It is autumn 1981 when the inconceivable comes to Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenage boy is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last—revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day.
But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door—a girl who has never seen a Rubik’s Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night….
WARNING: If you are sensitive to gore or topics such as pedophilia, this book is not for you. Various content throughout can at times be very intense and difficult to read. Please be advised of this fact before considering the book, even if you enjoyed the Swedish film version. The novel is MUCH DARKER.
With that out of the way, this is one of the few cases where I did see the movie before the book. I cannot attest to the Hollywood remake, but the novel, as expected, went into a lot more detail about the lives of Oskar, Eli, the drunken Chinese restaurant group, and even other side characters that were thrown out of the script entirely. I dove into the novel for backstory, and backstory I got. Learning about Eli, our lovely vampire, was the main highlight of the narrative that I was missing from viewing the film. Also to note is the situation regarding Oskar’s parents, which added some more reasoning to why Oskar looks to be on the path of becoming a serial killer, or city thug at least. (I mean, for god’s sake, he keeps a scrapbook of news reports regarding horrific crimes and plays pretend as if he was a murderer himself. THAT KID HAS PROBLEMS.)
On that note, this book is goddamn creepy. And not in the “oh there’s vampires stalking the city” way. In fact, that’s probably one of the tamer sections of the novel. The very facets of human nature Lindqvist throws at us, especially regarding Hakan’s sexual escapades and the sheer amount of violence that permeates the suburbs and its people, is what got to me more than anything. Darkness lurks everywhere in the town of Blackeberg, many of the characters giving little reason to be sympathetic towards them. Alcoholic deadbeat parents, pedophiles murdering for “love”… After spending years witnessing some of the darkest corners of the Internet, creeping me out is a difficult task to accomplish. This author managed it. For that, I applaud him.
The story itself is told from several different third-person points of view, though I feel as if some of these could have been left out entirely without much difference being made. The ones that I felt were unnecessary bogged down the novel for me to an extent, leaving me waiting for other characters to pop up as I trudged through a section or two. Tommy’s story, for instance, really stuck out to me as being rather unneeded and superfluous. The unfortunate part was that either some characters I can barely recall defining characteristics of and others I feel like I knew psychologically but had no mental image to pin them to. Take, for example, Oskar. About all the physical description I was given for him was that he is somewhat chubby. This is all that I remember, at least. I suppose it can be somewhat overlooked because it is Sweden and they have a pretty homogeneous population, but other side characters got more physical description than Oskar even had. A small point of contention, perhaps, but it was an irritating itch in the side while reading.
The writing itself I feel like I can’t quite comment on fairly. While I felt it tended towards being inconsistent — it seemed short and choppy at times, while quite descriptive and more what I tend to like in other instances — I am unsure of whether to place the blame on the translator or the author. However, I can say that Lindqvist gave a wonderful addition to the vampire mythos and some medical explanation for it. You always will know that Eli is not human, not anymore. And the relationship between Eli and Oskar is one of the most realistic supernatural relationships I’ve read to date. The author also gets brownie points for actually understanding the fallibility of eyewitness testimony, which I discussed in my last post. While drawn out more so than I would prefer, Let the Right One In did a great job in giving me much needed October chills and thrills.
I will never see Sweden as that wonderful paradise everyone seems to perpetuate it as ever again.