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Let The Right One In: The Novel
Reviewed by Lloyd Allen Woodall, © 2009

Format: Book
By:   John Ajvide Lindqvist
Genre:   Horror
Review Date:   February 04, 2009
RevSF Rating:   8/10 (What Is This?)

I waste time each morning watching the idiotic, strangely-paced, utter waste-of-time Attack of the Show on G4. Aimed at gamer culture, AOTS spearheads a mentality of sloth and gives those who watch something to be entertained by while they're being lazy.

The dorky Kevin and the beautiful but equally nerdy Olivia's daily look at Internet videos introduced me to the trailer for the Swedish horror film Let The Right One In. My first thought after seeing it was, "Jiminy, that was freaky." My second: "It'll never come to my town."

So far, I'm right. The movie's site suggested it would arrive in the great inland empire east of Seattle on two different dates so far. Those dates have come and gone, and the movie isn't playing in a 300 mile radius of my town. (It's set for DVD in March 2009.)

To assuage my annoyance at the state of our local theaters, and to avoid seeing Bolt! just to see a movie with fangs in it, I perused the racks of a local bookstore, hoping to find some salve for my sprained film-going desire.

Fortune smiled on me. I found among the Stephen King and the Clive Barker the book of the very film I hoped to see!

In book form, translated from Swedish by Ebba Segerberg, Let The Right One In, is a nice detour from the classic vampire yarn. It begins as a good kid-versus-bully tale. As we're drawn in, that story takes a backseat, and the characters make choices and act in ways that create changes they're forced to cope with.

A feeling that the characters are more in control of the story's direction than the author grows with each page. It's disconcerting, because we quickly realize none of the characters seems to know what they're doing.

Protagonist 12-year old Oskar harbors the secret, and not so unusual desire to exact revenge on the slights the school bullies visit on him. The androgynous vampire Eli plays its strange history close to its chest, revealing just enough to keep Oskar's (and the reader's) interest piqued.

The secondary characters are all drawn rich, and learn, grow, and change in the course of the story. From Eli's guardian, to Hakan the killer, to the local drunks who happen upon Eli's secret, it is a pleasure to see each struggle until they meet their fates. Often they act on instinct, and against better judgment, and the book feels like a roller coaster ride. And that safety harness over your shoulders doesn't come down far enough to make you feel secure you'll reach your destination.

There's good humor and intense gore throughout the novel. Having read many volumes from King, Barker, and Bentley Little, I felt sure few things would make me wince while reading a book. Knowing as I read that there was a film made from the material gave me something to look forward to, and the occasional intrusive thought, "I hope the film has THAT part in it." This novel deserves a good film translation.

In the RevSF forums, I hopped on the wanna-see-it wagon after seeing the trailer, but KaosDevice said he was let down by the movie's ending. The novel's denouement were both appropriate and well-played, if predictable. I hope the film's end parallels the satisfaction I received reading the book.

I can attest to this: John Ajvide Lindqvist can be added to your list of horror writers who will gross you out completely while making you need to read what happens next.

Lloyd Allen Woodall writes Dispatches from War Rocket Ajax for RevolutionSF. He went to see Bolt anyway.

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