John Ajvide Lindqvist: Let the Right One In (forthcoming English translation 2007)
Translated from Swedish by Ebba Segerberg
Okay, here's the thing. The book came Saturday 5 May at about 7.30am.
I read it straight through.
Seriously, this is the very definition of a page-turner. I absolutely could not stop reading it.
By mid-afternoon I had finished it. Every thrilling page of it.
So what can you expect if you get hold of this book?
Well, it's essentially a vampire tale. But it is so much more than that. It's magical in its ability to convey the mysteries and weirdness of its narrative. It's also a beautifully realised tale of growing up: the conflict of emotions that can be stirred by (almost) adolescence. Though I haven't ever been to Sweden, there is a real sense of place to the novel in its depiction of the bleak, blank, psyche-dulling environs of Sweden's suburb flats and underpasses. The central characters - Oskar and Eli - are the kind of people who you quickly become interested in and for whom you wish the best, despite the horrors of the story and the havoc Eli stirs.
There are scenes of real violence and horror (that whole thing from Buffy about vampire's easily being vamooshed into dust? It ain't happening here. The scenes with Virginia in the hospital are vivid and wincing. Sickness - emotional and physical - is both brutal and painful. And as proof that Linqvist isn't only capable of writing young people - the petty bullying violence and desire for affection, vengeance, survival - turn to the scenes of alcohol fuelled despair amongst Lacke and Virginia's crowd. Brilliant). Blood drips, emotions are heightened: but there is no sense of this being pleasurably pornographic or romantic - even though certain scenes are sexually charged or achingly full of passionate sentiment. From the Prologue's pre-emptively chilling report of a removals man realising his role in the horrors to follow -
"He grimaced as if he has developed a revulsion for his own handwriting.- to the Epilogue's recounting of bloodied, headless boys and a child alone with a large trunk containing... this novel draws you in and holds you fast. The pages in between will present you with a narrative of the mortification of leaving childhood; bullying; love; the mutability of perceptions; disappointment in parents and adult role models; the realities of alcoholism; and myths of youth/age and vampirism. It will make you laugh at absurdities, stir fascinated revulsion, and cause you to cheer for the most unlikely of unheroic figures and actions. If you want there to be something more to your vampire novel than straight neck-biting and dark heroism, this will work for you; and if you don't like vampire tales but are drawn to bleak tales of alienation and human experiences then this will be for you too.
18 October: Norrkoping-Blackeberg (Stockholm).
He was the one who had moved them in."
I can scarcely recommend this highly enough. Read it when you can.