"Salem's Lot" by Stephen King | Book Review

Genre: Mystery, Horror
Page Count: 653
First Published: October 17, 1975

Horror is a hard genre to write. A novel of that genre doesn't have the striking imagery of horror comics, or the endless toolbox of tricks a horror film can pull on its viewers to get their heart rate up. And yet, Stephen King knows something a lot of other authors don't, because his books never fail to make me feel uneasy. With 'Salem's Lot he takes his inspiration from Bram Stoker's vampire classic, Dracula, and manages to make his take on a vampire tale feel fresh and contemporary without sacrificing the eeriness or darkness of the familiar story.

King's writing style fits the setting particularly well. As someone who has criticized his obsession with details before, I have to say that I loved every word of this novel, which also feels very Gothic. The atmosphere he creates, and the autumnal setting play into the mood here, and every little detail helps create a unique reading experience. Anyone who is at least somewhat familiar with Stephen King's work already knows he is a master of character development (which is brilliant here as well), but there is a special character in 'Salem's Lot that comes to life through the pages: it's the town. Whatever the author is talking about, whatever the characters are experiencing—the town is always there, like some mysterious, bewitching entity that I just couldn't get enough of.

Being in the town is prosaic, sensuous, alcoholic. And in the dark, the town is yours and you are the town’s and together you sleep like the dead, like the very stones in your north field. There is no life here but the slow death of days, and so when the evil falls on the town, its coming seems almost preordained, sweet and morphic. It is almost as though the town knows the evil was coming and the shape it would take.
— Stephen King, 'Salem's Lot

And then there are the vampires—dark, ruthless, and dangerous. Not the kind of glamorous, romantic, brooding vampires who are so often found in film, TV series, and young adult literature these days. King is not here to feed your romantic fantasies—he's here to fuel your nightmares. And yes, I did dream of the Marsten House a few times while reading this (which isn't an effect an lot of books have on me), and it was an unsettling experience, to say the least.

So, let's summarize: a small New England town, an old mansion, compelling characters, and vampires, all wrapped in an addictively eerie atmosphere, crafted masterfully by Stephen King. Can there be a more perfect novel to read during autumn? 'Salem's Lot is the way vampire novels should be.

The town knew about darkness.
It knew about the darkness that comes on the land when rotation hides the land from the sun, and about the darkness of the human soul.
— Stephen King, 'Salem's Lot


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