Stephen King – “‘SALEM’S LOT” Book Review

This is my first book review, so bear with me on this as I have no idea how to grade a book – despite having been an English student. However, I’ll just be up front with you and tell you how I feel about it and what I got from it, rather than go into possible Freudian or Lacan readings of it; and let’s be honest: Stephen King takes advantage of readers who know these guys.

So here it is. The basis of this book is loosely based on Bram Stroker’s classic Dracula. Clear evidence of this appears throughout the novel, especially with the ultimate villain’s henchman being named “Straker”, and more straightforward references as to an actual comparison made between teacher Matt Burke to professor Van Helsing (again, considering their professions, they’re basically guides – Burke being physically dormant, which adds suspense). But here we basically get a modern version, perhaps even more sinister and more direct than Stroker’s hit (even if only due to a more relatable aspect). Despite the connotations to come with “modern”, the story is set in a rural town in 1975, its seclusion often exaggerated – making the nature of the storyline that bit more concerning.

Without giving too much of the story away, the stone begins to roll by the arrival of new residents Richard Straker and Kurt Barlow, partner owners of a new antique shop in Jerusalem’s Lot – and we witness most of the disturbing occurrences from a returning inhabitant, writer Ben Mears. From here on in, suspicions grow among the (creative) characters in the novel and the suspicions become real. Eventually the claustrophobic feel of these new invaders spread among the locals, leaving a select few, yet still giving some real shock and awes along the way, never making things completely obvious… well, perhaps for who the final survivors are if you remember the prologue.

The vampires are also portrayed more as infected people, perhaps truer to the connotations of “undead”, acting as reanimated corpses that can lure by communicating and seemingly using memories of the person. There’s also a handful of references of the vampires being or being mistaken for a pack of wolves.

During moments of this book, several passages seem to concentrate on more than just the subject of vampires and human survival; but on human nature and philosophies in general as well. These moments really stand out and made me put the book down, flick between pages, re-read and just stare into blank space for a minute or two, considering what I just had laid in front of me. These are very well portrayed moments that really do confront or present perspectives (depending on your interest on such things); and feel like they have lifelong value to them, at least in opening your mind a little to how the world works in a corrupted way – which is pretty suitable considering the blood and sexual nature of vampires in this novel; but that’s Freudian territory, moving on…

There are moments when it all seems too-good-to-be-true, like characters will all of the sudden connect dots that seem miles apart, with no real obvious or likely clues beforehand. It is during these moments that the novel takes a slight nose dive. Plus, there are moments, and sorry to give away an obvious part of the story, the killing of vampires seems all too easy, especially if characters can form coherent sentences between hammer blows on the stake. So, at times, the reality is questionable… but hey, we’re talking vampires, right? A work of fiction, who can really judge on that?

By the end though, you could believe this tale has actually happened, King pulls it off so fluently that it might even make you have a molecule of doubt or anxiety within you when considering going through your house at night. Ultimately, it’s like being punched in the throat by a rejectful love, only to have it caressed and soothed afterwards, but never forgetting the harsh lesson learnt in that brief moment. It’s that to-the-point remorselessness; characters you begin to care for will die in a snap of a finger when you least expect it, and I guess that is the harsh lesson… you can’t expect all stories to help you sleep at night.

In the illustrated edition of the book, there are two extra short stories after it finishes. The first is called One For The Road, and is a first-person telling of an event that occurs three years after the physical demise of Jerusalem’s Lot, and considering what we already know, it hardly hits home like it might have intended to. However, the second is called Jerusalem’s Lot, which is set in 1850 and is a collection of letters and journal entries by Robert Boone and Calvin McCann – basically hinting towards how the beginning of the evil that’s rooted in Jerusalem’s Lot and the Marsten House started, along with a nice twist at the very end. Definitely worth reading after finishing ‘Salem’s Lot.

In the end, ‘Salem’s Lot is not too heavy, but not exactly light-reading either. There’s a fair bit of eye-opening sections of this book to be had, and there’s no boring and choring parts in all honesty. For horror fans, or Stephen King fans in general, this is definitely worth your time, especially if you enjoyed the style of Carrie. It’s an enjoyable book, while having a nice amount of depth and reference to literature in general, it’s far from a dense read but still addictively indulging.

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