Let the Right One In: A Novel
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I bought my first copy of this book after reading the TV Tropes entry about it. I hadn't been that intrigued by the previews I'd seen of the 2008 film version for some reason, but the writeup made it sound more interesting, so I thought I'd give it a shot. [It's also been published as "Let Me In", which is the title of the 2010 film remake.]
I found this a surprisingly involving story - surprising to me, anyway, given the number of flawed or downright loathsome characters! In some ways it's a classic vampire tale - "classic" in the sense that this world's vampires are not sparkly or cheerful or well-adjusted, but are most definitely monsters - but there's a lot more going on. Oskar, the young protagonist, is a boy who's been bullied relentlessly for much of his school-time, and fantasizes about attacking his tormentors - though he doesn't have the nerve to do so. He meets a new neighbor, a thin, shabby young waif, and eventually they strike up a friendship, and Oskar begins to learn just who and what his new friend is. His relationship with Eli is both touching and disturbing.
The book manages to present many harsh, frightening, and/or distasteful subjects via characters who, however wrong-headed they may be, are shown as complex individuals and not simply "villains" or "heroes". And I appreciated the "screen time" given to characters who, in other hands, would have been little more than vampire-fodder; here, we become invested in them, and that adds a great deal of tension and impact when their paths cross that of the killers.
There's plenty of horror here, and suspense, with bursts of humor here and there to relieve the pressure - temporarily. And there are tender moments between many of the characters, some more surprising than others (especially when Hakan's involved). Overall, a very enjoyable, involving, and terrifying spin on a traditional monster. Recommended!
[Since I first read the book I've listened to an unabridged-audio version of the book from Audible.com, narrated by Steven Pacey, and enjoyed it very much. And I've seen both of the film adaptations, both good, though neither was quite as faithful to the book as I'd have liked. Still, worth seeing. And if you're curious about the fates of the protagonists here, there's a hint in the title story in Let the Old Dreams Die, a very good collection of Lindqvist's short fiction.]
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