Because I was under the impression this novel is little more than a riff on Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot, I avoided it for a long time. However, in the last year or two I’ve really become a major Robert McCammon fan and decided to finally give this 1981 epic horror novel a chance. Was I impressed!
Let’s address the elephant in the room: yes, this novel has a few slight similarities to King’s vampire novel. Amongst this novel’s wide and varied cast of characters is a Catholic priest and an eleven-year-old bookish boy with a horror obsession. And, of course, this story is about vampires taking over a set place; however, in contrast to King’s novel — an exploration of small town life — McCammon’s work is an expansive look at Los Angeles and the mechanics of vampires taking over an entire city. So do I think Robert McCammon tipped off King? No, not at all. This story is an original creation through and through.
So . . . of the two, which do I like more? Hard call. While King’s novel scared me more and feels a bit more cohesive, the characters in They Thirst are more varied and better written, I feel. And this story just has such an epic feel to it. King’s novel reveals in quiet horror; McCammon’s is anything but quiet. I think I will call it a tie.
But really, Robert McCammon deserves much more than being compared to Stephen King for the umpteenth time. He is a phenomenal author in his own right, and this novel is a marvel. I had a blast. Yes, it’s a bit cheesy and pulpy and totally ‘80s, but that’s its charm! If you’re looking for a spooky (and long) vampire novel to read this Halloween season, you could do much worse.
Read for ‘Vampires’ in Halloween Bingo.