I Am Behind You

by John Ajvide Lindqvist | Horror |
ISBN: 9781250086570 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 8/7/2021
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Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Saturday, August 7, 2021
I got this hardcover from Better World Books, after listening to the story on audiobook. [I've also enjoyed Lindqvist's creepy, disturbing child-vampire novel Let The Right One In (aka Let Me In) and the poignant/creepy "returning dead" novel Handling the Undead, among others.]

The book opens with a couple of paragraphs about knowing people by their flaws, a viewpoint either of the author's or an omniscient third person; this segment ends with "I switch on the light," leading into the narrative proper. The book closes with "I switch off the light." I have no idea what this means, though I can speculate; the author, as God of his characters, has chosen to put them through this unnerving Purgatory to see how they react. But I could also simply ignore these bookends and take the main narrative as it stands, nightmarish as that is {wry grin}...

The premise: an assortment of people are camping out at a favorite campsite, and awaken one morning to find that they've apparently been transported to a vast, featureless field of grass, campers and all. As if this weren't surreal enough, the bright blue sky contains no clouds - or sun, or any other visible light source. There's no cell phone service, but the GPS units in some of the vehicles work - though the maps shift to show places where the people lived long ago, indicating roads that don't exist in this grassy nowhere. Oh, and radios do play music - but only songs that were written by Peter Himmelstrand, a real-world Swedish songwriter to whom Lindqvist's book is dedicated. [I'm thinking the concept of "author playing with his characters" is making even more sense.]

The characters are varied: a pair of 50-something farmers, apparently very close friends if not more, but so practical and straightforward that the drama of the situation (mostly) rolls off of their backs; a proud and bad-tempered man who's casually cruel to his long-suffering wife, whose fantasy life features long conversations with characters played by Jimmy Stewart; a former model and her ex-sports-star husband, and their too-perfect daughter (who is quickly shown to be Very Strange Indeed); and a more average family, husband, wife, and young son, though they too have back stories with dark secrets. Oh, and there's the grumpy man's dog and the farmers' cat; the dog gets some viewpoint chapters of his own, and eventually befriends the cat, making the best of a disturbing situation. [For the benefit of those who worry about the fates of animals in stories, as I do: they both make it to the end of the book, though that doesn't mean things will turn out rosy for them.]

The story unfolds with the group trying to figure out what's happened, attempting to explore their new surroundings - at first in the belief that someone's done this to them and if they just go far enough they'll find civilization, later in a desperate attempt to work out why they're here and what they're supposed to do. We also get flashbacks to their respective pasts, seeing how the couples met, how the people became who they are, and in some cases learning why they're reacting to this situation in the way they do.

If the story had settled on having the characters slowly starve in this bizarre endless lawn, it'd have been disturbing enough, but eventually one of them discovers evidence that other people have been here, and that only nonreactive metals such as gold seem to remain behind. And then they start seeing figures from their pasts - and their nightmares. And then... well, it gets tricksy, and nightmarish in several different ways, and very, very unsettling. I did have some issues with the way the story resolved (inasmuch as it did resolve), but then, much as I love Lindqvist's work, for me he doesn't always stick the landing. Still, there's a lot going on here and I found it riveting and memorable.

Released 3 wks ago (9/26/2021 UTC) at Little Free Library, New Searles Rd [OBCZ] in Nashua, New Hampshire USA


Guidelines for safely visiting and stocking Little Free Libraries during the COVID-19 pandemic, from the LFL site here.

I left this book in my Little Free Library on this lovely day; hope someone enjoys it!

[See other recent releases in NH here.]

*** Released for the 2021 You're Such an Animal challenge, for the embedded "hind" in the title. ***

*** Released for the 2021 September Sapphire challenge. ***

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