Tag: ‘Salem’s Lot

Justin Cronin – The Passage | Review

Title: The Passage

Author: Justin Cronin

Type: Fiction

Page Count/Review Word Count: 998

Rating: 2/5

 

Justin Cronin - The Passage

Justin Cronin – The Passage

 

Okay, strap yourself in. This review is going to be interesting because of my system in which I match the word count of my reviews to the number of pages that a book has. The Passage has lots of pages and so I need to write a long review, but I really don’t have much to say. It was just a disappointment.

There’s been a lot of hype around this book, particularly on BookTube in the last couple of years or so, and I really don’t understand it. True, I went into it blind and didn’t know too much of it, but I gather that it’s been compared to The Stand by Stephen King, which is one of my favourite books. Yeah, no. Comparing this to The Stand is like comparing one of my doodles to a Picasso painting.

True, it does have the whole post-apocalyptic survival thing going for it, but then it also takes the whole “chosen onetrope and just amps it up until it’s downright ridiculous. It also has vampires, or at least something a little like them, but that just made it feel like Cronin was stealing ‘Salem’s Lot from Stephen King as well. And while the vampires here aren’t sparkly, I’d rather read all of the Twilight books than have to re-read The Passage. Although I’d prefer to do neither if it’s all the same to you.

 

Stephen King - The Stand

Stephen King – The Stand

 

One of the big problems with The Passage was that the characters were uninteresting. It’s not even that they were unlikeable, they just weren’t much of anything. It was the literary equivalent of eating lettuce, but when there’s almost 1,000 pages you want something a little more substantial. And I’m saying that as a vegan.

I buddy read this with a couple of friends from BookTube, and none of us enjoyed it. I found it such a slog that when I got about halfway through, I switched it out with The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins to make it my bedtime book. I figured it might help me to fall asleep, and I was right. It ended up taking me the best part of a month to finish.

One of the main problems that the three of us had with it is that it could’ve been an okay book if it had been better edited. I can’t imagine why they let it go out at this length unless they were planning on using the length itself as a marketing ploy, and I’m pretty sure from reading this that you could get the entire trilogy into a shorter book than The Passage and it would work well.

 

Stephen King - 'Salem's Lot

Stephen King – ‘Salem’s Lot

 

There are just prolonged periods of nothingness and sub-stories that just don’t add anything to it. Part of this might be because I didn’t give a damn about the characters, but I’m pretty sure at least some of it is down to the way that it’s written. It reminded me of Dune by Frank Herbert in a way, because there’s a long slog in the middle of Dune where nothing much happens. Unfortunately for Cronin, Dune was still a good book, whereas The Passage fell flat.

I also had a problem with the actual writing. There are times when I’ll read a book that I didn’t much like but where I’ll still be able to respect the author’s writing style. For example, I didn’t like The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, but I did at least like some of the individual sentences. Here, though, it just feels a little sloppy, another fault that could have been fixed with tighter editing.

So it all comes down to the fact that it’s just longer than it needs to be and not particularly well written. A book like this shouldn’t bore the reader, especially given the concept. Cronin somehow took a great idea and made it as exciting as watching a children’s television show. And like the salad that it reminds me of, it’s just bland, tasteless, and I think the leaves might have gone off a little bit, too.

 

Justin Cronin

Justin Cronin

 

Of course, this is all just my opinion, and I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who loved the book. Thinking about it, though, I’ve never come across any. I’ve seen lots of people who were excited about reading it, but I don’t think I ever saw any reviews from them. Perhaps they had a similar experience to me. For our part, all three of us in the buddy read said that we would have DNFd it if we weren’t reading it with other people, and that doesn’t bode well.

And can we talk about how weird it is that the book was being sold brand new for £2.99 because Waterstones apparently loved it? It also came with reading group discussion prompts, which I’ve always hated. It seems a little pretentious to me, and our little reading group only had one question when we finished it. “Why did we read this?”

