Daniel's Reviews > Let the Right One In

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
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's review
Apr 05, 09

bookshelves: horror, general-fiction
Read in April, 2009

I was really impressed by this book. It's a dark and disturbing tale that is beautifully written. The characters are complex, and the novel manages to capture the essence of human loneliness more effectively than any other book I've read in the last few years. Lindqvist grants none of his characters an easy path, and takes the time to depict each of their hopes and pains. He does not flinch at showing their evils, whether it's careless alcoholism, the savage cruelty of children, or the darkness of Eli, as well as Eli's servant.

Even Oskar, the innocent young protagonist, abused by his cruel classmates, is withdrawn from the world, and has turned dark from the years of bullying. Over that time he has nursed a hatred so pure and violent in intent that it could only come from a child. He practices stabbing trees with his knife and daydreams about killing his young tormentors. Good does come into his life though, in the form of a new friend. Eli a pale, waif of a girl moves into his complex and slowly begins to befriend him, but Eli only comes out at night, and has been 12 years old for a long time.

I'm hesitant to even mention the word vampire here, because of all the literary baggage it comes with, especially in a post Anne Rice, post Laurell K. Hamilton world, where Twilight and True Blood are what people immediately think of when the v-word comes into the conversation. So let me make something clear, this is not a vampire novel, or at least it is not just that. It's a deeply moving story of human loneliness and the darkness that grows from the desperation of any outcast, and therefore a very human story, although many may find the humanity depicted in this novel disturbing.

I actually discovered it by way of the film, which incidentally, is probably the best vampire movie ever made. The book has significantly more scope than the film, as even the minor characters encountered in the movie take on a complete life of their own in the novel. However, there are times when I felt like narrative with particular characters was written primarily in an effort for completeness rather than serving the story. For example, this is a decent amount of time spent learning about Tommy and his family, when he really has very little impact on the story. It's well-written, and great character stuff, but seems like an unnecessary detour from the core of the tale. In fact, that's the only reason I don't give this book 5 stars. The extra stuff is good, but unnecessary, so the story could be tighter, but regardless its an excellent read.
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