Fresh Meat: Let the Old Dreams Die by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Let the Old Dreams Die by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Let the Old Dreams Die by Let the Old Dreams Die by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Let the Old Dreams Die by John Ajvide Lindqvist is a horrifying and chilling short fiction anthology, translated from the Swedish by Ebba Segerberg (available October 1, 2013).

Before I started this collection, John Ajvide Lindqvist was a writer I knew only through acquaintance with the 2008 vampire film Let the Right One In.  The movie, adapted from his novel of the same name, impressed me a lot. It has a gritty, realistic feel, despite its supernatural elements, and it uses the horror genre both to deliver gory shocks and to develop sympathetic characters. If the book is anything like the movie, I thought when I saw it, this writer is damn good.

Suspicion confirmed. Let the Old Dreams Die is a collection of twelve stories by Lindqvist, and all the strengths that were apparent in his vampire story are on hand here.

Everything for him begins with intriguing characters. In the first tale, “The Border,” a female customs officer named Tina has a sixth sense that makes her great at her job. She can feel it in her bones when people are hiding things.  Despite her professional renown, she's a lonely person in a drab relationship— that is, until she meets a man passing through customs who upends her entire existence. This is a story that goes in a direction I didn't anticipate at all, and as it unfolds, connecting Tina's abilities to Nature, I was reminded of the classic British horror writer Arthur Machen (best known for his novella The Great God Pan). There is also a sexual component to the story that would make Clive Barker proud. It's not that the sex is especially graphic, but it is about how the needs of the body lead to unexpected transformation. “The Border” has a premise poised on the cusp of absurdity, but the richness of Tina as a person, the way you root for her as she struggles, make this story engrossing.

“A Village in the Sky” highlights another strong aspect of Lindqvist's writing— dark humor.  A man living in a high-rise in a Swedish city starts to suspect something is off about the building's geometry. As if that's not creepy enough, the building's configuration seems to keep changing. This idea of non-Euclidean, or monstrous, geometry evokes the work of H.P. Lovecraft, as does the man's fear of rats living in the spaces between the building's walls.  But that's where the story's humor comes in; even as the man obsesses over what might be wrong with his living area, he imagines this:

… an army of rats chewing their way through the concrete, perforating the building like a roll of toilet paper and causing it to give way, to lean.  Al-Qaeda rats that worked with a long-term goal. He snorted when he visualized rats in turbans and beards infiltrating the shadowy buildings of the west.      

A truly Lovecraftian creature finds this man at the story's end, but the final point about the anonymity of life in a modern, apartment complex is the larger horror. 

Angles and curves, distorted space, also figure in “Tindalos,” a novella-length tale about a mother and wife fighting to keep a lifelong fear at bay. The title comes from “The Hounds of Tindalos,” a story by Frank Belknap Long, a Lovecraft friend and disciple. Vera, the main character, actually reads the Long story as she tries to comprehend the secret behind the chewing noise that has followed her for years, but here again, what makes the story click is the naturalistic grounding under the horror. Vera has an unfaithful husband, two headstrong daughters, and memories that haunt her. The terrors she must confront seem like emanations of life itself.  As with Tina in “The Border,” you read fully engaged with the character, hoping she can find at least a modicum of peace and safety in her life.

An aspect of these stories that I loved is how they exhibit sympathy for outsiders. Misfits are Lindqvist's people. Let the Right One In used a vampire tale to explore a relationship between a bullied twelve year-old boy and a vampire girl who comes to protect him. We are completely on their sides when they wreak havoc on the boy's enemies. These stories do something similar. In every one, Lindqvist makes us care about people at odds with the mainstream world. As his narrator in “Equinox” says of her husband:

I liked him because he was simple and imperfect, damaged like me. Another human being.

