Title: Salem's Lot
Publisher: Anchor Books
Blurb: Ben Mears has returned to Jerusalem's Lot in the hopes that living in an old mansion, long the subject of town lore, will help him cast out his own devils and provide inspiration for his new book. But when two young boys venture into the woods and only one comes out alive, Mears begins to realize that there maybe something sinister at work and that his hometown is under siege by forces of darkness far beyond his control.
This review may contain spoilers!!
Now before I tell you anything about the well-thought-out plot or the genuis writing in this book, let me give you this advice: DO NOT READ THIS BOOK IN THE DARK. I mean it. Stephen King's always had the talent to scare me shitless with his books (except of Dreamcatcher, that bored the hell out of me) but this one is really one of the scary ones.... If you expect gloomy and brooding vampires you're cleary one the wrong path - it's predators we deal with in this book and that's the way it's supposed to be. Don't get me wrong, I love Anne Rice novels and (most of) her characters, but it's good to know there are some people out there who can grasp the animalistic concept of vampires, too.
One of the charms of this book is exactly that. You can discern the dark side from the light in a flash and it makes you want to hunt these vampire bast**** with the good guys and avenge all your fallen neighbours and friends. And that's another thing - You really grow fond of all of these people, not only the good guys but even the ones you wouldn't want as an ideal for your child. This is thanks to Kings writing. He starts concentrating on the two main characters but after a while he describes the whole town - their everyday life from 4.00 to 11.59 and you even get a feeling he even describes the town as an indipendent character. Because you get to know all these characters and their way of life and relationships among each other it's easier to understand what's happening later in the book, how they get turned, who turns them and who they want to turn. As one after another changes sides I definitely sensed the despair in the main characters and understood their acting perfectly.
Another reason why you've got to love the characters is because King writes them pretty authentic. There's no character in this book who hasn't got a little episode with something of his past haunting him or just a simple anectode of better times, they all stick to their rights and wrongs and you get to understand them as the book progresses and you learn more and more about their life in Jerusalem's Lot (some things pretty disturbing).
While the book is fairly good until page 200 you CAN NOT put it down after that. I started it sometime around noon yesterday and had to put it down because I was meeting a friend, but after that there was no stopping me - I finished it at 1.30 a.m. tonight. And was afraid to turn off the lights and see a white face of someone I know starting at me from the window. The pace of this book speeds up around page 200 and it gets far more intense than the previous chapters. You can also sense a change in the characters and their behaviour, especially in Matt as the story advances it's climax but it happens slowly and so credibly you wouldn't believe it otherwise. Sometimes I get the feeling it's too piled on, though, but that's only when I think Matt's talking more like a priest than the priest himself.
Speaking (or writing) of priests: Another thing I've really enjoyed is the old-fashioned way the vampires are seen and can perish - any objections to a good old stake-in-the-heart chopped-off-head and garlic-filled-mouth way of killing a vampire? Well, you've got to know that this book was written in 1975... so there are no light-resistent wannabe vamps (sorry, but I really despise that twilight-crap) and a cross and some holy water is enough to keep you safe for the night. I missed these kinds of vampire-fiction and was glad to find one again.
Allthough their leader could have been a better one. He was old, allright, but he was a little bit too old-fashioned for my taste - his meetings with the townspeople seemed a little bit too unreal for me even though the hypnosis was a good thing, but his speech just wouldn't fit to the rest of the story. It's not so bad in the second half of the book, but it really annoyed me in the first one. Also I think it sometimes gets a little bit too melodramatic, especially towards the end.
The one thing I loved the most in this book is that King linked the fear of vampires and death to the irrational fear of children in the dark. He really did this quite well: He had enough flashbacks to haunted child memories, enough mentioning of monsters in the wardrobe (even by name) and I would like to share a passage of the book that really got me thinking about this:
"Before drifting away entirely, he found himself reflecting - not for the first time - on the peculiarity of adults. They took laxatives, liquor or sleeping pills to drive away their terrors so that sleep would come, and their terrors were so tame and domestic; the job, the money, what the teacher will think if I can't get Jenny nicer clothes, does my wife still love me, who are my friends. They are pallid compared to the fears every child lies cheek and jowl with in his dark bed, with no one to confess to in hope of perfect understanding but another child. There is no group therapy or psychiatry or community social services for the child who must cope with the thing under the bed or in the cellar every night, the thing which leers and capers and threatens just beyond the point where vision will reach. The same lonely battle must be fought night after night and the only cure is the eventual ossification of the imaginary faculties, and that is called adulthood. [...] Such is the difference between man and boys." (Stephen King, Salem's Lot, page 372/373)
This is the passage that got me falling for Mark Petrie, the only child in our little group of survivors, and even though he's not on the first place (that's Jimmy) in my ranking he's definitly one of my favortive characters in this book. I loved the Houdini-Stunt he pulled....
Summing up I can really recommend this book either if you have never read Stephen King before or are a huge fan (although you probably read it anyway if you are) and do yourself a favour and switch on the light.