How do you follow up a short tale about a teenage girl with telekinetic powers who decimates a small town? Why, with a long tale about vampires decimating a small town. Such was the reasoning behind S...
tephen King's publication of his second novel, and while some might have said it was a bad idea (the prospect of being "typed" as a horror novelist didn't faze King in the slightest), it ultimately served as the perfect way to continue his career.
Telling the story of Ben Mears's return to his old town to exorcise demons from his past through writing a novel about the place, 'Salem's Lot is something of an expansion on Carrie, in more ways than one. From a purely aesthetic point of view, it's over double the size, which may be daunting for some, but to me it was a chance to lap up King's prose and characters. In terms of theme, it takes the small town overrun by the supernatural introduced in King's debut performance and explodes it into a sprawling epic of characters and plot that quite frankly is a hugely impressive achievement for your second published novel. It's a ballsy effort, but King was clearly never one to do things half-assed.
There are two fairly distinct halves to this novel – though they're not obviously defined. The first half is a slow, crawling build-up, introducing the many characters of the town, the town's history and layout, while also injecting little instances of oddness that keep us quivering at what this will eventually lead on to. Then we suddenly find ourselves enveloped in the second half, tipped over the edge and rolling inexorably down towards a climax of devastating proportions. It's overwhelming.
Make no mistake, this is a dark novel. It could have been darker, if King had gotten his way, but it remains plenty bleak as it is. These characters are put through the mill before the final page, and by the time the end comes, we're not sure if it's all been worth it. It's a tough read, it's long and sprawling, and does tend to meander occasionally, but it's also an immensely entertaining read. It's also legitimately creepy in a gloriously satisfying way