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Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
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Book Name: Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in)
Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist
Publisher(s): St. Martin's Griffin (English) Ordfront (Swedish)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Horror
Release Date: October, 28 2008 (English) 2004 (Swedish)

Autumn is here and right around the corner is Halloween. I usually pass on scary books and films because I like my sleep. But, as it’s the time of year for it, I picked up one of the books that has resided on my TBR pile for a while: Let the Right One In by Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist. Originally written in Swedish, the book was a bestseller and translated into the version I read a few years later.

Since the book’s release, there’s been both a Swedish and American film adaptation, with further works also discussed. The storyline of both films differ from each other, and from the original book concept. I’ve not yet seen either film, but the thrill of the read has intrigued me to see how it’s been adapted for the big screen.

Set in the Swedish town of Blackeberg in 1981, the novel unfolds in under a month, the passing of each day detailed. We fall quickly into Oskar’s life; the troubled schoolboy with very few friends, a target on his back from local bullies. With little defence against their unending torture, he’s given in, letting them do what they want, and hoping it’s over quickly. He’s isolated with no-one to talk to; his friends are non-existent and he has no close bond with his divorced parents. He develops an obsession with collecting newspaper clippings about murders and executions, picturing himself in the same position, taking revenge and killing the bullies.

We’re introduced to the viewpoint of Håkan, an older man with paedophilic thoughts, fired from his school teaching job for possessing illicit material. In the opening chapter, we see Håkan waiting for his prey, a young boy walking alone. It becomes clear that this is a well-practised routine – Håkan knows what characteristics he’s looking for in his target and he carries the equipment he needs; halothane gas, a rope, knife, large funnel and a five litre plastic jug.

Then there’s Eli, our third central character. Like our other two central characters, there’s also dark thoughts at work. The difference is that Eli needs blood to be sustained; yep, Eli is a vampire. Turned over 200 years ago, Eli will always look like a child, kept immortal since the day of the turning. Håkan, although not 100% comfortable with the killing he does, remains as Eli’s protector because of the attraction he feels. Eli fits his ideal profile – young. If he utters any hesitation about procuring blood for Eli, the promise of an intimate touch or nudity placates him. Eli will never go as far as Håkan’s desires, but keeps him hanging by a thread just enough to keep the blood coming. It’s a more obsessive, visceral, gory human loves vampire story, than that which created the term ‘Twihard’.

It’s the scenes with Håkan that make for uncomfortable and unpleasant reading, being transported into the mindset of such a vile creature. His interaction with other characters is minimal, his main involvement and connection to the storyline being Eli’s protector. But yet you’ll keep reading. You’ll have to keep reading because you need to know if Eli caves to Håkan, if others will become infected and turn, if Oskar gets the revenge he so strongly desires.

We’re introduced to a small circle of characters whose stories all interweave, each unaware of the parts they’re playing as the town fears what happens when the sun goes down. Who’s been draining their neighbours of blood? One survivor awakes, feeling her heart has stopped, conscious of an unusual growth inside her. Friends disappear and suspicions are raised. Yet Oskar grows closer and closer to the unusual girl that’s moved in next door, the only person he wants to have a conversation with. She’s not like the other girls he knows – she’s never seen a Rubik’s cube before but can solve it overnight, she wears t-shirts out in the cold when everyone wraps up, and she smells really bad.

The novel deals with a variety of themes, and not just non-glittery vampires. There’s childhood, divorce, rape, castration, murder… the list continues. The story is brutal and abrupt. It holds nothing back; it’s honest. Lives are put at risk and loyalties are tested. We’re shown a brief insight into how Eli was turned, the horrors suffered, and get the perspective of a newly-turned vampire, discovering they no longer fit into the world as they did before. It’s not a book for the faint-hearted, but if you’re looking for something to sink your teeth into just in time for Halloween, then be sure to check this out.

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2 Comments

  1. ScarletBea says:

    This is quite interesting! I haven’t read the book but I’ve watched the swedish film.
    It was several years ago, but I’m pretty sure there was no mention of what Hakan is… or maybe it was quite subtle and I’ve removed it from my brain…
    It was super.

  2. Siah says:

    I watched the American film “Let Me In” and was absolutely blown away. Easily my favorite vampire and horror film. So much depth, so many layers.

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