Friday, July 01, 2011

Let the Right One In

Based on someone's recommendation, and having liked both film versions, I decided to sit and read the original novel Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

It's a fantastic book. Well-written (and well-translated), very breezy in style and quick to read. At the same time, very compelling and engrossing. It tells the same story as the film, but with many more points of view from interconnecting characters with clear motivations. There is a lot more here than in either film version.

The story, at its heart, is about a bullied, scared boy named Oskar who meets a strange and confident girl named Eli. As they grow closer, the strange Eli becomes more normal and the scared Oskar becomes more courageous and sure of himself. But their friendship develops among a series of murders and under a shroud of Cold War paranoia (it takes place in 1980). In this setting, Oskar is bullied within, quite literally, an inch of his life.

This is the same story as the films, but what Lindqvist does in his novel is to develop other viewpoints. Hakan, the older man who lives with Eli and kills for her because of his love for her; Staffan, the policeman investigating the murders and who is clashing with his new girlfriend's sullen teenage son Tommy, who is one of Oskar's only friends; and a group of drinking buddies who begin disappearing and whose lives are changed forever when they encounter the supernatural.

It's no great revelation now that Eli is a vampire. What's interesting for me--as someone who thinks vampires are bullshit in fiction--is how Lindqvist imagines some of the biological aspects of vampirism. He imagines it as an infection that grows a second, separate consciousness that places survival above all other concerns. There's an AIDS allegory that's inescapable given the time period of the novel and Eli's desire not to infect Oskar--and, of course, given the biggest revelation about Eli (not kept in the film, also written by Lindqvist).

I'm honestly surprised--and gladdened--by what got cut out of the adaptation. A lot of more obviously horror flick aspects were left behind in order to concentrate on what really makes this story special, which is the relationship that develops between Eli and Oskar as two outcasts who instinctively desire to protect each other, even if it means harming others.

I highly recommend this one, if I can fool myself into believing people are interested in my recommendations.

1 comment:

sanford said...

Great book. I have not seen the American version. The movie did a leave out of the book or condensed some things, but that is to be expected.