Date Published: October 7, 1975
My Rating: ★★★★☆
When I read a book that a good chunk of people agree is one of the scariest they’ve ever read, I expect it to be scary. And ‘Salem’s Lot got a lot of people’s votes for being King’s scariest novel, with a good chunk of people admitting to it being one of the scariest books they’ve ever read.
Two notes: First, I admittedly cannot compare the scariness of this book to any of King’s other works because this is the first book of his I’ve ever read. Second, I read a lot of this during the day time, and everyone knows that horror is best read at night when everyone else is asleep, but what can I say? I’m a morning and day reader. Evening and night are for video games or Netflix.
‘Salem’s Lot is a book about vampires, and an old creepy house, but more than that it’s about a town. ‘Salem’s Lot or just The Lot is how the locals refer to Jersalem’s Lot, Maine.
Writer Ben Mears returns to The Lot as an adult, after having spent a short part of his childhood there, at the same time that the Marsten House, the site of a murder-suicide and known to the town for being creepy as hell, gets bought by two men who plan to open an antiques shop in the town. Shortly after his arrival, things start getting weird. Two boys disappear in the woods, and only one returns home. From there, the story takes off.
I really enjoyed this book, and it was a great read for the month of October, what with the main antagonist being a vampire. It did make me want to play the Sims and create some vampire sims or re-watch Castlevania.
There are a couple of scenes here that are creepy, and after reading the prologue you know only two of the main cast likely survives the goings-on in town, and I did feel a lot of anticipation for what would happen to all the characters. I felt particularly attached to Matt Burke and Father Callahan, despite knowing they probably wouldn’t make it to the end.
Otherwise, though, I didn’t feel as scared as I expected to after all the people who said this book was actually scary. It is scary, of course, but not in the way I was expecting, outside of a few dark scenes at the beginning of the book.
The way vampirism spreads through the town reminds one of a disease. It’s like reading a story set during the black plague, not knowing who’s going to catch it next, but knowing that not everyone will make it out alive.
It’s not scary in as gory of a way as others in the genre might be. Sure, there is some gore, but the bulk of that takes place in the last part of the book. I didn’t mind this, and the anticipation of what was going to happen to each of the characters kept me turning the pages- most days I read over 100 pages at a time.
The characters are what really shine. There wasn’t a single member of the main cast that I disliked. Mark Petrie was probably my favorite of them, but I liked Ben, Matt, Susan, and Father Callahan. I didn’t feel like I had enough time with Jimmy to care about what happened to him all that much- and when it did happen I felt worse for Mark.
As for the writing itself, there were scenes where the writing really shined- the scenes at the beginning that actually made me feel a little scared are the best example of this. But for most of the book the writing ranged from good to fine. There were some places that I ended up skimming because there was a little too much description of things that didn’t have anything to do with the plot.
I really enjoyed this book, and I may end up changing my rating up to 5-stars, depending on how I feel about this book after I’ve a week or so to digest it. I would highly recommend this, and it’s the perfect time of year to read it, so if you haven’t I suggest picking it up.