always been a vampire kid. I read Anne Rice all through middle and high school and adored the stories, characters, and dark nature of the series. ‘Salem’s Lot always sounded like a logical book for me to read, except there was a glaring problem. I am a massive wuss. I can’t stomach horror stories and am terrified of the dark. Don’t even get me started on The Hounds of Baskerville and my Hell hound issues. The idea of vampires hovering outside of windows kept me spooked. Stephen King is infinitely more terrifying than Anne Rice and I put it off for years.

This last May a friend of mine on Litsy (see here for more info about that wonderful invention) encouraged me to read it and still I chickened out. In passing I mentioned the conversation to my friend Rebecca and she went mad. She is not one to be dissuaded and ‘Salem’s Lot was quickly dispatched on my Amazon Prime two-day shipping so that we could read it together.

*Spoiler’s Incoming*

Like most of King’s towns ‘Salem’s Lot is an insidious brooding place. Quickly we are hit with a massive dose of spooky when the unnamed man says it is time to return to this clearly horrific place. Flashback to a classic Maine day and Ben Mears is setting up shop in town to finish his next book. He is haunted by the dreadful house on the hill, but his life is going well otherwise…for a moment. In a matter of days, the town descends into hell with the arrival of an ancient vampire named Barlow.

One thing that King masters above all else, is his grip on the human spirit and psyche. He can take a monotonous and innocent encounter and turn it into something terrifying and vile without ever saying more than “Hello” between two characters. He gets in your soul just like the towns he creates get into their inhabitants. It is a wonderful talent and ‘Salem’s Lot is the most exquisite example I have read yet. His human characters are usually infinitely scarier than whatever supernatural element exists in the books I have read.

The other thing that stood out so brightly for me was the writing itself. There were whole sections where I lost myself in the words and had to go back through and reread because I completely missed what was happening. It is one of the most beautiful pieces of prose I have ever read. If I started including quotes this blog would be ten pages long.

The epilogue itself is incredible. It is stuck in my head almost word for word and I expect it will stay there for a good long while. It is a perfect ending and had so much feeling and darkness behind it.

The full circle nature of King’s storytelling is brilliant, and I have never felt more satisfied with an ending in my life.

Long story short. Everyone needs to read this book. Right now. I am off to start Hearts In Atlantis.

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