Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book Review - Let The Right One In

With all this talk of Hatchet 2, i'm pretty sure I have completely failed to even give one single mention to another horror film being released this weekend, a film that I don't fully support but nevertheless am looking forward to checking out ; Let Me In, the remake to one of my favorite movies in recent years, 2008's Swedish vampire love story, Let The Right One In. It is in my opinion totally unnecessary to remake such a perfect film, especially so soon, but that's not what i'm here to talk about. In fact, i'm really not here to talk about anything. Tonight I hand the reigns over to one of my best friends and a brilliant writer, Jesse Bartel, who is here to talk about the book that the original film was based on.

Just to give a little introduction, Jesse is a guy I met last year when I started working at my current job. He was a co-worker who quickly became a really good friend and though he just recently left the job and went off to college in the city, we still remain really close and see one another pretty often. He's one of the coolest and nicest dudes i've ever had the pleasure of calling a friend and he also happens to be a horror fan who is one hell of a writer. A couple months back we came up with the idea for Jesse to be the official book reviewer of Freddy In Space, since I really don't get around to reading many books but would love to have reviews of new and upcoming books on the site. As his debut review he decided to tackle Let The Right One In, just in time for the release of the remake. Freddy In Space has always been mostly a one man show, which is the way I like it, but I think quite highly of this fella and we share pretty similar opinions when it comes to the genre, not to mention he's far better than me at reviewing and analyzing books, so i'm incredibly happy to have him on the team. As you will soon see, i'm pretty sure i've let the right one in.....


“Let the Right One In” by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Rating: 4 out of 5

First and foremost, I would like to thank John Squires the mastermind of this blog for letting me enter his world and giving me a chance to widen the audience of his website. John is one of my best friends and I feel honored to be able to work with him.

Now, as many of you horror hounds know, “Let the Right One In” was a phenomenal film and a truly beautiful take on the vampire/horror genre. The novel was written a few years before the movie and became an international bestseller in a very short amount of time, giving the author a push into fame. I will discuss the context of the book and then dip your toes into some of the sub textual elements. I will talk a little about the film later and how the book uncovers even more dark and chilling secrets.

Quite simply the story focuses on several characters and how their lives are suddenly impacted by a series of murders and strange happenings in a small urban area in Blackberg, Sweden. The character that the book is truly about is Oskar, a 12 year old boy and his developing relationship with a newly moved in neighbor by the name of Eli. Eli, who also appears young, has an elderly man that lives in the apartment with her, who keeps to himself and often is out late at night. Oskar is severely bullied in school, to the point of having physical pain inflicted on him. As Eli and Oskar become closer with each passing day, their relationship is compromised when Eli’s dark secret begins to surface and the authorities become involved. There are many characters in the novel and they are all put into situations that are a direct cause of Eli. The domino effect lasts the entire book until its very gruesome yet beautiful ending. End brief synopsis.

Having seen the film first, I already knew what to expect and to be honest I was prepared for the book to be predictable because of that fact. At times it was but that really didn’t make it boring for me at all nor did I ever really want to put the book down. Being that the book is a vampire tale focused on emotions and situations where characters try to save one another, you could conjure up images of the “Twilight” series and pass over this read. I urge you not to.

The novel starts out with the author giving you the context of the area in which the book will take place; he helps to paint a bleak picture that seems devoid of any beauty at all. We come to realize that this is not the case in the end. As a reader you see lots of violence throughout the novel, violence that is graphic and explodes color into this dark world. All of the characters in the book are not people who you feel you could be friends with, they are all lowlifes and hardly admirable. Even Oskar is a thief and a bit mean, so that at times you feel you need to disconnect yourself from him. The book is broken down into four sections that all have a sort of loosely created theme and there are often quotes from musicians and other authors to help with the theme in the beginning of each section as well. Within the four sections there are chapters that are set apart by dates like “Saturday 24 October”; the chapter will then go through the course of the day through the eyes of several characters. The characters switch on and off and even though it sounds difficult to read, the author really makes it easy for the reader to keep up with the events. The great thing about this book, is that even though the story is heavy, is that it is written in a way so that anyone can pick it up.

I only had a few real problems with this book and they were few. Like I wrote earlier about the writing, sometimes the descriptions are a little weak and it feels as if characters and places are a little two dimensional. So I was a little frustrated at times when the picture wasn’t painted in my head as much as I wanted it to be. Also, there were a few of passages that I felt were not necessary and did not add to the overall story.

Some problems arose early on and then worked themselves out later, for example the character of Tommy and his family. At first he was just getting in the way of what I thought the story was, until it all came together at the very end. There were some other characters that proved themselves useful towards the climax but I do not want to give too much away. Another problem I thought I was encountering were all the references to literature, music, and religion. It seemed to me that the author was just trying to make all these profound remarks and I was getting a little angry at the idea of him making up bullshit but it wasn’t until later that I realized what he was talking about.

Now, without getting all into the book and dissecting it and sounding like an analytical snob, the author was definitely making a point with all of those references. People let things into their lives that can either destroy them or give their life meaning. Those “things” can be anything, from a person to a god. That’s all I will say about the book. Feel free to contact me if you want to discuss more about this after you have read the book or have seen the movie.

Concerning those who have already seen the film *SPOILER FREE*

If you have seen the film, I would really suggest you read the book. That is if you found the movie to be wonderful. A lot of holes are filled in, especially with the old man’s past; I am talking about the man who helps Eli. Even some of Eli’s past is provided to you and how she got that burn mark but the best of all is the scenes that were not put into the movie. One scene involved Eli feasting off a cancer patient and having a severe drug trip after she realized that there was morphine in the blood. Another was her transforming into this demonic creature, which probably would have looked silly in the movie but is really creepy to read. What I really liked was being able to get into the heads of all of the characters and learning what made them tick and truly empathizing with them at times. There are parts of the book that were changed for the movie and it is great to get that nice turnaround while reading the novel. There is a really long couple of passages on Virginia and her transformation, how she cuts herself to drink her depleting blood. All in all, the book is better than the film but that is always the case.

Overall, the novel is an instant classic. It is on the surface a horror novel but deep down there is more to it and there is plenty to keep you thinking for days about it. The shortcomings do not hinder the overall enjoyment of the book, if you love horror and love reading then this is the book to get.

This October the American film version of the book will be released, it is entitled “Let Me In”. If you have read the book or seen the Swedish film, I think most of you will agree that this film will be a waste of time.

Peace and happy stabbings. - Jesse


Zach S. said...

Gimme more from this gent!

Jesse Lee said...

Thank dude!