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'Salem's Lot

A 1975 horror novel about vampires by Stephen King.

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A good novel, but not the best vampire novel ever

  • Jun 8, 2010
As a novel I really liked it, even if I found the huge ensemble cast hard to keep track of, and Mark Petrie was probably my favorite character because he was awesome. I also loved the fact that it's basically a (more tragic) Dracula retelling set in a small American town; not only was that pretty much how Stephen King got the idea, but there are a lot of explicit parallels in the characters and events of the book. 

As a vampire novel I was a bit less in love with it, because rather than examining cool things like what it means to be that old, to survive that way, to be human when vampires exist, what separates human from inhuman, whether it's possible to retain your humanity when you've lived that long and killed that often, it was more a study of the nature of evil with vampires getting to play the part of said evil in this particular instance. Granted, I'm picky on what makes a good vampire novel, and so far the only ones I've really, completely loved and would recommend to anyone have been Robin Mckinley's Sunshine and Barbara Hambly's vampire books (Those Who Hunt the Night, Traveling with the Dead, and Renfield). If you're okay with vampires just being straight-up evil, 'Salem's Lot is fine that way.

The other problem, though: the logistics kind of don't work: it plays right into the old "well vampires can't be real because if they turn someone every time they bite a victim, soon vampires would outnumber humans," which is exactly what's going on here. Everyone who's bitten dies and comes back as a vampire, and the one guy who ends up being forced to drink vampire blood doesn't turn into a vampire or die, he just sort of...becomes unclean and is probably damned or something, I don't know. So now we have a little vampire colony in what used to be Small Town, Maine, and that's scary, but...well, what are they supposed to do now? Trap the odd tourist that might happen to wander through? Expand to other towns and start taking over all of Maine and eventually the whole world or something? Okay, but...vampirism is inherently self-limiting. If vampires can only feed from humans, then vampires need live humans around in order to survive, and if everyone they bite gets turned, then they'd end up reproducing exponentially until there's no food left for them, at which point...what, the vampires start dying off and everyone's just gone? What exactly is the endgame with that sort of vampirism? If Barlow's such a smart master vampire, I would think he'd go to some effort to actively prevent that kind of scenario out of simple self-interest, and make sure that most of the people he feeds from actually stay dead. Only those he could trust to be equally careful would actually be allowed to rise again.

...but these are the sorts of things I think about anyway, and I have too many opinions on vampire mythologies, it seems.

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More 'Salem's Lot reviews
review by . October 21, 2009
In his childhood, Stephen King was heavily influenced by the novel Dracula, and the vampire stories he read in EC Comics growing up.  In terms of some of his favorite novels, Dracula probably ranks among Stephen King's favorite horror stories.  While teaching he had the pleasure of teaching Dracula to his students and that was a fantastic experience.  When having a meal with his wife King wondered about what it would be like if Dracula lived in the modern world.  "He'd …
review by . October 20, 2010
   Would you like to know something weird about me? In high school, my honors English teacher gave us an assignment to write a book report comparing and contrasting two books but the catch was she got to pick the books for you. What a drag right? I thought so too. But here's the funny thing. She got to my name on the list and she said "Carla, you are so weird that I couldn't possibly give this assignment to anyone else and hope to get anything intelligent and readable. Your …
Quick Tip by . July 15, 2010
Another one of Stephen King's best efforts. Some really great and memorable characters, and a really well-developed story arc with a really good climax (which is a little bit unusual for King).
Quick Tip by . July 09, 2010
One of his best, and earliest novels. I went to bed clutching a crucifix for weeks!
Quick Tip by . July 04, 2010
An intimate, intricate look at how a vampire takes over an entire American town, originally called Jerusalem's Lot. The word "insidious" is the exact definition: Slow, creeping, nearly unnoticed as the "infection" of the town grows. One of King's early works, tight, creepy, well-developed. Absolutely worth your time.
Quick Tip by . June 30, 2010
I my opinion, Stephen King at his best. Truly horrifying and realistic. I couldn't sleep for months after reading this book. But I still love it.
Quick Tip by . June 23, 2010
little hokey
Quick Tip by . June 16, 2010
I am just not into vampires
Quick Tip by . June 15, 2010
King's second best book, next to The Shining. A must-read for vampire fans.
Quick Tip by . June 14, 2010
A great vampire novel
About the reviewer

Ranked #1393
   20-something grad student in English, hoping for a master's in library science afterward. Love reading and writing, especially SF/F.
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Stephen King's second book,'Salem's Lot (1975)--about the slow takeover of an insular hamlet called Jerusalem's Lot by a vampire patterned after Bram Stoker's Dracula--has two elements that he also uses to good effect in later novels: a small American town, usually in Maine, where people are disconnected from each other, quietly nursing their potential for evil; and a mixed bag of rational, goodhearted people, including a writer, who band together to fight that evil.

Simply taken as a contemporary vampire novel, 'Salem's Lot is great fun to read, and has been very influential in the horror genre. But it's also a sly piece of social commentary. As King said in 1983, "In 'Salem's Lot, the thing that really scared me was not vampires, but the town in the daytime, the town that was empty, knowing that there were things in closets, that there were people tucked under beds, under the concrete pilings of all those trailers. And all the time I was writing that, the Watergate hearings were pouring out of the TV.... Howard Baker kept asking, 'What I want to know is, what did you know and when did you know it?' That line haunts me, it stays in my mind.... During that time I was thinking about secrets, things that have been hidden and were being dragged out into the light." Sounds quite a bit like the idea behind his 1998 novel of a Maine hamlet haunted by unsightly secrets, Bag of Bones. --Fiona Webster --This text refers to an ...

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ISBN-10: 0671039741
ISBN-13: 978-0671039745
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Horror, Vampires
Publisher: Doubleday
Date Published: October 17, 1975
Format: Novel
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