Title: Let the Right One In
Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist
Rating: Is it possible to go negative?
Review: I went to my local bookstore around Halloween and asked for a book that would scare me. The clerk recommended this one. As I'd heard such fantastic things about the movie, I felt sure this would be a good read. It isn't.
Basic plot: A pre-pubescent vampire shows up in a suburb of Sweden. Hijinks--and by that I mean death--ensue.
I asked for something that would scare. This did not. Disgust me? Yes, frequently. But scare me, no. Because god forbid any scene should pass without me knowing what everyone's bowels and penis are doing. I say penis because there are almost no women in this book, but I'll get to that.
The vampire, Eli, is spectacularly bad at being a vampire. Eli's recruited a pedophile to go out and get blood, and the pedophile is spectacularly bad at doing so. In this mythology, anyone who is bitten by the vampire itself and doesn't have its spinal cord severed becomes a vampire. Despite knowing this, and despite there being obvious ways around it (stab them and let the blood flow onto the ground, then drink it from there), Eli goes around infecting half a dozen people who, in addition to threatening Eli's life directly, make the whole keeping vampire's secret thing rather difficult. (Asquerade-may!) And we're supposed to believe that Eli has somehow made it hundreds of years, when they can't make it a month in this one stupid town without almost blowing the whole thing?
The other main character, Oskar, is a bullied twelve-year-old boy with incontinence issues (see above regarding bowel and penis focus). Oskar meets Eli, and is maybe a little in love. Oskar is also obsessed with serial killers and fantasises about murdering his bullies. This lays the groundwork for some interesting development. Unfortunately we don't get it. Oskar does stand up to his bullies, but never effectively, and remains bullied until the end of the book. Oskar also doesn't really ever deal with the moral issue of being friends with a killer. There's some revulsion, but Oskar never definitively decides it's okay, or that it's not okay--he just decides it's not as important as Eli liking him. So over the course of almost five hundred pages, Oskar gets repeatedly beat up, and still needs a protector at the end. Not so much for character growth.
The book has many other characters who all get the sort of character development horror authors love giving right before offing them. As if it will be more shocking or disturbing if we get the two-page history of that person's life first. The key amongst these are a group of drunkards. I thought they would turn out to be the key to the resolution of the plot, which would be clever, but no. They stumble about and some of them die and that's the end of it.
Then there's the enormous fail. ( I'm putting this behind a spoiler cut because some would consider it a spoiler, though the fact that it's something that can be a spoiler is itself offensive, but anyway--trigger warning. )
This book has been sitting on my floor for a while waiting for me to write up a hate review of it, and now here you are. I don't know if the movie is better or just repeats the same flaws. But do yourself a favor and skip this book. Unless your idea of a fun read is spending a lot of time inside the head of a pedophile as he masturbates to things I don't want to write here, in which case--uh, don't tell me.