Read: ‘Salem’s Lot, Stephen King.
I am slowly getting closer to caught up with my reviews. I’m only four or five books from the end of my January books! Unfortunately, February is turning out to be a very ready month so far . . . .
In any case, Salem’s Lot is King’s second book, and it seems to contain a lot of the seeds of his later works in terms of characters, plot, theme, and so on. King seems obsessed with a certain type of introverted, graceful pre-pubescent boy (in The Dark Tower, The Talisman, here and in a number of his other works), with a semi-self-insertion author character, and with old men fighting their bodies to do one last work on Earth. The characters are definitely types as much as they are individuals - King’s characterization will definitely get better than this book - but they’re likeable enough to carry the story, a tale of vampiric infection sweeping through a small rural town.
The scariest parts of the book aren’t the overt horror bits (though one of the main characters dies a truly gruesome - and, in my opinion, somewhat unmotivated - death). It’s how the town itself becomes vampiric, and how the vampires create a twisted version of the town’s everyday life. The night scenes late in the book, with the few remaining human inhabitants barricading themselves in their homes as their former friends rise to an uneasy life, are genuinely chilling.
My only real complaint with the book is that King won’t figure out how to handle female protagonists for a good few years yet. Susan Norton is the only female protagonist (of a team of five), and the only one of them who behaves in an overtly stupid way. What happens to her afterwards isn’t much worse than what other characters face, but I found it annoying that even the twelve-year-old boy is smarter than she is. All I took away from her character is, “Women shouldn’t be fighting evil, because that’s a man’s job.” On the bright side, by the time this character reappears as Susan Delgado (with her aunt playing her mother’s role), King has learned a hell of a lot of things, including that women are people too. Go him!