She's being honest about herself, that's for sure. “Equinox” is the collection's most chilling story, a look at a woman who becomes enamored of a dead male body in a neighboring house. What's remarkable is that her feelings are believable, even though she has a solid marriage and devotes herself to her kids. The ordinary just isn't enough. Indeed, many of the characters in this book strive for something beyond the everyday, and Lindqvist fearlessly follows them there, consequences be damned. A refusal to abide society's rules certainly animates the women in “Majken,” who take their credo from The Smiths's song “Shoplifters of the World, Unite.”  This is one of my favorite stories in the collection, more a weird crime tale than a horror tale per se, its power is fueled by a spirit of revenge against economic imbalance:

Majken drew a breath and asked, “Dolly. Do you think that life has been fair to you?”

“That depends on what you mean by fair.”

“No splitting hairs now. Life, society, people, whatever you want to call it.  Has it or they given you what you deserve? Have you been able to shape your life the way you wanted to, or have you always lived under the kind of pressure that stems from the necessity of making money for others?        

Weird fiction with a political slant? Well, sort of. And the same applies to the zombie epic, “Final Processing,” in which a young man besotted by a rebellious woman helps the woman in her quest to aid victimized zombie hordes confined by shadowy corporate forces. This is the bloodiest story of the bunch, as well as a sequel to Lindqvist's novel Handling the Undead, and it serves to highlight Lindqvist's weaknesses as well as his strengths. When Lindqvist delves deep into character and lets his stories evolve from a person's anguish and obsessions, he is at his best. In overall plotting, and in some cases endings, he can be less compelling. But it's obvious that he has a lively imagination, and what I found most refreshing about these tales is that I couldn't predict in a single one where the narrative thread would end. The stories take odd detours and turns and keep you off balance. In a genre overstuffed with predictable tropes and cliched patterns, he calls upon horror's traditions to convey a confidently personal vision.

It's a wet vision, by the way, and I mean that literally. Water figures prominently in a number of these stories, and it's not exactly water as the bringer of life.  In “Eternal Love,” for example, the sea takes on a malevolent force that dictates the choices of the two main characters, and I was somehow not surprised to learn, on reading up about Lindqvist, that his own father drowned several years ago. 

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the collection's title story, a follow-up to Let the Right One In. Horror in this tale is only alluded to; the story focuses on a subway ticket seller from Blackeberg (the town where the vampire novel took place), a police detective who investigated the vampire attacks, and a train ticket collector who lived through the events. I found this story to be a poignant meditation on love, aging, and friendship, and it concludes in a way that is both beautiful and chilling.  It also brings closure to certain points that the novel left open.

I read part of this book at night while camping out on Cape Cod.  I'm sure that added to my tension as I read, but mostly the scares and disorientation resulted from Lindqvist's skill alone. He's a topnotch practitioner of the weird/horror tale, his hits in this book far outnumbering the misses. It had been a while since I read any horror (a genre I've loved since childhood), and I was glad to reconnect with the monsters and frights through a writer at home in the realm of fear.

This Sweepstakes has ended.

To enter for a chance to win an advanced reader copy of  Let the Old Dreams Die by John Ajvide Lindqvist, make sure you're a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

TIP: Since only comments from registered users will be tabulated, if your user name appears in red above your comment—STOP—go log in, then try commenting again. If your user name appears in black above your comment, You’re In!

Let the Old Dreams Die Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry  at https://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2013/09/fresh-meat-let-the-old-dreams-die-by-john-ajvide-lindqvist-ebba-segerberg-anthology-thriller-nordic-invasion-short-story-international beginning at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) September 30, 2013. Sweepstakes ends at 1:59 p.m. ET October 7, 2013. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law.  Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

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Scott Adlerberg lives in New York City. A film nut as well as a writer, he co-hosts the Word for Word Reel Talks film commentary series each summer at the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival in Manhattan. He blogs about books, movies, and writing at Scott Adlerberg’s Mysterious Island. His Martinique-set crime novel, Spiders and Flies, is available now from Harvard Square editions at Amazon, B&N, and wherever books are sold.

Read all posts by Scott Adlerberg for Criminal Element.

Comments

  1. L L

    Sounds intriguing

  2. Jody Darden

    I have been on a short story jag recently and this collection sounds great.

