Reading roundup

- 7 comments

Been a while since I’ve done that, but since Christmas I’ve read Let The Right One In (the book of the movie), which was awesome, a very neat take on a vampire in modern days.

Currently deep in K.J. Parker’s Scavenger trilogy (just started book 2), which is… intriguing, to say the least. The main character is Poldarn, an amnesiac who wakes up on a battlefield, and who may or may not be a god, may or may not be the most evil man on the continent–and may or may not bring the Apocalypse with him. The books so far feel like an extended puzzle box: there are bits and pieces with vivid images, and as the story progresses they get slotted into places. We learn more about Poldarn and his past, about the history of the world (which is some kind of pseudo-Roman Empire)–and through it all, there’s this definite sense of something very bad about to happen. Quite curious to see how it all ends.

7 comments

  1. I also loved Let Me In (wasn’t that the novel’s original title before the movies came out?), though a lot of plot threads with secondary characters felt ragged. (Much of that was dropped from the movie.) It’s been a while, but wasn’t it clear in the novel, in the concluding scene, that one of the kids let Eli in the window? In the non-English-language film, you can’t tell what happens, because you’re with the boy under the water, right? I didn’t see the English-language version.

    I enjoyed “Shipbirth,” by the way, as I commented on the Asimov’s forum.

    Best wishes,

    Bill
    (fellow Asimov’s writer)

  2. Bill, thanks for dropping in! And glad you liked “Shipbirth”–I followed the discussion on the Asimov’s forum, but I tend not to comment on those because I feel like I’m intruding (I’m the author, so my perspective on the story is a bit different from that of the standard reader…)
    The version of the book I have is called “Let the Right One In”; a quick scan of the Wikipedia entry–which, admittedly, isn’t the best reference ever–says that the original Swedish title was also Let the Right One In. I’m pretty sure that the phrase itself is used repeatedly within the book, a a quote from a song?
    I actually liked the plot threads with the secondary characters; they were a bit ragged and messy, but I thought we got to see a the collateral damage of Eli’s arrival into town quite neatly. The novel makes it very clear what happened at the end: that one of the kids who originally helped the bullies by getting the teacher out of the way has remorse, and lets Eli in. I haven’t seen the movie (either the American or the Swedish version)–is it any good?

    Aliette

  3. Hi there!

    I understand about watching the conversation at Asimov’s but hanging back. The author can too quickly quash discussion by bringing the “one way to read the story.” (If you’re like me, I’m often not sure how I parse some of my stories!)

    I see why I was confused about the book and film title. My translation of the novel was called Let Me In, despite that not being the original novel’s title. (And, as you point out, the line is from a song quoted in the text . . . which makes it more puzzling that they would change it.) I think the publisher fixed the title once the movie(s) came out.

    I can’t find my notes on the book, but I remember thinking the secondary plots weren’t well integrated into the larger text. We spent a lot of time with that little group that hangs out together, but I never felt that what happened to them took on more weight than one-thing-after-another. (It’s like Forster’s distinction between story (“What next?”) and plot (“Why?).)

    In the Swedish film, we do see those secondary characters, but they eat up less of the narrative and they feel much more like how you’re describing them, Eli’s “collateral damage.” Absent is the writer’s interest in using those characters to address some broader social concerns. I think the novelist also intended them to play into the fun-house mirror of relationships established in the novel, but the prose, at least in translation, never had any thematic ring to it, a lot of that just felt flat on the page and in some ways works better in film. The relationship between Eli and his guardian is less clearly built on Eli’s sexual appeal to him. The subplot about the older boy (brother of the protagonist’s friend?) who somewhat befriends our protagonist is completely cut. It’s a tighter thing, beautifully filmed, and actually less gory than the novel. As I said, though, the climax is baffling, since the camera is submerged, and you never see how Eli gets in. I knew from reading the book, but the film gave no sense of it.

  4. Hi again,

    Oh, I’m totally like you. I don’t parse my stories, or I get a headache…
    I think the American version got called Let Me In for some weird reason (maybe copyright issues?). The one on my shelves is the UK version.
    The balance between the secondary and primary was a bit skewed–not sure if it was deliberate or not, since I’m not familiar with Swedish narrative mores–but it didn’t get bad enough to bother me (except with the little group, but that’s mostly because I found them dull people to be around).
    The movie does sound like it streamlined a lot of things in an interesting way. I’ll see if I can track it down (less gory would be fine with me, too, since I don’t have much of a stomach for onscreen gore). Thanks!

  5. I also wondered whether there was something about Swedish storytelling that I wasn’t getting, though the novel seemed to build on rather conventional ideas of suspense narratives. And, yes, it was that little group of adults who bored me too, or perhaps seemed off-topic. The problem with them in the film is that, as I recall, after the fire, they drop from the narrative. It feels unresolved. The children in the film are exceptionally well cast (down to the gender ambiguity of Eli), and there’s much striking imagery.

    I really must read your “Jaguar House” story. It’s on a lot of people’s lists for “best of 2010.”

    Cheers!

  6. It does feel much more episodic–though it looks I’m more tolerant than you on that front, since having that storyline dropped after the fire just made it all feel more organic to me–more drawn from real life, if it makes sense? But I thought it took a long time for the adult group to have any relevance to the storyline (which I guess is me wanting to have my cake and eat it too…)

    And hope you enjoy “Jaguar House”!

  7. I see what you mean about the “realism” of dropping those folks from the narrative after the fire, but even realism is a stance shaped by the author’s narrative concerns . . . unless one just has a ragged approach to narrative. I think that’s somewhat your point in saying it took a while for that part of the novel to connect; it felt like the “one darned thing after another” part of storytelling (and there was a fair amount of that in the book) rather than purposeful storytelling.

    It’s been a long time: What was that strange falling-apart object Eli had? Had he been given that by the, uh, vampire king (or whatever that guy was)?

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