"Let the Old Dreams Die" Book Review
Written by Karin Crighton
Published by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press
Written by John Ajvide Lindqvist
2013, 416 pages, Fiction
Released on October 1st, 2013
There’s something beautiful about the melancholy of Let the Old Dreams Die. Granted, it is depressing as six months of darkness near the Arctic Circle, but in a poetic way. John Ajvide Lindqvist is a master of turning flowing language into gripping tentacles, a rolling ocean into a smothering blanket, and my sunny day into a grim nightmare. Let the Old Dreams Die is a masterful and unsettling collection of short stories written over the past five years; I’ll highlight a few favorites but I don’t want to give away any major spoilers since I think this work deserves to be read with all its disturbing surprises.
According to his cheerfully rambling afterword, "The Border" is the author’s favorite, and I can see why. It’s unexpected; a mystery and a love story and despite the presence of otherworldly creatures, it tells a remarkably human story.
"Eternal/Love" was by far the most upsetting for me. It starts so cheerful and hopeful that you know nothing good can come of this optimism. Josef’s obsession with defeating death grows so exponentially with each page turn that one feels the pain of his abandoned wife Anna. The sequel to Let the Right One In isn’t quite what I anticipated. Not quite enough vampires for my taste, but Lindqvist errs on the side of realism to monsters.
I hated "Equinox". That’s not to say it wasn’t excellent. I actually enjoy stories where you cannot tell if you are going insane or the world has gone insane around you. Maybe that’s why I hated it, I couldn’t tell who was more insane.
In fact, the brilliance of Linqvist’s horror is the realness that surrounds the surreal. Each character that faces the extraordinary is concurrently facing the mundane awfulness of real life; a cheating husband, a distant father, the loneliness of weekend parenthood. That humanity that pain brings to each character makes them achingly real and sympathetic; I’ve not felt for the desperation of a fictional person’s life in a long time. What’s curious is that even a child’s recollection of a frightening camping trip has a hint of this lingering sadness. I know little about Sweden, but I have read that despite an excellent healthcare system and stable government they have a startling high suicide rate among the middle aged. I can’t help but draw a parallel to the tone of these stories, though I’m sure as an outsider there is great deal more than meets the eye in this case. In spite of these being horror stories, and in spite of there being true fear at death and the undead, there is still a reverence of death as an alternate and transcendent state rather than something horrifying in itself. "Final Processing" bests captures this idea. Linqvist’s description of death is beyond beautiful; captivating, gentle, and desirable.
Just like Let the Old Dreams Die.