In my endeavor to read through Stephen King’s rather prodigious catalog, I find myself finishing ‘Salem’s Lot. This is another book that I’d read many years ago, but I enjoyed it much more this time around. Perhaps it is a better understanding of King and literature as a whole but, regardless of the reason for it, ‘Salem’s Lot has earned a place among my favorite horror novels.
I want to address a disturbing trend that I’ve encountered while browsing negative reviews for this novel: many claim that it is not scary. Our society has, unfortunately, lost the true meaning of horror. They are now satisfied by jump-scare schlock and redundant themes. I personally found ‘Salem’s Lot to be quite unsettling and horrifying. Imagine that you are a young boy living in a sleepy Maine town where nothing happens. Now imagine that another young boy dies inexplicably, a boy of your age that you considered a friend. Now imagine seeing the reanimated corpse of your friend, the one that you’re positive is dead and buried, knocking at your window and requesting entry. How is this not terrifying? How is the idea of a town being completely overrun and completely transformed into blood-sucking parasite servants of the Dark Lord not scary? Kids these days.
More than just straight horror, King displays his uncanny insight into human nature and behavior. Father Callahan’s struggle with his faith, and the true meaning of evil in an ever-changing world, is truly intriguing. I consider Callahan to be one of the most interesting characters in ‘Salem’s Lot, but he is certainly not the only one. Ben arrives in the sleepy town in order to slay the ghost that has haunted him since childhood, as well as to deal with his recurring grief over the death of his wife. What he finds is that his life is stuck in a cycle of death and helplessness and guilt and pain, and he’s not able to break free until he confronts the evil of Jerusalem’s Lot.
I must comment on how remarkable it is that ‘Salem’s Lot was King’s second novel. The level of craftsmanship evident here would be exceptional for any author, but the fact that King produced it so early in his career speaks to his talent. His prose is both easy to read and, at times, beautiful and complex. The way he describes autumn arriving in Maine painted the scene so clearly in my mind that I almost felt as if I were experiencing it for myself.
‘Salem’s Lot is a harrowing tale of vampires. Real vampires, not the watered-down romantic type that are so common in today’s media. Demonic, bloodthirsty, cruel and ancient – King’s vampires will revive your fear of the night’s nameless terrors.