So if you’re thinking about reading this book, I’d probably suggest skipping it and reading something else. It comes with a little list of suggested further reading at the end of it, which understandably includes The Stand. The Passage is a pretender, a wannabe, and while I applaud Cronin on taking a shot at it, I think he missed the target. I can’t imagine ever wanting to read the rest of this trilogy, although I’m not saying I’d never read Cronin again. I just wouldn’t waste my time on something with 1,000 pages that should have been shortened to 350.

The biggest crime for me is the waste of the idea. It has every right to be a great book, it just isn’t. It’s a shame that someone else didn’t get their hands on it – or even just a really good editor. Congratulations if you read this far. We finished it.

 

Justin Cronin

Justin Cronin

 

Click here to buy The Passage.

 


Stephen King – ‘Salem’s Lot | Review

Title: ‘Salem’s Lot

Author: Stephen King

Type: Fiction

Page Count/Review Word Count: 752

Rating: 4*/5

 

Stephen King - 'Salem's Lot

Stephen King – ‘Salem’s Lot

 

‘Salem’s Lot was a great little read, and while it is quite clearly inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula, King doesn’t exactly hide that Stoker’s work was an influence. In fact, at the end of the book, in the afterword, he talks about how ‘Salem’s Lot came about and that, combined with a bonus story or two and a whole heap of extra scenes, actually made up the last quarter of the book. But it was nice to have it, a little like bonus scenes on a DVD. You don’t have to read it if you don’t want to, but it will help to enhance your enjoyment.

In terms of the plot, the story follows what happens when a vampire named Barlow decides to establish his claim on a small Maine town. Barlow, accompanied by Straker, his human second-in-command, decides to move into an old house with a bad reputation, and strange things quickly start to happen to the town and its inhabitants.

It’s a creepy read from the master of horror, but it wasn’t so scary that it stopped me from sleeping. In fact, I thought that Dracula was scarier, although I’ll admit that I was younger when I first read it. I think I’ve read so much King now that I’m immune to being scared by him – which is good, because I can concentrate on his epic story lines. ‘Salem’s Lot might not be as long as some of his other releases – The Stand and Under the Dome spring to mind here – but there’s still plenty of growth and character development, and you wouldn’t be able to tell that it’s one of his earlier releases.

 

Stephen King Quote

Stephen King Quote

 

I also liked the way that the characters were fallible. Father Callaghan springs to mind here, and while the alcoholic priest trope has been overused, King has this knack for taking cliches and turning them around, morphing them into something new that we’ve never seen before. If anything, the annoying thing is the way in which so many of his characters are writers, and there’s a writer character here, too. That said, it’s handy to have a writer around when you’re dealing with a vampire infestation, especially if you need someone who knows all of the legends from popular literature.

The plot has plenty of twists and turns, but I did feel as though the ending came on too quickly, and that the bonus bits could well have been included to provide a sense of closure for the reader. For me, it worked the other way around. It felt as though the ending happened halfway through the book, and that it was followed by a bunch of bonus bits that, while interesting, felt a little weird after such an abrupt ending. Stoker’s Dracula felt like it had more of a build-up, which is strange because I’d guess that King’s book is probably longer.

But it leaves a pleasant aftertaste, which is what you should hope for from all decent books. It might have taken me over a week to read it – I wasn’t reading as much as usual due to various commitments – but it never felt like a burden or a chore. It was always pleasant, addictive, with each sub-chapter leaving the reader demanding more. A lot of King’s work is like that, but I felt it more keenly here, and it was just the kind of read that I needed – spooky, sublime and a little different to most other books on the market. It was refreshing to see a new take on the classic vampire, and I’m glad that it came from King and not some B-list author who milked the vampire trend for all it’s worth.

Overall, then, I’d definitely recommend ‘Salem’s Lot, and it’s worth going out of your way to get hold of a copy. If you can get a cheap copy, like I did, then it’s a no-brainer. It’s earned its rightful place in the vampire canon, and it has literary merit in its own special way. It’s one of those rare books that can be enjoyed by anyone – unlike some of King’s other stories, you don’t need to be a certain type of person to have some fun with it. In fact, this is arguably one of his best books to start with, because it provides a decent introduction to King’s work and his style without overwhelming the reader. Read it!

 

Stephen King

Stephen King

 

Click here to buy ‘Salem’s Lot.

 


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