Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Let the Right One In

I gotta love a man that gives me books. And when they're books I actually want to read, even better. Like my mom gives me books for all major holidays, but it's never anything I give a crap about. It's like she went to Target, looked through the discounted books, saw a book with a cat featured somewhere on the cover and said, oh, Jennifer would enjoy this, even though it's likely a young adult novel or something so atrocious it's not even worth me reading after I take painkillers. (Sidebar: when I used to take painkillers on the regular, I would still want to read, but I couldn't process 'regular' reading so I would read Danielle Steele and Jackie Collins novels.) So it is a welcome change of pace to receive books from Christian, who always takes my actual interests to heart when purchasing a book for me.

Such was the case when he gifted me Let the Right One In, the Swedish vampire novel by John Lindqvist. I always try to enlist the book before movie policy, and of course, the original before remake policy, so I was eager to read Let the Right One In before the movie arrived from my netflix queue, which it is slated to do today.

Let the Right One In is about Oskar, a chubby 12-year old in a working class neighborhood in Stokholm. Oskar is your typical loner, he's bullied at school, and is the product of a divorced family. He lives with his working mother, shoplifts, eats lots of candy, and eventually meets up with the elusive Eli, who appears to be his age, but doesn't attend regular school and only appears on the playground at night. A friendship between Oskar and Eli begins and the murders around the neighborhood increase. Those looking for anything super out of the ordinary about vamps will be disappointed here, Eli can't go out in daylight and has to have permission before entering someone's home, but the relationship between Oskar and Eli is the focus. Yes, there are a multitude of grisly set pieces in the five-hundred or so pages of the novel, there's enough disembowlments, acid melting off faces, guttings, death by cats, and vamp action to quell even the biggest gorehounds. But honestly, this is a tender, touching story about how people often cannot find connections with other people, the lonliness of the working class, and the trials of growing up. Yes, Eli may be a vampire and there's another revelation sometime along the way, but none of this bother Oskar, who is thankful he's finally made a connection to someone. The whole thing is developed in such rich detail, I'm having trouble picturing it cinematically. But word on the internets is that the movie is damn fine too, albeit maybe a bit on the arty side, but

I was so thrilled with the novel, I seriously could not put it down. It's rare that a book haunts me the way Lindqvist's novel did in the days and weeks after I was finished reading it. I read a lot of freakin' books too, and most of the time, even when I really, really like something, it doesn't quite resonate with me the way this novel did. Wonder what he has coming up next? He does hard horror as well as he does characters and plot elements. It's a horror novel but so much more, which is the reason I love horror so much in the first place, damn it. This is one novel that cannot be easily dismissed as just gore.

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