Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Harbor by John Ajvide Lindqvist

By John Ajvide Lindqvist

On the remote Swedish isle of Domarö, a young girl named Maja goes missing. She didn't run away. She wasn't kidnapped. It's almost as if she simply vanished from the face of the Earth. The belongings she leaves behind, and the memories of her parents, are the only proof that she had ever really been there at all.

The loss of a child inevitably plays hell on life, and Maja's father Anders is certainly no exception to this rule. In fact, he's a golden example, evolving into a broken man with a broken marriage, who drinks too much and lives too little.

After a few years away, Anders returns to the island to reclaim his life and escape his metaphorical ghosts--never realizing that he's trading them in for genuine ones.

John Ajvide Lindqvist will forever be known, in one way or another, as the man who gave us Let the Right One In. He wrote the novel which inspired the film that inspired the film Let Me In. Referring to him as the Swedish Stephen King (which is done quite frequently) may be a lazy move, but that doesn't mean there's no merit in it.

The setting of a small coastal town, despite being in a foreign setting, is definitely reminiscent of some of King's work, and certain aspects of the initial haunting could have been ripped directly from some of the man's latter day writing, most noticeably Bag of Bones. And there's a minor character-based moment, in which Anders attempts to strike a bargain with his stubborn chainsaw, that I'm still not convinced wasn't ghostwritten.

Lindqvist is no mere copycat, though, as there is plenty here that is all him. It's astounding that an island so small can have such a rich and varied history, but it does, and he puts the highlights on display here. Touching on everything from the afterlife to human sacrifice, spiritual possession to magic elemental insects, it sometimes seems as if he's just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. And maybe he is, but with such a high stick ratio, the few scraps that fall to the floor can easily be forgiven.

Lindqvist raises many, many questions throughout this book, but doesn't guarantee that all of them will be answered to your liking. It feels as if the answers are there, hinted at in fragments, but are hidden somewhere between the lines. Not everything is going to be tied up in a nice little bow by book's end, so if that's okay with you, then more power to ya.

While a highly enjoyable read (I definitely intend to visit his previous books now), it's readily apparent that we Americans are not the audience it was written for. The story itself translates well, but some of the character names can be slightly daunting, and many of the pop culture references--which aren't necessary to understand the story, but would serve to enhance it--may as well have been made up by the author for as much as they mean to some of us. Bamses the Bear, anyone?

Yeah, I didn't think so.

Pick it up if you like a little cosmic chaos and craziness mixed in with your haunted horror.

Visit Lindqvist's official website by clicking HERE (English version coming soon), and order the book from Amazon by clicking HERE!

Special thanks to Kat Brzozowski of Thomas Dunne Books for the copy.



  1. This sounds promising. I've got a copy of HANDLING THE UNDEAD lying around that I've been meaning to read. Loved LTROI!

  2. Great review. I enjoyed Let The Right One In and would like to check this one out. I do remember being a bit lost at times from cultural things I didn't understand in Let The Right One In and that was my only hesitation when it came to picking up this. Based on what you've said, however, I think I will give it a try.

  3. Laughed a bunch when i read about Bamses the Bear above - being swedish an' all.

    funnily enough, it makes me want to read the book a bit... since i've stayed away from it partly because the plentifull morrisey references that are supposed be there.

    I hope Bamse wasn't mentioned in a moody part of the book tough, since it will make me giggle again. Hopefully cultural references in LTROI didnt stop people too much from liking it, and the suburb setting was easy enough to get into.

    (Bamse is a comicbook character for children. a tv series was made, will be found on youtube, if interested.)


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