One Thing I Love Today: John Lindqvist's new novel 'Handling The Undead'
The author of 'Let The Right One In' crafts an equally-compelling follow-up
I started this column back at AICN, and I did it for a time here at HitFix as well, but it recently occurred to me during a conversation with a friend who has also been a reader since the early AICN days that this makes a nice bookend to the Morning Read, which runs three days a week. I want to try different regular articles on Tuesday and Thursday mornings in place of the Morning Read, so there's always something familiar in the morning, Monday through Friday, with this column at the other side of the day as an anchor.
The "thing" in question can be… anything. A concert. A book. A DVD. An event. A toy. An experience. A link to something particularly poignant. Or crazy. Or whatever. The point is to spotlight one thing a day that might otherwise not get that spotlight. Considering how many things are sent here for review, there is never a shortage of things that can be featured in this column, so why not bring it back?
After all, the more regular I am in providing certain things to you guys, then hopefully the more engaged you'll be. That is the point here. I don't ever want to think of this as me shouting into the void. I hope to find ways to put some of these things I love into your hands as well, and later tonight, I'll be running a piece about "Apocalypse Now" that should you should check out for that exact reason.
Today, though, the first thing I'll be featuring here is a book that I read during one of my recent out-of-town trips. John Ajvide Lindqvist is the author of the original novel Let The Right One In, and was also the screenwriter of the original version of the film. His follow-up novel, Handling The Undead, is finally being released in the US now, and all I knew when I picked it up was that he tackled another supernatural genre. If you want to approach the book completely fresh, without any preconceptions, then suffice it to say I think this book proves that there was no accident the first time around. This is a guy with a real voice, who loves taking standard tropes of the horror world and twisting them, delivering something fresh and new as a result.
One of the things that really makes Let The Right One In work as a piece for a lifelong horror fan is the subtle way he riffs of of the notions of what we know about vampires thanks to pop culture. His "vampire" isn't what we've come to know from other versions, but it's possible to see how his reality could be misinterpreted over time into what we know as vampires in fiction. It's the sort of nimble understanding of the genre that makes me want to revisit an author. Anyone can just throw out all the rules and start over, but to make a reinvention feel tied to what we already know while also feeling fresh is not an easy thing.
This time out, he's dealing with zombies, although you'd be hard-pressed to recognize the worldview of, say, a George Romero or a Danny Boyle in the way these undead are realized. Lindqvist is concerned as much with the effects on the living as they're forced to deal with the knowledge that there is something after death, and with welcoming back their loved ones, even if they're no sure these are the same people they once knew. By cross-cutting between a few key characters, Lindqvist offers up an intense look at a wide range of reactions to the situation. He never gives in to just making it a straight horror story, and until the final pages, I found myself wondering how he planned to pull it all together. Ruining any of his finely crafted details seems a shame, because much of what I loved about this book was that thrill of discovery, of seeing each new piece drop into place.
Although not technically brand-new, Lindqvist's novel is new to the US, and it's a quick, compelling read, a perfect way to reintroduce this column. I highly recommend you pick it up.
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