Revisiting ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
My Rating: 5/5 stars
‘Salem’s Lot is still a popular horror novel, despite being published in 1975, a fairly long time ago. For that reason, I believe that it’s appropriate to write a review and revisit this renowned novel that Stephen King regarded as one of his favorites. I hope it inspires you to either read this classic for the first time, or—if it’s been a while since you’ve read it—to dust it off and dive back in.
At its most basic level, ‘Salem’s Lot is a horror novel about vampires. It takes inspiration from vampire stories such as the infamous Count Dracula, but is far more modern in terms of writing about vampires as they infiltrate regular society, largely inconspicuous until the living start to pay closer attention.
However, upon a closer glance, the novel all is not what it seems on the surface. In fact, vampires aren’t even suspected for at least the first 100 pages. Instead, the focus is on the introduction and development of the characters. Their stories are what carry the novel and make it important and a worthwhile read. As King often does in his books, there are underlying themes woven intricately into the subplots and characters that require closer attention from the readers—mirroring the relationship between the vampire, Kurt Barlow, and the protagonist, Ben Mears (joined by the townspeople). As Mears and some of the townspeople join forces to defeat the vampire infestation, much is learned about the characters and their pasts.
Even though the vampires are supposed to be the antagonists of the story, it could be argued that the real antagonist is the pressure of living in an idyllic town, and the damage that can be done by burying some of the traumas that the townspeople feel are better left unsaid, due to the importance of maintaining the town’s ‘squeaky clean’ image.
That being said, there is a reason King is regularly associated with the horror genre. While there are more tender, human, components of the novel, the concept of the undead comes alive within the novel, and it is equally engaging. King stays true to traditional vampire lore, complete with nods to garlic and holy crosses. However, pairing these stereotypes with a rural North American town setting make it both modern and haunting.
With everything from scares to keep you up at night to well developed characters you’ll fall in love with, ‘Salem’s Lot is, without a doubt, a novel both worth reading for the first time or dusting off after a long hiatus.