Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Salem's Lot by Stephen King

You probably already know that this book is about vampires.  And not sparkly, friendly, romantic vampires as in Twilight or True Blood, but proper, old-fashioned, rip your throat out vampires.  As King says in his introduction to my copy (for which I sadly couldn't find the right cover for on the internet), he loved Dracula growing up, and it really shows. 

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
Source: Library
Score: 4 out of 5


  1. I love Stephen King! I could never pick a favorite, but all of his books (at least his earlier ones) are different and really good. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. I've only read one Stephen King book (crazy, I know) but Salem's Lot has been recommended to me several times. After reading your review, I might have to bump it up on my TBR list. Thanks for the review!

  3. I haven't read this one (yet) but lots of people have told me they think I'll like it. Thanks for reminding me about it! Nice review!

  4. I've never read a Stephen King before. I'm quite a wimp myself but after reading your review, think I'm going to give it a try someday.

  5. Awesome :) I've never actually read any of King's novels, I really should, maybe I should start with this one :)

  6. Ooh, this looks really scary! I've seen this book around, and since I've *never* read any Stephen Kind (I know, I suck), this may be a good way to start!

  7. I have to confess to being a huge wimp when it comes to scary...I just don't can't watch scary movies or read scary books. Many years ago a friend convinced me to read Misery...that was my first and last Stephen King :)

  8. Annette - I'm a Stephen King fan too but some of his books are really bad (a haunted car?!)

    Siobhan - I hope you enjoy it when you read it. Which King have you already read? And did you like it?

    Lisa - I think you would like it, there's not much to dislike to be honest. Reading it is a nice, escapist way to spend a few hours.

    Playing Librarian - Stephen King is good, but I can only read him in small doses.

    Noiashui - I think you would love Stephen King. I'm thinking of starting the Dark Tower series soon, I've heard only good things about them.

    Nikola - I'm surprised how many people have never read Stephen King. This one would be a good start, but I would recommend Misery over it.

    The Book Girl - I am a wimp too. I still can't read It with the lights off!

  9. This book is what kick-started my Steven King phase many years ago. I LOVED it. Night Shift and The Shining were also very good.

  10. Trish, I love The Shining too. I haven't read Night Shift though, I'll have to give that one a go. Thanks for the recommendation :)

  11. I love how you point out that it feels more like an homage to Stoker, versus a copy of. I would agree with that statement completely! It is a creepy story, and the town certainly had a personality that was beyond all others, huh? I've been checking the locks on my doors and windows lately :)

    I felt so very, very bad for Father Callahan. Certainly I felt bad for all of the main characters, but for some reason, Callahan is the one that sticks directly with me. I loved the Afterword that King wrote as well in the version I read, along with the deleted passages.