'Salem's Lot by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Well this is annoying times two. I just wrote a review and lost it, and then there's the *other* issue.
What other issue?
Oh, the one where my 14 year old self of infinite wisdom and experience remembered a boring tale lacking truly epic blood and guts from what should be a vampire tale in a small town. If that 14 year old could have had his way, then 80% of the novel would have been excised for being too-character driven, too-focused on hundreds of characters only set up to be knocked down in gruesome death (or undeath), and too detail-driven and poorly-paced for a thriller.
Damn, I was a dipshit. I'm not saying that I'm no longer a dipshit, mind you, just that I think that kid was a real idiot. I mean, I'd only reading anything at all for less than a year and 8 months of that was focused on learning *how* to read. Of course I was going to be influenced more by the all the slasher movies rather than novel construction. I even watched the crapfest that I considered the made for tv movie based on this book, and I think I might have been a *little* too harsh on it, too.
So flash-forward to now, when I jump up the rating from a scathing 3 stars to a full-blown 5, an adult reading an adult novel of suspense, emotionally invested characters, subtle humor, more high-brow words than I remember Stephen King usually using in his novels, and beautifully crafted passages of hometown life falling into what might as well have been a modern retelling of a medieval town falling under the spell of the Black Plague, with all the horror and sadness and superstition that entails.
This novel was gripping and intense to my adult sensibilities. Do I feel like a fool for my old memories? Yes. Am I embarrassed? Yes. Am I absolutely impressed and amazed that the very first "trash" novelist I got into as a kid actually turned out to be a consummate master of the writing craft? Yes.
All the things I hated as a kid happen to be the things I love the most, here. The characters were absolutely gorgeous. I fell into them, and later, I fell into love with the whole town. The fact that it had a cancer that was eating away at it from the inside, slowly, was only a tension-driver. This may be a vampire novel, but it is really a tragedy, through and through. We expect to love and lose our loved ones, and this is the true horror. Not just the eyes like stars or the breath that smells of pure putrescence or the image of a supernatural horror that no longer needs keys because, now, the dead can squeeze between door jams.
Of course, Part 3 was all action all the time, with the stakes as high as it can be. It was all for the sake of pure survival. But Part 1 (the get to know you) and Part 2 (something isn't right) were some of the best readings of Stephen King, like, ever. :) Believe me, he has a personal formula when it comes to his writing, but I know of no one who's able to pull off exactly what he pulls off. He makes everyone so damn real to me. :)
Fun fact! There's a dead John Snow who knows nothing in this novel! Isn't that fun?
So, I've eaten crow and said that I'm sorry for being an childhood idiot, but what I really mean is that There Are No Sparkles. This is a novel of horrible anticipation and and deep sadness, of exciting vampire hunting with truly intelligent foes. There are no levelled-up vamps or long antihero arcs or Master Vampire Hunters. And best of all, there are no werewolves.
There is, however, a sense of reality and loss and fear, and if you are missing a huge dose of that in your life, if only to hold up as a mirror to your own life to say that things aren't so bad with you, then you really ought to jump out there and pick up a copy. I can't believe this is only SK's second novel! Wow!
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