Friday, May 15, 2009

#10 Let the Right One In, by John Ajvide Lindqvist

I have Pajiba to thank for originally drawing my attention to Let the Right one In, though it, like World War Z, was one of those things that just kept popping up in too many places to ignore.

I have a weekly movie night with a friend, and on the day Let the Right One In was released on DVD in America, I showed her the trailer. She immediately agreed to see it, and I figured it would take a while before it would be available on Netflix. When I checked, it was available immediately, which I guess made another sharp reminder that internet buzz does not equal interest in the rest of the population.

We watched it, made fun of the dialogue, but agreed that it was still very good. It didn't take long before I started coming across the shitstorm in a teapot/internet regarding the dumbed down translation. I shared with my friend, and she was relieved. Since the book promised to be a much better translation, I ordered a copy.

The movie was very good, sweet and unsettling and just...still difficult to describe.

The book is also very good, though it's also profoundly uncomfortable. The movie was a faithful reproduction of the novel, but by necessity, it left out a number of details and events. The movie was sweeping and beautiful and chilling. The novel unflinchingly drowns you in the details better skimmed in the movie.

Lindqvist plops you into the head of an awkward, bullied, budding serial killer and asks you to invest in him as your primary sympathetic character.

And he is. Oskar is the pudgy victim, an outsider with no real hope of worming his way in. At the outset of the novel, he's not only being bullied, but sneaking off to check his pissball, a thing he's constructed to wear in his pants in an attempt to keep anyone from learning about his incontinence. He slinks home to collect news clippings about murders, fantasizes in brutal detail about killing the bullies who torment him, and spends his evenings watching television with his mother.

You also get to spend a lot of time with Hakaan, Eli's protector. His pedophilia was only hinted at in the movie, but when you're reading the book, you get every cringe-worthy detail of his desires. You also get to spend time in the heads of teenage delinquents and drunkards and even a little time with Eli. There's also a cop, and I'm not sure I've fully formed an opinion of him, except that he seems like most likely the most decent man in the book, and I kind of hated him anyway. I'm not sure if that says more about the book or about me.

The explanation of vampirism was somewhat unique, and I haven't totally gelled how I feel about it. Some people probably do need the at least borderline scientific explanation. I don't, not always. I'm ok with vampires, werewolves, and zombies being magic or just having no reason at all for being. Maybe that's because most of the explanations that come up end up being really retarded the more you look at them.

The book was everything from the movie and more. Subtle, willing to take its time unwinding the details that lead to a richer, deeper story, filled with characters that never quite gave in to stereotypes...I enjoyed the reading of it, and I'd recommend it.

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