  3. Gordon Bingham

    Let the frights begin…

  4. Linda Deming

    I really need an interesting short story book to carry with me for the times
    when I have to Wait on Dr. Aoppointments, car oil changes, ect.

  5. Michele Carvalho

    I would love to read this.

  6. Chris Noe

    Sounds like a good read and I would love to win it.

  7. Shannon Baas

    Looks like a good book.

  8. tony parsons

    luv 2 read this book

  9. Margot Core

    I loved ‘Let the Right One In’ (the original Swedish version!)

  10. David

    I’m always on the look-out for non-US works, especially short story anthologies. This looks perfect.

  11. Kay Gornick

    I’ve been reading a lot of translations lately, but mostly detective/crime. Let’s try something new.

  12. Kat Emerick

    sounds good!

  13. Saundra K. Warren

    Love to try someone new!

  14. maryrobinson

    Sounds like a wonderful read!

  15. Mike zinn

    Sounds like a great collection. Can’t wait to read it.

  16. Joshua Atkins

    Loved Let the Right One In, can’t wait to give this a read.

  17. Charles Fraker

    I really liked Let The Right One In and Handling The Undead so I’m looking forward to this short story collection. Thanks for the contest.

  18. Laurence Coven

    This looks like it could be a really fantastic new book

  19. Desmond Warzel

    Count me in, please!

  20. Eva Moller

    I would love to read this one.

  21. Barbara Lima

    Oh, I want to read about a world and people that are little not as it seems.

  22. Fred Gillis

    Count me in.

  23. Mike Rogers

    Looks great!

  24. Richard Edmundson

    yes please

  25. Deborah Dumm

    Sounds like a great book. My library will have to get this book for me to read.

  26. Michele Amos

    Sounds great! Look forward to reading it.

  27. Karen Terry

    It isn’t often I read short stories, but this sounds really good.

  28. erin f

    sounds awesome! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  29. Vicki Hancock

    Sounds like a great book.

  30. Ilene Harris

    Can’t wait to read it.

  31. Michael Carter

    Sounds great.
    Please enter me.

  32. sweetjudyblue

    Would love to read this!

  33. Lori Myers

    Can’t wait to read this

  34. Jennifer Higgins

    Let the Old Dreams Die appears to be a must read. Thank you for the chance.

  35. Susan Newman

    I love horrow and thriller books! Can’t wait to read this!

  36. Jeffrey Tretin

    Thanks for the giveaway. Can’t wait to read it.

  37. Donna Bruno

    Looks like a great anthology- I’d love to win it!

  38. Dorothy Newmark

    This is a fantastic giveaway for Halloween!!

  39. Judy Woodruff

    Wold love to read. Thank you!

  40. Pam Howell

    I loved Let hte Right One In. I didn’t know it was based on a book. Now I have to go find that one and then read this one too. Fabulous.

  41. Lisa Richardson

    This sounds really interesting!

  42. Allan Culmer

    I love anthologies, would fit nicely in my book shelf after I read it.

  43. ravensfan

    Would love to win and read this one.

  44. Richard Derus

    This one is a big winner, too!

  45. Allan Culmer

    I would love to win this book.

  46. Rosemary Krejsa

    This books sounds very interesting. I would love to read it.

  47. alicia marie

    Definitely going to be reading this book : )

  48. Joyce Mitchell

    I enjoy short stories – thanks for the chance to win.

  49. Carl Ginger

    This looks like a great collection, would love to read it!

  50. susan beamon

    I have enjoyed Lovecraft’s writing. It would be interesting to see what another writer does with the style.

  51. Karl Stenger

    I love his books

  52. MARY Mclain

    I would like to read this book.

  53. Janice Milliken

    I am prepared to be scared!

  54. Cairine Stade

    Goosebumps already!

  55. Nancy Zahar

    Count me in, thanks

  56. Mary Ann Brady

    Would love to read this. Thx.

  57. Marisa Young

    Great book to read the month of Halloween

  58. Robin Weatherington

    Woo, sounds chilling

  59. Darlene Hampton

    love a good mystery..

  60. Joanne Mielczarski

    I do want to read this book – thank you for the opportunity.

