nineveh_uk (nineveh_uk) wrote,

Swedish social realism with vampires

Edited to remove tedious whinging on the subject of $%*&$ colleague. Short version: My limited patience thins yet more.

Let the Right One In was interesting and well worth the read. I liked the vampire mythology, which managed to be both original and not excessively complicated (and didn't feel the need to drag in everything it hadn't used and explain why. Garlic isn't mentioned once) and the vampire’s inevitable failure to take account of everything you’d think a vampire would have learnt after a couple of centuries was quite nicely accounted for. There’s an amusing sweep at the Anne Rice “Oh, I suffer so, but still kill people” type, which manages not to come across as unbearably smug because it fills an important potential plot-hole. The protagonist managed to be an ‘odd’ 13 year old without being annoying or unconvincing, and the “why the hell doesn’t he just tell someone” sense of things was adequately accounted for.

But… There’s always a but. The type of book that annoys me most is the book that could have been really, really special, but isn’t. The book when the author has taken the easy route rather than the route that could have lead to a better piece of art. Why is the vampire’s helper a paedophile? It adds nothing, means nothing. Yes, it’s a way of making him vulnerable in the first place, of explaining his devotion to the vampire, but there are other means of doing that that don’t scream cliché. If it’s meant to raise questions of what it is to be a monster, it fails. It’s hard to argue that a bit of indecent exposure is morally equivalent to serial murder. The grey suburbs, lacking all sense of place, unfortunately lack sufficient presence that we can feel their lack of sense of place. They might as well be in Copenhagen or Oslo, and I don't mean this as a tribute to their successful portrayal. Much the most interesting strand of the novel is the depiction of the fragile community of drinkers who meet in the Chinese restaurant, where the failure of lives to interconnect becomes genuinely moving rather than merely par for the course Scandinavian social realism. It is in this strand, too, that the horror is most effective and unsettling, whereas elsewhere it falls into that all too common trap of the last third of horror books, the gross-out. All in all, whilst the ideas are interesting and much of the writing is excellent, I’m not sure that Stephen King didn’t handle related themes to greater effect thirty years ago in Salem’s Lot. At least it sounds as if Let the Right One In has been much better served as a film than King’s work was.

And finally, bear convicted of stealing honey.
Tags: books
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