Review: Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Believe it or not, this is the first work by King that I’ve ever read. Of course, I’ve watched Carrie, It, and Pet Sematary. I think I’d be even more in the doghouse had I experienced none of his creations. Safe to say, I absolutely enjoyed this work beautiful work of horror.

“It was a huge and rambling place, and with the shutters closed it took on an uncomfortable, overlarge configuration in the mind; it became a sarcophagus like monolith, and evocation of doom.” — Salem’s Lot

Salem’s Lot was King’s second novel as an author and his first work to become a best seller. As many of his other novels, the plot takes place in a small town in Maine called Jerusalems Lot. Our MC, Ben Mears, returns to Salem’s Lot after years away hoping to conquer his childhood fears/traumas, but ends up uncovering more than he can handle. With a twisting storyline, intriguing characters, and a feast of supernatural horror, King brings to life a tantalizing tale of vampires in his second novel.

Alright, can we talk about descriptions? I’m a sucker for beautiful, vivid imagery, and King serves up entire course meals of the stuff. Just reading it has the wheels turning in my head about how these words just come to him. It’s a true talent, the way he masters diction like a weapon.

“The view was a pleasant one, and in the winter it could be spectacular with long, twinkling vistas of unbroken snow and distance-dwindled buildings casting yellow oblongs of light on the snow fields.” — Salem’s Lot

Where does he come up with these, honestly? Every chapter works to take the reader on this stunning, and terrifying, journey where one can readily picture the characters, settings, and plot as it’s laid out for them.

“He looks up for a moment, in a last glimmering of sanity, his face streaked and circled with dirt and sweat, the eyes staring from it in bulging white circles.” — Salem’s Lot

Ugghhh, it’s so good. Not only can we picture our character in this small sentence, but we also get a sense of the situation. We know what they’re most likely feeling in that moment. For the writer’s out there, this is a splendid example of showing over telling. King uses wonderful descriptive words to show the reader how the character is reacting externally and internally to the situation they’re in. I love, love, love when a writer does this, because it shows several things.

1.) They’re using the knowledge and skills at their disposal and showing them off brilliantly to the reader.

2.) They’re giving their reader credit to decipher emotion.

3.) It opens up pathways for readers to better connect with the characters they’re presented with. More often than not, a reader can identify the emotion and characteristics described to them because they’ve experienced the same things at one point. This connection allows them to feel more pity, happiness, whatever towards the character that ultimately makes them more invested in that character and the story.

Showing vs telling is a wonderful thing that King shows great skill over in Salem’s Lot.

Other aspects of the book I loved would be the plotline and pacing. Both, like all parts of a book, go hand in hand, but these two are especially important together because if the pacing is off, the plot will suffer big time. It’ll completely fall apart and the reader won’t be able to grasp what’s what. I never got this impression while reading the novel. Every event that happened had the same purpose of informing the reader, luring them in, and progressing the plot another step. I can’t tell you how often I’ll go in search of a new book (on Wattpad) and the plot will fall apart because of the pacing; it’s either too fast or too slow. I never had a problem with this in King’s book, so, while it is a lengthy read, it’s worth the time and immersion one gets. This is something all writers should strive to achieve in their writing.

A final note, one of my favorite parts about reading books are the opening author note, and the acknowledgements at the end. One can learn a lot about a person through their writing. Before reading his novel, I always thought I had some sense about King as a person, but I discovered that, from reading those notes, he’s a lot different from the “King of Horror person” I was visualizing him as. There are two quotes I’d like to put in here for you, one from the opening, and one from the ending statement.

“It’s good to tell a story, and even better when people actually want to listen. I think ‘Salem’s Lot, for all its flaws, is one of the good ones. One of the scary ones. If you’ve never heard it before, let me tell it to you now. And if you have, let me tell it to you again. So turn off the television—in fact, why don’t you turn off all the lights except for the one over your favorite chair?and we’ll talk about vampires here in the dim. I think I can make you believe in them, because while I was working on this book, I believe in them myself.” — Salem’s Lot

It wouldn’t surprise me if this became one of my favorite quotes from him. It holds such power. The meaning goes deeper than the words, and it’s simply beautiful and captivating to read.

“Only library books speak with such wordless eloquence of the power good stories hold over us; how good stories abide, unchanged and mutely wise, while we poor humans grow older and slower.” — Salem’s Lot

I’ll leave you with that final quote and wrap up this review of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. If you’re interested in reading the novel which I highly recommend, you can find it on Amazon. If you want to learn more about the King of Horror, visit his author’s page! Until next time.

All the best.

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