By John Ajvide Lindqvist.
Published by Quercus.
It’s been a long time since I found an author whose next book I was so desperate to read straight after reading his first two novels back to back.
Maybe the recent icy cold nights have added to my passion for this Swedish horror author’s work (it can’t have not helped) but there’s certainly a certain something about his clever re-invention of tales of horror that we ‘think’ we are familiar with which grips from the get-go.
His first novel ‘Let the Right One In’ is now widely known for the superb Swedish language movie of the same name and, more recently, for its US remake ‘Let Me In’ helmed by the Director of Cloverfield, Matt Reeves.
Although both movies had to jettison much of the more intricate plot details – the fact that the central character Eli is referred to as he and she throughout the novel is made much more oblique in the movies for example – they have both been well received and honor the story premise well.
What Lindqvist does so well is provide us with familiar tales – Vampirisim in Let the Right One In and zombies in the second novel, Handling the Undead – but with a far more human angle than their titles or subject matters may suggest.
Whilst Handling the Undead deals with a mysterious series of fluctuations in power across Stockholm followed swiftly by what appears to be the return of the recently dead to life – the novel does not shamble along the usual zombie path. Instead of wanting to eat the living, they simply want to do what I guess we’d all want to do if we woke on the morgue table – they want to go home, to return to their loved ones. As such, the book is much more a series of questions being raised as to just what would need to be done if the loved ones of the living suddenly started coming back to us.
The human account of the events in this novel are closer in tone to newly realised similar plot points such as those in recent television series such as The Walking Dead, where again questions are always asked – just what would you do faced with a loved one returned from the dead and standing at your door?
Lindqvist’s writing is often compared to work by Stephen King and there are definitely comparisons to be drawn there – his novels sitting nicely alongside King’s work and other recent ‘re-inventions’ of classic horror tales such as The Passage by Justin Cronin.
And so, like a hungry thing of the night I wait – wait until the postman next visits my door and hope, for his sake, that under his arm he bears a copy of ‘Harbour’ for me to get my next Lindqvist fix.
Keith B Walters