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Part Two: The Emperor of Ice Cream Nate Send a noteboard - 15/02/2012 10:03:59 PM
Part Two: The Emperor of Ice Cream

Matt, the English teacher, tells Ben all about the vampires, and the two decide not to tell anyone how crazy they are just yet, except to tell Susan, who has already come to terms with how crazy Ben is. Before Ben can find her to tell her, though, her ex-creepy-old-man boyfriend Floyd attacks him while wearing rubber gloves and a fedora, because when your girlfriend falls for a guy who's even creepier than you the only choice is to turn it up to eleven.

Ben ends up in the hospital and Susan ends up at Matt's place, learining the ABCs of vampires and crazy people. She doesn't believe, but then the dead gravedigger shows up, able to enter because of the invitation he got when he was alive, which is sort of like cheating when you think about it. A good old fashioned crucifix chases the new vampire away, but Matt collapses with a heart attack. And I can't help but think that if every person the vampires kill become vampires themselves, this whole town is going to be screwed in short order and the vampires will be sad and hungry. I'm also thinking that no one is thinking of the obvious solution: embalm every dead person with holy water, so that when they wake up as a vampire they burn from the inside out.

As a tangent, there was an interesting moment in the last chapter where I was suddenly reminded that I was reading a book from 1975. Susan was visiting Ben in the hospital and the doctor wanted her to leave but Ben says, "One more minute." The doctor replies, "That's what she said," and for a moment I was confused. I couldn't see the sexual innuendo. Then I realized that it's 1975 and that's not a joke yet, and the doctor is just literally saying that Susan asked for one minute too but is taking longer. Oh, 1975. You were so innocent.

This whole you-become-a-vampire-if-killed-by-one thing is a problem, though, not just for the town but for the vampires themselves. Anyone killed by a vampire becomes one, and you don't just have to be killed by the master vampire, any old vampire will do. If one vampire kills one person per night, then there are two who kill two people on the second night, then the four kill four people on the third night, then eight kill eight, and pretty soon you have to move to a new town every couple months. There's an exponential growth issue here that drains the food supply way too quickly, and you'd think people would notice if whole towns were de-populated on a regular basis.

But anyway, the vampires are now killing babies, making baby vampires I can only assume, and one tries to get Mark, a local boy. Mark chases him off with a plastic cross, and then King gives us a look into what will become a recurring theme through his work, the theme of children dealing with scary things.

They [adult fears] were 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 this is called adulthood.

This is an idea of King's that I quite like, the notion that kids, at least kids of a certain age, might be better at dealing with hypothetical real monsters because they have already gotten good at dealing with imaginary ones. I don't know if there's any weight to the idea, if you're in the same room as me you're probably not even in the same postal code as an expert, but I like the concept, and while here it is a concept noted in passing eventually King will be basing entire books on it.

Ben, Susan, and Matt recruit Doctor Jimmy Cody to their investigative cause, and the Scooby Doo Gang set out to find some proof about vampires. Susan, without telling anyone where she's going, decides to visit the Marsten House and poke around to disprove the idea, because her rational brain says vampires can't be real. Ben and Jimmy go to watch a freshly dead body at nightfall to see what happens. What happens is that it rises up all vampified and tries to kill them, but Ben drives it off with an improvised cross and it escapes. Does the fact that Catholic items work on vampires mean that Catholocism if the one true religion in King's universe? Probably not. If pressed I'm sure King would come up with something about the power of belief, the belief that crosses can hurt vampires making it real, that sort of thing, some sort of loophole.

I don't know, I'm still stuck on how Susan convinced herself it was a good idea to go up to the Marsten House alone to disprove the vampire theory. I mean, lots of people have been dying and bodies have been disappearing and her own theory is that some psycho is doing it, and since the only real suspects are Ben and the guys who bought the evil Marsten House and she is sleeping with one of those two sets of people, well. I'm just saying that going by yourself to a secluded creepy house owned by potential psychopaths just so you can prove they're regular crazy murderers and not vampires is some sketchy fucking logic, Susan. But then, you've fallen in love with the person who is actually just as likely a suspect as them in the crazy person department, so hey, rock on.

And really, seriously, from the perspective of someone looking for a rational explanation, Ben is the most likely suspect. He's new in town just like Straker and Barlow. He wanted to rent the Marsten House. He's obsessed with it, he's writing a scary horror novel about it. He's researched it and thinks the previous owners murdered local kids. Whenever he's out, even on dates with Susan, he keeps turning to look at the house, he looks for it even when it's not visible. He's at every single crime scene. And he's managed to convince the people closest to him that it's not a crazy, obsessive, re-enacting murderer like he could potentially be, no, it's vampires. In any other King book he'd be the bad guy. It would be sort of like Secret Window. Er, potential spoiler for Secret Window in the previous sentence I guess, so watch out for that.

Anyway, Susan meets up with Mark, who is going not to spy but to murder him a vampire king. And they say young people have no ambition. They break into the house but are ambushed by Straker, who leaves Susan in the cellar and ties up Mark upstairs. Mark escapes his bonds but too late to save Susan from becoming breakfast. And to be honest I didn't see Susan biting it (pun intended this time) with 200 pages still to go, but she's totally a vampire now. I still can't stress how stupid it was of her to go up to the house alone. It was stupid to the point where I feel comfortable saying that it makes more sense as a convenient plot device than as an actual organic part of the story. King tried to disguise it by making Susan the group's doubting Thomas, but he was unsuccessful because if she were the intelligent young lady he tries to characterize her as she would have known that even if there were no vampires that was a really dumb thing to do.

Speaking of characterization, that's something I've been meaning to touch on. While King's town-building skills have grown immensely in just one book, his character skills are still a little loose. You could argue that his characters here are more realistic, but that's just another word for boring. They don't have a whole lot of depth and life to them, is what I'm saying. The main characters are all very normal and samey. None of them stand out as characters. But okay, let's be charitable and call them realistic. Another issue is that Mark, who I suspect will be the boy who survives with Ben, has become a major character but was only introduced as an afterthought in an earlier chapter and didn't start playing any sort of role until halfway through the story. Realistic again? Maybe. But effective? Maybe not.

There's Father Callahan too, who gets his own chapter now but was barely introduced halfway through the book. Matt recruits the Catholic priest to the cause and Callahan is excited by the thought of going toe to toe with real Evil for once. Everything's in place for a showdown, if they can all survive the night.
Warder to starry_nite

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This message last edited by Nate on 16/02/2012 at 01:06:03 AM
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Nate reads Stephen King, Book 2: 'Salem's Lot - 15/02/2012 10:02:07 PM 794 Views
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Good review. - 16/02/2012 07:44:54 PM 378 Views
Thanks. - 16/02/2012 09:08:56 PM 271 Views
I liked Salem's Lot more than you did. - 17/02/2012 03:57:26 PM 334 Views
As long as you don't hold it against me. - 18/02/2012 12:11:47 AM 347 Views
Excellent! (A few comments, and a question for you and Tigr.) - 17/02/2012 11:57:34 PM 302 Views
Thanks! - 18/02/2012 12:15:25 AM 246 Views
King is a very good at it and does it in many subtle ways. - 21/02/2012 05:01:54 PM 409 Views
This was one of my, if not the, least favorites of his. - 25/02/2012 08:59:27 AM 294 Views
Re: This was one of my, if not the, least favorites of his. - 26/02/2012 07:05:10 AM 368 Views

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