Having loved every Stephen King novel I’d ever read up until this point, it was with high expectations that I opened Salem’s Lot.
For a number of reasons, reading this book took me longer than it should have done. But when it was over, I nonetheless found myself feeling somewhat disappointed.
The plot was straight forward enough: small town plus creepy old house plus vampires equals scary story.
And as one would expect from a writer of King’s calibre, once the story reached its all-out man versus monster stage, I couldn’t turn the pages quickly enough. But my main issue with Salem’s Lot is that it took me far too long to get to that point.
The novel was near-500 pages long so it would’ve been foolish not to suspect a certain amount of build-up, but I found the setup dragged in a way I hadn’t felt with other King novels. Perhaps it was the number of characters involved, most of whom I felt little affinity towards, maybe this was down more to my disrupted reading of the novel more than the characters themselves, but by the time things got sordid I found myself caring probably less than I should have done whether most of these characters lived or died.
The honourable exception to this was protagonist Ben Mears, the wandering writer who charms local girl Susan Norton and her parents with his quick wits, who had a kind of nonchalance to him that won me over fairly early on.
Once Ben and his less interesting fellow characters started getting into trouble the novel became the usual King-powered white-knuckle ride until the last page, however my overriding thought as I closed Salem’s lot was that it took a little too long to get a seat on the roller coaster.
Rating: 3/5 – Slow start, but once in full flow exactly what you’d expect from Stephen King.