I decided to celebrate the spooky season by reviewing a book by Stephen King. Although “Salem’s Lot” is well known, it often gets lost in the abundance of King’s novels. However, this book might be one of the scariest. Revolutionizing the classic idea of vampires, King provides a new spin that makes them unsettling, even to the modern reader. However, he sacrificed character development to make it happen.
Let’s start with the good: in terms of the place and the plot, this book is stellar. Salem’s Lot (or, technically, Jerusalem’s Lot) is a fantastically built town, with a great mix of homely townsfolk and creepy vibes. Immediately the reader is thrust into a town where the people are nice and welcoming, but places like the graveyard and the Marston House give off the feeling of subtle hostility. The words King uses to personify the Marston House are perfect, as when he describes the house sitting on the hill “like a ruined king.” Along with the slow, but constant, rise of tension, this book is a masterful piece of suspense.
Additionally, the antagonist of the novel, Kurt Barlow, is a great villain. Although he lacks the modern criteria of “reason for being evil,” King is a master at making interesting antagonists despite that. The twisted take on vampires is interesting, making them less of the classic Dracula stereotype and, in my opinion, making them scarier. The slow corruption of the town is what makes this book a masterpiece.
However, King had some shortcomings. As this was one of the first books he had published, it was destined to have some pitfalls. In the case of ‘Salem’s Lot,” the character development and overall connection was not quite there. Ben Mears is a good protagonist, with the right agenda, ideals, and necessary attributes to challenge the growing evil. However, the other characters, while endearing, do not seem to change throughout the story, with exception to Mark Petrie. The most connection I felt to a character was definitely Mark, and whenever a life-threatening situation would appear, I would be genuinely scared for him. The other characters make the reader feel connected because of either the past or how they died, whether it be gruesome or just depressing for other characters.
Although the plot and villain are top notch, the lack of dynamic characters really takes away from the emotional connection to the novel.
“Reams and Reels,” written by Cade Smucker, dives into the intersection between books and movies. Reviewing books one week and movies the next, Sumcker analyzes the newest works of fiction on the market, telling you which are worth your time, and which are not.