Salem’s Lot Book Review

Lyla Boretz, Reporter

Written by Stephen King, Salem’s lot is a horror/thriller novel that follows author Ben Mears after he returns to his childhood town to write about the Marsten House, where he had a traumatic experience as a child. Everything seems to be going well until the death of Danny Glick happens soon after the arrival of a mysterious antique-seller, whose business partner had purchased the Marsten house beforehand. Soon after Danny dies, residents of the sleepy town follow, but something isn’t quite right about all their untimely deaths. Ben is determined to figure out and stop the chaos and teams up with an unusual array of people.

Overall, the plot was quite interesting and even refreshing, but I almost stopped reading because the beginning drags on forever. The story did eventually accelerate to a comfortable pace and I was drawn in once again. The action scenes were raw and well written, and the dialogue reflected King’s writing style; blunt and slightly vulgar in a uniquely charming way. One thing that bothered me was the minimal, or even lack of suspense. It was essentially the same as going to a haunted house, but all the monsters are standing in front of you instead of hiding. I can’t really criticize this, however, as most of King’s novels emphasize action and gore was more than psychological elements. Something else that put me off the slightest bit was the fact that King used vampires, which are quite unoriginal in horror novels. He did manage to incorporate different characteristics into the creatures, so I’ll also credit him for that. The only thing I truly disliked about Salem’s Lot was the ending part of the book. What even happened? Everyone started dying at a rapid pace; it was almost like King was finishing and realized he forgot to make everyone die throughout the book, so he decided to just shove them in at the end since no Stephen King novel is complete without all my favorite characters dropping like flies. Also, did he really have to make Susan’s death that dramatic? I feel like Ben didn’t really love her to the point he would feel that bad; they didn’t even know each other that long! Props to King for trying to be heart wrenching once in his life, though. Finally, once everyone except Ben and Mark had died or been turned into vampires, the duo just called it a day and left. This ending wasn’t even bittersweet. It was lukewarm and didn’t leave a hollow feeling in my chest, or tears running down my face. I just simply didn’t know how to feel.

My absolute favorite thing about this novel is the detail that went into each character. They have so many different layers and complexities to them, yet it’s not to the point that it’s straight up confusing. It’s hard to justify or criminalize their actions and (mostly unpleasant) fates, which turns the book away from the standard protagonist-antagonist theme. Also, their personalities are extremely well written. As the book progresses, they adapt to their chaotically changing environment quite realistically. Unlike the optimism and rational thinking of most heroic book characters as their world crumbles around them, paranoia, insanity, and doubt begin to infest everyone’s mind. Ben slowly loses his cheerful and easy going aura in exchange for the personality of a cold and traumatized man. His eventual willingness to kill is also chilling once I look back to the beginning of the novel.

Overall, I’d give this book a solid 7/10. While Salem’s Lot isn’t my favorite horror novel, I’ve read way worse and I do think the plot was good. It just should’ve been executed better; the beginning was too slow and the ending was too fast. On the other hand, the character and character development were fantastic, and I really appreciate King’s distinct writing style.