  61. Tricha Leary

    sounds great

  62. Lori JB

    Sounds like another great read!

  63. Marie-Louise Molloy

    [b]Time to win, would like to finish the book~LOL!! [/b]

  64. Bruce Hamilton

    I don’t read many short stories but all of these look interesting.
    Bruce

  65. Emily Bronstein

    Fingers crossed!

  66. Connie Saunders

    Pick me! Pick me!

  67. Megan Mariner

    I loved “Let the Right One In” and “Handling the Undead”! I eeked out loud when I saw this article about another release from him!

  68. Jackie Wisherd

    I would enjoy reading this book.

  69. Steven Wilber

    Looks good… Count me in…

  70. Linda Kish

    I would love to read these stories.

  71. Dana Mollica

    I didn’t know “Let the Right One In” was orginally a book! I’ll have to check out the book and Mr. Lindqvist’s other works.

    This story collection sounds great too. 😀

  72. Tiffany Duncan

    This looks really good.

  73. Jo Mansfield

    BOY!!CAN’T WAIT TO SINK MY TEETH INTO THIS ONE!!HEEHEE!!:):)

  74. Lynn Jarrett

    I look forward to reading this one!!

  75. Cindi Hoppes

    The cover of this book certainly grabs my attention…
    Also, the story line is very enticing!
    Many thanks, Cindi
    jchoppes[at]hotmail[dot]com

  76. John Clark

    This author’s other books have been quite popular at the library I manage, winning a copy would make lots of folks happy.

  77. Randy Franco

    Love his work.

  78. Mary Lauff-Thompson

    Sounds good!

  79. Crystal Blackburn

    I’d love to read this book.

  80. Reginald Sandifer

    I love anthologies and collections. So much good stuf to choose from.

  81. ronframpton

    looks interesting

  82. Phoenix Vie

    An interesting writer.

  83. Dale

    I am looking for new short stories. This one looks good.

  84. lynette barfield

    Sounds good would love to have a copy

  85. g. penrod

    good sounding

  86. elizabeth findlay

    This book will keep me up at night for sure.

  87. Shannon Sanders

    Perfect for October!

  88. Kris Kaminski

    just a little off center, love it

  89. sue brandes

    Sounds really good.

  90. Brenda Jordan

    great story!

  91. Johanna Bouchard

    would love to win! sounds like an awesome read!!

  92. Vicky Boackle

    sounds fun to read during the daytime.

  93. Elizabeth Bevins

    Thanks for the chance to win this book. Sounds compelling!

  94. Janet Martin

    Look forward to this–loved Let the Right One In!

  95. dawn k

    great

  96. Cheryl English

    Sounds fantastic. Please include me.

  97. melissa brown

    pick me!

  98. The Green Yak

    Perfect for October, it looks like!

  99. vicki wurgler

    horrifying and chilling-that does sound good

  100. Donna Leggate

    I’m looking for a good book to settle down with and this would be perfect for this time of year. Thank you. :o)

  101. John Maline

    I could get into this one!

  102. Melissa Firpo

    I would love to add this book to my collection and read/review it! Right my alley.

  103. Michelle Fidler

    Sounds interesting and it would be somthing different for me.

  104. Loren Palmer

    all about the horror stuff.(cool)

  105. Karen Hester

    a new Swedish author for me – I enjoy reading his book

  106. Joan Woods

    A new book and new author for me. Would love to win the book.

  107. Deb Mosora

    Sounds like something I would like to read!

  108. Tawney Mazek

    This sounds certainly sounds as if it is horror done right. (Have yet to see Let the Right One In – maybe I should read it.)

  109. Sharon Kaminski

    I would love to read this book, thanks.

  110. Christine LaRue

    I enjoyed “Let The Right One In” immensely and would love to check out more of Lindqvist’s oeuvre. (My late Swedish godmother’s name was Ebba.)

  111. Florry M. D.

    Let the Old Dreams Die by John Ajvide Lindqvist sounds so intriguing. Would like to win & read it.

