Let Me In
John Ajvide Lindqvist
St. Martin’s Griffin
Trade Paper, 496 pages, $15.99
Review by Sheila Merritt
Love. Horror. Connection. Repulsion. No, this isn’t about the Twilight series: far from it. Let Me In is a look at various kinds of relationships; rife with kinky complications. The novel is laden with adult situations, often seen through the eyes of young people. Author John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In, here is reprinted and retitled to coincide with the American movie adaptation. The Scandinavian film bearing the original title was a critical and popular success; the story of a lonely bullied boy who finds meaning in his life through his vampire companion. There is a definite narrative disparity between the oddly magical cinematic fairy tale and the viscerally visual text version. In the book, vague disturbing celluloid implications dissolve into startling graphic descriptions.
To read, for example, the poetic words of an obsessed pedophile: “Real love is to offer your life at the feet of another, and that’s what people today are incapable of,” could indeed be deemed romantic if said by someone other than a sexual predator. In the universe of Let Me In, however, nothing is simplistic: Fragmented families; children wiser (and more jaundiced) than their parents; physical attraction that is unique and deeply personal. A scene, in which the sanguinary and manipulative Eli is reduced to appearing in true form, depicts the creature thus: “–there was something in her, something that was … Pure horror.” Yet, when the androgynous vampire is at its most seductive, there are comparisons to spring time. Monstrosity and gender get lost in rapture.
Regarding the book/film titles: Both the earlier and the slightly altered version are invoked in the book. A female victim of Eli, paraphrases one while contemplating the limitations of intimacy: “Don’t let them in. Once they’re inside they have more potential to hurt you. Comfort yourself. You can live with the anguish as long as it only involves yourself. As long as there is no hope.” This kind of passionate pessimism/fatalism is also reflected in the song lyrics of “Let the Right One Slip In” by Morrissey, as quoted in the novel:
Let the right one in
Let the old dreams die
Let the wrong ones go
They cannot do
What you want them to do
John Ajvide Lindqvist unflinchingly addresses finding compatibility and comfort in unfamiliar and uncanny places. His prose is excellent, his subject matter is unusual; he defies expectations. As with the characters he creates, the readers of his novel will find themselves facing something appalling yet appealing. Being open to such feelings can be disastrous or joyful. Illusions will be shattered; being open is dangerous. It’s hard to know if, and when, to let the right one in.
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