I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
It is autumn 1981 when the inconceivable comes to Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenage boy is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last---revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day.
But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door---a girl who has never seen a Rubik's Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night.
Do you despise vampire stories? Do you find the living dead to be depicted as too beautiful, too powerful, too rich, too sexy altogether? Then this, my friend, is the vampire story for you!
Yes, Anne Rice had the child-vampire Claudia, but Lindqvist shows us a more realistic existence for a tween vampire. Struggling to find enough sustenance, making deals with unscrupulous humans in order to procure a meal, needing adult help to acquire & pay for shelter. On the one hand, Sweden would be a good choice of location, at least during the winter. Long nights, short days. But the summertime would be a misery of sunshine, lasting until well after midnight and beginning again shortly after the sun finally sets.
If you’ve read Scandinavian mysteries, you are already familiar with the mood of this book: dark, bleak, cold, with a clear, unromantic view of life. Scandinavian detectives are most often divorced, at odds with any children they may have, often drinking more alcohol than they should be, overworking in order to avoid their problems. Lindqvist brings a similar population to this book: a bullied tween boy who is fixated on murder stories, the bullies who are an unhappy and neglected part of a broken home, a group of older alcoholic men who merely exist from day to day, a grocery store clerk who cares about one of these men in a hopeless kind of way, a boy who is unhappy about his father’s death and now with his mother’s choice of boyfriend, and a pedophile who has taken in a tween vampire in an uneasy, unequal relationship. There is plenty of alcohol abuse, existential angst, cold weather, snow, darkness, and despair. Not the usual surroundings for the Lords of the Night!
And you know what? It works. Really well. Lindqvist takes the vampire tale back to its roots, back to being revolting corpses, with an extra dose of bleakness and cold. There’s absolutely nothing sexy about vampirism here--but a bracing dose of what their existence would actually be like. You know, if they actually existed.
An excellent book to prepare myself for the plunge into this year’s Halloween Bingo on Booklikes.