  112. Heather Martin

    Short stories are fun way to judge a writer’s skill, and whether you will enjoy their long form.

  113. Elizabeth Swanson

    Ooh ooh… love short stories and love this genre!

  114. derek

    This is clearly a good one.

  115. MaryC

    Sounds like an interesting collection of short stories.

  116. Jeffrey Malis

    Thank you for the opportunity!

  117. Merikay Noah

    His books always give me such a serious case of the creeps – I can hardly wait to read this one!

  118. john frost

    Loved Let the Right One In. Would love to read these.

  119. Linda Peters

    Swedish authors rock, thanks

  120. Colleen Welander

    Ooooo. Pick me. Pick me.

  121. hank19

    I would like to win thisone!

  122. tony parsons

    just in X for Halloween

  123. teresa sopher

    I find myself more and more attracted to short stories and novellas.

  124. Joyce Benzing

    Looks good!

  125. Charles Volstad

    I like that it was translated from Swedish

  126. Sarah Marshall

    Sounds great!

  127. Mike Rogers

    Looks really interesting.

  128. Melissa Keith

    THIS BOOK SOUNDS AWESOME! Every year around Halloween I try to win a scary book. Sometimes yes…sometimes no. It’s the people who say ‘no’ that I want to bite. 😉 Please send me ‘thrilling and chilling’!! Btw, I’ve seen LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. Loved it.

  129. Daniel Morrell

    sounds like a good one!

  130. Heather Deluna

    Sounds like the perfect item to give myself a bit of a scare!

  131. Linda Lockhart

    I really like this author. I thought Let The Right One In was exceptional. I’m looking forward to reading more of his work.

  132. kathy pease

    Thank you for the great giveaway please count me in 🙂

  133. patricia lambert

    sounds like a really good story

  134. Bob Keck

    I didn’t know this was the same author as ‘let me in’. I’m in! thanks for sponsoring this.

  135. Leisa Wooten

    I would love to have this book!! Sounds like my kinda reading!

  136. Brenda Elsner

    This sounds like a very interesting book!!

  137. SALLY GASS

    GREAT AUTHOR MY MONEY IS ON GREAT READING SO I AM TAKING ALEAP TO WIN,THANK YOU.

  138. Denise Sachs

    This would be great!

  139. keith james

    thanks for the chance

  140. Suzanne Rorhus

    Intriguing!

  141. Lisa Ahlstedt

    I love Swedish mysteries, so I’m eager to read some horror “pa svenska” (or in English, since it’s translated!).

  142. Mary Ann Brady

    Oooooo. Sounds great!! Thx.

  143. Carl White

    [b]Hello, I like books.[/b]

  144. Wayne Lecoy

    I am entering your giveaway.
    It would be great [b]to win an advanced reader copy of [/b]
    Let the Old Dreams Die [b]by John Ajvide Lindqvist.[/b]
    This looks like an interesting book.
    Thank you for having this giveaway!!!!!!!!!

  145. Karen Koziczkowski

    Sounds like a real page turner, can’t put it down book. Snow will be falling soon, will need something like this for the days of reading under a warm blanket on the couch.

  146. Regina Marlborough

    sounds great. limited run anthology series?

  147. shawn manning

    Have been meaning to get around to reading some of his stuff.

  148. Ed Nemmers

    I would like to read the work of John Ajvide Lindqvist!

  149. Chuk Goodin

    I loved all his previous books.

  150. Susan Smoaks

    thank you for the chance to win!

  151. Buddy Garrett

    It sounds like a great read. Thanks.

  152. Frank Polgar

    Sounds like an interesting read.

  153. Sand Lopez

    I would love to read this!

  154. LeAnn Knott

    It looks like a read for a night when i am not home alone! Thanks for the chance to read!!

  155. Mihaela Day

    I would love to read this.

  156. Reginald Sandifer

    Looks to be a good colection of spooky!

  157. Mark Williams

    love to win

  158. Vernon Luckert

    Would love to win this one!

  159. SherryKaraoke

    I loved Let the Right One In when I read it. I look forward to this collection.

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