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Let Me In

Let Me In - John Ajvide Lindqvist Either horror has changed since the last time I was a big horror reader, or I am a certified wuss.

I have read a lot of Stephen King, Peter Straub, Shirley Jackson, Lovecraft, and Poe. Heck, my first fiction sales were horror stories.

All of this prepared me for reading Let Me In about as well as a security blanket and a PowerBar would prepare me to overwinter in Antarctica.

Where do I start? Okay, how about:


Way gory. Beyond gory. Gorror upon gorror for pages at a time. Gore so prolonged that I would miss key plot points because I was reading the way I "watch" gory scenes in movies – by kind of squinting through my fingers until it's safe to look.

What made it harder to bear was that my tender sensibilities were under constant assault even during plenty of non-horror scenes.

Let me preface this by saying that I’m one of those people who's constantly averting her eyes from the repulsive details of basic existence. I know they’re out there. I deal with them when I have to, and I don’t flinch. I led a homeschooling science class in dissecting animal hearts, kidneys, and even eyeballs. Not only have I raised a child and therefore done my share of diaper-changing; I used to have a job where I had to feed small children via stomach tubes.

I know how disgusting life can be. But I don’t want to hear about, or look at, certain details. Simple as that.

I’m that annoying person who says she’s going to go powder her nose when she has to, you know, make a trip down the hall. I use the f-word like a comma, but I say “ish” rather than the s-word because the s-word is gross. So’s the word “gross.” (True story: we have a rule in my house that no one’s allowed to use the word “gross” unless you’re jokingly referring to something that is only disgusting on a non-physical level. The lizard relieving herself is “repulsive.” Mommy having to make a business phone call is “gross.” Isn’t that hilarious? Just say yes.)

Let Me In relentlessly walloped my ideals of tasteful reticence. The first chapter shows a boy in a school restroom dealing with incontinence and something he rigged up out of a piece of mattress foam. He calls it his “pissball.” Later that same chapter and in that same restroom, he is bullied until the bullies are repulsed away by a nosebleed.

I could handle that. What overwhelmed me after a while was a sort of constant, casual repulsiveness. Ordinary life in this book seems to be nothing but a series of excretions.

And there isn’t much ordinary here. There’s a lot of violence. None of it is neat, needless to say.

Again, I’m not a horror virgin. I cut my teeth on ’Salem’s Lot and Night Shift. I just reread, and adored, The Shining. These are not tidy, decorous books. But they’re A Little Princess compared to Let Me In.

So: now you know. You’ve been warned. I wish I had.

I’m still glad I read this book, and I’m grabbing the sequel, Let The Old Dreams Die, at the library tomorrow. Okay, it’s not exactly the sequel. It’s a short-story collection by the same author. But one of the stories is a sequel to Let Me In, and I can’t wait to read it. I want to know what happens next.

I also kind of want to know what happens first. I admired and enjoyed the plot of this book, but I felt that there were some holes in the origin story of the supernatural main character. And since the book acts as if the whole point of reading it is to find out just who and what this supernatural character is, I felt a bit cheated when I didn’t get a complete answer to the questions I had. I don’t want to get into spoilers, but if you’ve read it: where the heck was all the money coming from? And why did the man in the wig infect who he infected, when the whole point of the ceremony in question seemed to be avoiding the kind of contact that could spread that kind of infection?

Anyway. If you like your horror messy, grab this book. There’s a compelling story and a certain eerie beauty to be had as well. It’s just hidden behind a lot of gross ish. You’ve been warned.