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Book review: Salem's Lot


If you are a fan of the horror genre, you will appreciate Salem's Lot. If you are a fan of Stephen King, this will live up to your expectations. If you aren't a fan of lot of exposition and having patience when you read, try something else.


Salem's Lot is a vampire novel in the epic form set in the most non-epic of places - small town Maine, a location that King uses throughout much of his work. It's this idea of 1975 America versus the comic book fiction of the 1920s Dracula. Its very setting in America gives Transylvania a close-to-home feel in a town where everyone knows your name. When famous writer Ben Mears comes to town to write his next novel, he is not only met with having to relive the horror that is the Marston House, but settles into a simple society of buying Susan Norton a soda pop, staying at a practical boarding house, and getting intertwined in the townspeople's lives.


Very much likeStorm of the Century, this story is as much about the town and the people that are in it as it is about the evil that moves in. It's about Ann Norton, the overprotective mother of Susan Norton; it's about Parkins Gillespie and Nolly Gardener, the town constable and deputy sheriff, adding dimension to the small-town feel. It's about Mabel Werts, the nosy woman in town who knows everything about everyone. King builds a community you feel a part of, one where you feel like a resident in Southern rural Maine. You get to know the stories of said characters. And yet, said stories go on and on for several pages.


Does this deter from the story? Yes and no. It feels frustrating when you're reading pages about a  father's approval for Ben to date his daughter. It feels frustrating when you're asking yourself, "How much longer until we see what looks like rising action?" But at the same time, once the second half of the book comes into focus, it's almost as if you are grateful that King set up the town the way that he did. Not only did he bring the people's stories to life, it's as if he gave the town a pulse, just as much he personified the evil in the story as well - through the Marston house or Eva's boarding home.


There are vampire scenes that stand out in this book that you may not want to read in the dark at night. I wasn't scared of any of the other King books I read - but there were moments in this one that I had to think happy thoughts before bedtime - and hats off to King for making that happen. I say hats off because when I went into this, I was somewhat skeptical of the scare factor. Come on, vampires? It's been done. I know what to expect I would think. But the way he puts the images in your brain, he makes the scenes seem close to you. They seem iconic almost, as if they should appear in Hollywood again and again.


You have different archetypes in this story come together versus evil as well - a priest holding a cross, a boy wonder that shoves his fears aside at times for the greater good, a doctor that looks to be a superman, a teacher who is teaching lessons outside the classroom, and a writer whose fiction tales do not live up to the reality that is being laid out before him. Unlike a book like The Cell, this one matches more withFirestarterin that the main characters are well-developed and relatable.


I would overlook the time it takes to get to the second half of this one because once you get there, it's something you can really 'sink your teeth into.'


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