Monday, October 11, 2010

Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lundvquist

I read a pretty compelling review of this novel so I thought I'd give it a try. I'm glad I did. This is the source for Swedish film of the same name that won all the awards at festivals. The film was remade here as Let Me In but was apparently not as good as the original and tanked.

The book is often compared to Stephen King's wildly enjoyable Salem's Lot which it definitely resembles. The difference is that King used all the colors to recreate his Maine town and its inhabitants. There is great humor and warmth in his vampire tale. Plus it scares the hell out of you.

Well, Let The Right One In scares the hell out of you but writer John Ajvide Lindqvist uses only different shades of gray (and black) for his tale. The setting is a small town in Sweden, one that is far down the economic scale. And that informs everything in the book. Twelve-year-old Oskar is the central character and largely through his eyes we see a series of serial killings so savage they'd make Hannibal Lechter blanch. Ultimately the killings touch on everybody in the small town, from the bullies who pick on Oskar constantly to the mother who overprotects him to the police detectives who are afraid to admit to themselves what is really going on.

This is a vampire novel without most of the usual vampire tropes. Lindqvist gives us a look at a cross-section of Swedish citizens who live lives of quiet desperation we hear so much about over here. But it is the strange girl Eli who fixes Oskar's attention and who teaches him to not just defend himself but to anticipate the bully attacks and make them afraid of him. The relationship of Oskar and Eli is pretty rendered and creates a vampire myth that should endure.

An amazing work of popular fiction. Now I'm on to his second novel.


Ron Scheer said...

Enjoyed the original film. A real departure from the usual vampire fare. Didn't Bergman have a vampire scene in one of his early films?

Jeff P said...

Yes, an incredible novel, though one I find difficult recommending to friends because it's so bleak. Still have yet to see either film version, though I hear the Swedish film is terrific.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have it on the pile. And loved the movie. This moves it up.

Anders E said...

Blackeberg is actually a suburb west of Stockholm, about 15 minutes from the city on the subway. I'm not sure, but I think it has been gentrified since the early 1980s when the novel is set. Not that any of that really matters.

And this has been on my pile for too long, it's definitely moving up now. Thanks for the reminder.