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review 2017-10-22 18:15
Little Star, by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Little Star: A Novel - John Ajvide Lindqvist

After seeing the recent adaptation of Stephen King's It, I was inspired to delve into a big, fat horror novel (I already read It a few summers ago); plus, 'tis the season. John Ajvide Lindqvist has been referred to as Sweden's Stephen King, and I can see why. What I like most about King's writing is his characterization: characters feel like real people, no matter how fantastical, or evil. Little Star is my second Lindqvist novel, and he has a similar gift for creating engaging characters.

 

In some ways, though, I find his horror even more frightening than King's. He has a way of providing the details that are often skipped over in horror movies, such as the way the human body reacts to terror. Acts of violence are shockingly brutal (early in the novel a husband savagely breaks his wife's kneecap). He also appears to be interested in children as protagonists, especially girls. Little Star, like Let the Right One In, the other Lindqvist novel I read, features two children as the characters who drive the narrative. One (Theres) does not seem to be quite human (like the vampire in the latter novel), while the other (Theresa) is a human who is an outcast (like the boy who befriends the vampire). Each one's story is told separately at first, including their parents' points of view, until they meet--virtually and then in person. At this point we know the two will be frightening together.

 

Much of this novel details the angst and alienation of young girls, which can be painful to read if you're a woman who felt like an outsider at some point during your childhood. That alienation is weaponized; it's a freight train whose collision you can't stop but also can't look away from. It reminded me of Dietland, which I read a while ago and is not a horror novel, or even Kill the Boy Band and The Girls. I suppose I'm drawn to stories where patriarchal suppression erupts in violence.

 

I was left with a question or two, including Theres's origins (she's left to die as an infant in a forest before being discovered) and the red smoke she and the girls feed on. I also wanted a bit more of Theres's adoptive mother's perspective at the beginning.

 

Despite these questions, this novel shocked, disturbed, and awed me. I tore through it. AND I learned about several Swedish pop stars!

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review 2017-08-11 02:56
Harbor - John Ajvide Lindqvist

This memorable story is perhaps...a bit too long.

 

When people say that, is it normal to know what should be cut, edited out?  And if a reader doesn't know exactly where a book is too long--where sections should be cut, so that..."ahh! that's much better! you get rid of those bits, and the book is better!'--if I don't know what should be jettisoned, do I have any right to just say "well I dunno...it's just too long and that's all I have to say about that. case closed. so there.".

 

The only thing I can tell you is: for a book that seems to be at heart a story about a father's search for his missing child--possibly made missing by malevolence of a supernatural nature--we certainly get everything but the kitchen sink. strike that--several scenes are at or near various kitchen sinks. One might say that Simon--a magical, enigmatic presence in the book, with special, slimy little pal in a matchbox who grants him power over water--almost seems to want to emerge as the star player. But then his storyline fades a bit, moves aside for Anna-Greta, who moves aside as required, so we can meet more characters who are very important in long flashbacks; maybe these characters are still around, in the present-day setting, or not. There's a lot to cover, and it is hard to see where the focus of the story really lies, at times. And just when it feels like the entire community is the "main character' (and somehow at odds with some old curse, or ancient force, that has staked a claim on, perhaps, all the various souls that make up the doomed harbourtown and adjacent island), just when a reader says "ah-ha! the magic key: I'm being given everything, because everything is important! It's all One!"...just when peace is achieved with the book's vast, all-encompassing scope with its myriad cursed kitchen sinks from which haunted, transformative water gushes forth...the book does a dirty and boils itself way down to Anders searching for little Maja again. And a reader shrugs, and thinks: "okay, well, most of what came earlier is somehow linked to this, has fed into this, mostly...".

 

And so, that's the negative way of looking at it. But it's a 4 Star book. Why? Because even when I wandered around--at the author's insistence--getting to know anything of any significance that is happening, or did happen, in and around Domaro, and feel like Anders doesn't know how to take the lead in his own story (and occasionally feel like Simon started strong and then faded), it's a beautiful, compelling read. It doesn't go off the rails; it's just a really big heavy train, that certainly cannot be accused of being one-track-minded.

 

So if you like a Horror novel that makes sure the macrocosm is always taken care of and on display, no matter how much the microcosm is ultimately the real juice (ie. Anders' plight), the sweep of Harbor will work for you as much as it ended up doing for me. And it is fair to say--in the end--that everything Anders does to try and rescue Maja, if that's even feasible after her impossible disappearance into thin air near a creepy lighthouse one day, will affect Domaro and everyone who lives there...and, maybe, even those who once lived there. Some monsters can wreak stranger havoc than others...

 

Beautifully done, if a bit tough to see, at the end, how it all fit together and contributed, in its many parts, to the whole. Of all the Ramsey Campbell books this reminds me of, I am left thinking back to John Crowley's Little, Big, in terms of final feelings: "it's a gorgeous tale, but there sure is a lot of gorgeous to sort out.".

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text 2017-08-10 14:55
Reading progress update: I've read 370 out of 500 pages.
Harbor - John Ajvide Lindqvist

extended flashbacks reveal the strange, grisly fate of Anders' father--but also, how Anders and Cecilia bonded. meanwhile, in the present situation at Domaro, the older, broken Anders seems to be undergoing a sort of madness that brings with it a cruel kind of clarity, but other residents are just going mad. violently mad. is anyone themselves anymore?

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text 2017-08-10 03:08
Reading progress update: I've read 326 out of 500 pages.
Harbor - John Ajvide Lindqvist

I didn't do 50 more pages of this tonight, like I thought I would. instead...20 pages, and a bit more of that Martin Edwards book. Harbor reminds me more of Ramsey Campbell than Stephen King, at this point--specifically, Campbell's slower, moodier efforts, such as The Darkest Part Of The Woods, or Midnight Sun. if things slow down too much, I'm not inclined to give 5 stars, but we're still talking about some effective Horror, in these cases. Ramsey Campbell's The Hungry Moon also comes to mind as I get deep into Harbor, but I think that book had gotten a bit more intense and openly nasty, by this point in the proceedings. other books that have come to mind as I have enjoyed this book: Bag Of Bones (yes, that King yarn did occur to me, although I'm enjoying this a lot more, and it has gone in a somewhat different direction); The Shipping News (an odd one to suddenly recall...or, maybe not so much); Hex (still very fresh in my mind); Dan Simmons' The Terror, and even some rather chilly Murder Mysteries, like The Coldest Blood (Kelly), and The Ice Princess (Lackberg).

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text 2017-08-10 00:54
Reading progress update: I've read 306 out of 500 pages.
Harbor - John Ajvide Lindqvist

so now I'm at the point where I can't describe the latest horrors occurring in this book, because I don't want to give spoilers. the book has been unfolding towards its final metamorphosis, and although the true nature of exactly why certain supernatural things are happening has yet to be fully revealed, the terrible truth is trickling out from the folds...

 

shall likely read another 50 or 60 pages of this tonight, just to see what's, uh, shakin' (me, maybe).

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