Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Report: 'Salem's Lot

There's a slight Halloween holdover in "Book Report" land, and that holdover is all about 'Salem's Lot by Mr. Stephen King. This book has popped up several places on the blog this month, and I couldn't let the spookiest season pass without dedicating a post to the small town overtaken by a big darkness. I loved Stephen King as a young reader and would borrow my dad's paperback copies of Cujo and The Stand and Carrie on the sly, but other than reading The Shining last year, I hadn't really dedicated much time to Stephen King as an adult. Well, after adding 'Salem's Lot to my list, I've officially rekindled my author crush on King. Big time. 

'Salem's Lot is rife with some of King's favorite obsessions: authors as protagonists, father-son relationships, outsiders vs. small towns, children who see more clearly than adults, isolation, and evil with a capital E! As an added bonus, the Lot also features a vampire rooted in terror and total otherness. (Remember when I talked about otherness in the vampire genre?) Yes, the vampire gets younger and better looking as his undead legion grows, but he also smells like death + infinity, so he's not exactly a romantic anti-hero vampire version of Mr. Darcy. (Which would be great, but not very terrifying.)

In the fall, night comes like this in the Lot: 

The sun loses its thin grip on the air first, turning it cold, making it remember that winter is coming and winter will be long. Thin clouds form, and the shadows lengthen out. They have no breadth, as summer shadows have; there are no leaves on the trees or fat clouds in the sky to make them thick. They are gaunt, mean shadows that bite the ground like teeth. 
--Stephen King

Even though I tend to think of 'Salem's Lot as a vampire novel, for me the real heart of the story lies with the living inhabitants of 'Salem's Lot and their own secret, brooding evils. Little 'e!' If you're looking for a scary (rather than sultry) vampire novel, this delivers. Patience is required, however, as the vampire doesn't really make an appearance until over halfway through. Still, I don't think you'll be disappointed. 

If you're looking for more books like 'Salem's Lot, you can't go wrong with King: The Shining, Needful Things, and Pet Sematary. Since the vampire haunting the Lot is in the traditional Stoker vein (pun!), Dracula would also fit the bill nicely. And as usual, I've got to get my plug in for Shirley Jackson. Seriously. Love her. The Haunting of Hill House. Read it. 

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