Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Salem's Lot by Stephen King
In fact, the main vampire, Barlow, could be seen as a bit of a Dracula rip-off. He's Eastern European, has a smooth, persuasive voice and smells of decay. When he arrives in Salem's Lot, him and his human assistant, Straker, set about slowly taking over the town and infecting it's residents one by one until the town is deserted by day but active at night.
There are other Dracula parallels too - there's a band of heroes, including a pretty woman/love interest who gets attacked by the main vampire at some point. The vampire 'rules' are Stoker's as well- to become a vampire you only need to be bitten three times, none of this also drinking from the vampire stuff. But to be fair to King, the parallels read more as a homage than as copying. King's story is distinct enough for it not to matter.
The real strength of Salem's Lot was the setting, the Lot itself. It's made clear in the book that Barlow chose Salem's Lot because it was a town in the grip of lots of minor, human evils and therefore conducive to bigger evil. There's a great section at the beginning of the book where we meet all of the town characters (drunks, abusive parents, agnostic priests, loveless families), and for a minute I thought I was reading Peyton Place. This led to the uncomfortable feeling later in the book where as a reader you were glad that the characters were being harmed, and almost on Barlow's side.
This book was scary to me, but I am a bit of a wimp. I'd say it's amongst King's scarier books but not as scary as It or The Shining. Vampire horror is much more graphic than this now so for some it could seem a bit tame.
Verdict: Read it on a dark night
Score: 4 out of 5