Yesterday I sold my short story “The Diet” to Arkham Tales, a new online magazine. This is my seventh sale of 2008, so I’m pleased with how my work has been received lately.
I finished reading Let the Right One In, by John Ajvide Lindqvist, and enjoyed it a great deal. There’s a slight stiffness in the prose on occasion because it’s a translation from Swedish, but it’s an intriguing re-imagining of the vampire myth. The protagonist is Oskar, a twelve-year-old boy who is a bit of a loner and picked on at school. He befriends his new next-door-neighbour, Eli, who appears to be a twelve-year-old girl, who isn’t affected by the cold, and only comes out at night. There’s much about Eli that is deceptive. Her “father”, Håken, is actually her minder, the one who attempts (badly) to obtain the blood Eli needs to survive. Over time as the friendship between Oskar and Eli deepens, so do the complications that arise from Eli’s need for human blood.
This is a classic coming of age story. Oskar’s parents are divorced, his dad’s an alcoholic whom he sees rarely, and Oskar is humiliated daily by the bullies at his school. His friendship with Eli brings about a transformation in his confidence and his ability to cope with the world. During the novel he makes that first difficult step towards adulthood, although under extreme circumstances. There is a cast of side characters in the book, including the local boozers, a police officer in charge of the murder cases, and a couple of kids who are friendly towards Oskar (outside of school where it won’t be noticed).
Lindqvist set his vampire story in an ordinary world, populated by everyday people without any extraordinary talents or privileges. They get by on a day-to-day basis. By rooting his characters in this world it makes Eli’s need for friendship, love, and survival seem just as natural as anyone else’s.
The story shifts points of view through all of the main characters, and this could be a bit difficult for some people since Håken is a paedophile. Lindqvist does a fine job of portraying Håken in a sensitive way without ever diminishing the major problem of Håken’s desire for boys. A couple of the point of view shifts were a little clunky in places, where it moved into a minor characters for a couple of paragraphs, and then back to the chapter’s main point of view character. Apart from the set-pieces towards the end of the novel there isn’t a lot of action, or scenes of extreme gore, which suited me fine. Fans of horror novels that revel in displayed viscera might not be so pleased.
I was impressed at how well Lindqvist adapted his material to the big screen, as the majority of the important parts of the story are retained. Despite having seen the film I found the book compelling enough to finish it over a couple of days.