Book #46

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Twelve-year-old Oskar is an outsider; bullied at school, dreaming about his absentee father, bored with life on a dreary housing estate. One evening he meets the mysterious Eli. As a romance blossoms between them, Oskar discovers Eli's dark secret - she is a 200-year-old vampire, forever frozen in childhood, and condemned to live on a diet of fresh blood.

I last read and reviewed this one in February 2010, with my last review filled to bursting with condescension and vitriol against Twilight. I’m pleased to report I have now matured, removed the offending review, and we’re going to try this again.

So, vampires. Alongside zombies, robots, and aliens, they are not something I tend to enjoy consuming (sorry Stoker, I don’t mean you). But this book is, in fact, more about the worry and terror of things that are in no way supernatural, such as bullying, paedophilia, alcoholism and revenge. It's disturbing, and it's depressing in the sense that each and every character we’re introduced to is incredibly unhappy, and is doomed in one way or another. They all need some kind of personal substance (be it religion, sex, booze, bullying) to sustain them, and each of them live hopeless lives. It's almost as though Lindqvist has created his own world of monsters and has given birth to them through this story.

There are many subplots and mini-characters that peppered throughout the pages, adding a real intensity to the plot, raising the engagement level up several notches. Despite this, I was disappointed in the lack of history given for Eli. Granted, some of it was fed through slowly, perhaps to create suspense, but I felt it wasn't concluded properly and there are still some questions that have gone unanswered for me.

I wrote in 2010 that Lindqvist had set the bar for the vampire genre with this modern masterpiece, and I still agree. We’re given several action scenes, and yet the horrors and gore aren't the parts which will stick with you. It's the human treatment of humans that becomes the true horror of this novel. Chilling, unthinkable, and starkly human.