Christy Hails to The King: Salem’s Lot
[Reread] [5/5] [Spoilers]
Thousands of miles away from the small township of ‘Salem’s Lot, two terrified people, a man and a boy, still share the secrets of those clapboard houses and tree-lined streets. They must return to ‘Salem’s Lot for a final confrontation with the unspeakable evil that lives on in the town.
“Alone. Yes, that’s the key word, the most awful word in the English tongue. Murder doesn’t hold a candle to it and hell is only a poor synonym…”
To say I was excited to read Salem’s Lot would be an understatement. Salem’s Lot was the first King book I read. I had very fond memories of reading the book the first time, and for only a moment, I was worried it might not hold up after over ten years.
I am happy to say it has and so much more.
With Carrie, King seemed to dip his toes into the water. In Salem’s Lot, he unleashed into a full-blown cannonball. The wonderful part of it all is how he took us with him, tugging and holding us as readers under until we succumbed to what he had planned.
Before I begin the actual review portion, let me take you back to when I was about 13 or 14. Twilight was huge. Every girl seemed to have a picture of Edward or Jacob on their wall. Sparkling, brooding, and beautiful vampires were suddenly popular.
I had always been a fan of vampires. I live in a small town though, so indulging my love of vampires into books wasn’t easy. When another friend recommended Twilight to me, I read it. I read all of the books. I’d like to say that as a young teenager, I was born with great taste, but I wasn’t. This was all I had in regards to vampire books and I enjoyed them.
But the wonderful thing that Twilight brought into my life was the sudden takeover of vampires in fiction. Suddenly the stores in my town had vampire books on the shelves, and I was reading everything that was within my price range. I can’t begin to tell you how many teenage, angsty vampire romance novels I read in this span of time, but it was probably enough to rot my brain forever.
When I was at my local thrift shop and found Salem’s Lot, I didn’t hesitate to buy it. I had grown up on Stephen King movies (though, oddly enough, I hadn’t watched Salem’s Lot) so to find book of his where I live was a treasure for me. The fact that it was about vampires meant it was even more exciting. I couldn’t wait to see how King wrote and to indulge my vampire fix as well.
I’ve read a lot of books. Especially as a kid. The only thing I liked to do was read when I was growing up. If I wasn’t reading, I was writing. I was writing at that age as well. I was writing a werewolf novel that was everything I had wanted to Twilight. I finished that novel before I read Salem’s Lot, and that novel now exists solely within about 500 pages inside a box, never to be read by human eyes. King had shamed me without ever knowing who I was.
Salem’s Lot is more than a vampire novel. I was surprised to find so much of it dealt with small towns during my first read. Coming from a place that has a 3k population, I understood immediately that most small towns are inherently evil. Small towns fester in their evil rather than throw it out into the streets like most larger places. You may get mugged in New York by a stranger that had no reason other than opportunity. In a small town, there’s a reason. There’s always a reason.
To say this book changed my entire process of writing would be an understatement. It changed everything. Not only how I viewed writing, but how I viewed the world in general. That’s what a good book can do. It can change you. It can stay with you. It can change how you see everything.
This book, as thought-provoking as it was for me, is also terrifying. Barlow has been a center of fear for me since reading it, but scenes like Mark’s encounter at the window, or the burial, are written in such a way that I could feel my skin prickling, waiting in anticipation. There are moments where you are forced to pay attention, forced to go rigid and pay due respect to King writing at his finest.
Ben, Susan, and Mark are my favorite characters. I love Mark especially. I’ve always thought he was a stand out character in King’s array of wonderfully crafted people. Mark is sensitive. You have to be sensitive to truly gasp him. He’s exceptional. Ben and Susan are as well, and their relationship is cute, innocent, and I felt more attached to them with the second reading. I hurt for them.
I also laughed quite a bit, which is a common thing for me with Stephen King. His humor is often forgotten because of how amazing he is at terror and heartbreak, but it is always there, and it always come up when you least expect it.
I love this book. I don’t have a single thing negative to say. The length, the cast, the action, all of it is perfectly strung together by Stephen King’s own writing. He even said it best in this book when he wrote, “Writing controlled fiction is called “plotting.” Buckling your seatbelt and letting the story take over, however…that is called “storytelling.” Storytelling is as natural as breathing; plotting is the literary version of artificial respiration.”