“Let the Old Dreams Die” by John Ajvide Lindqvist (Thomas Dunne Books, 2013)

Let the Old Dreams Die

If you’ve read any books from the bestselling Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist, such as Handling the Undead, Little Star, Harbor, or his big international hit Let the Right One In, you know he’s got a knack for telling some cold, dark, scary stories. In Let the Old Dreams Die he presents international readers with his first short story collection, showing his breadth not just as a horror writer, but also as a skilled storyteller.

“The Border” is a story about illegal smuggling across an important line of demarcation, but this particular border agent has a talent for spotting and knowing when someone is smuggling, except in this case it turns out to have more to do with her than she knows. “Eternal/Love” is about what happens when your loved one is brought back from the dead, still human, but irrevocably changed. The book also features some important sequel stories, in “Final Processing” to his book Handling the Undead, and “Let the Old Dreams Die” to Let the Right One In.

The collection is a lot of scary fun, working as a good introduction for readers wanting to try Lindqvist for the first time. But it also satisfies cravings for fans: showing his full spectrum as a writer, and providing some much needed new material in various settings, revealing his skill at telling a story that will leave you unable to sleep the night you finish it.

Originally written on April 16, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Let the Old Dreams Die from Bookshop Santa Cruz, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

You might also like . . .

Let the Right One In  Handling the Undead  Harbor  Little Star

Bookbanter Column: “Zombie is the New Undead” (April 11, 2011)

You sit in your favorite chair, in your favorite room of the house: the library. Your legs are comfort- ably crossed, the temperature is just right: warm and cozy. You’re reading your favorite book on your Ipad, swiping your finger rapidly across the screen to turn the page and continue with the gripping story. You’ve tuned out the world, focused on the captivating story with the unstoppable heroine who is fighting to save the day; you know she will triumph, but you still read for the inevitable surprise. As you begin a new chapter, you finally here a scratching at the door. But you have no pets; who could it be? The scratching continues, as if whatever is on the other side is trying to claw their way through the door. It is then that you hear the deep, inhuman groaning. You put down your Ipad, fear crawling its way up your spine, as you hesitantly walk towards the door. Building up your courage – kidding yourself that it’s just your little brother playing around, but you secretly know better – you fling open the door and scream as the zombie reaches out for you . . .

Zombie. Dictionary.com defines it as “the body of a dead person given the semblance of life, but mute and will-less, by a supernatural force, usually for some evil purpose.” Wikipedia says, “A fictional undead monster or a person in an entranced state believed to be controlled by a bokor or wizard.” But if I was to refer to Night of the Living Dead, you would have a concrete image in your mind of a weak, slow-moving undead human with its arms stretched out, groaning and moaning, hungrily in search of brains. While the concept of zombies has been around for a long time, George A Romero’s cult classic brought the idea of the walking dead human back to life in a whole new way, spawning countless successive zombie movies.

28 Days Later  Shaun of the Dead

Zombies have appeared numerous times in literature, but it wasn’t until the publication of The Book of the Dead in 1989 that we first saw a collection of zombie stories, based on the premise from Night of the Living Dead. The image of the archetypal zombie described above had fully solidified in our society’s conscious. But during the first decade of the twenty-first century there was a drastic change in the familiar paradigm of the zombie, thanks to the likes of 28 Days Later (2002) and Shaun of the Dead (2004) in film, and Max Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide published in 2003, followed by his New York Times bestseller World War Z (2006).

  World War Z  Breathers

All of a sudden the zombie wasn’t a scary, slow-moving creature, but one that was an incredibly fast, terrifying nightmare, or could be funny and entertaining; a pet to be kept in your shed. It was a creature we fought a war with and barely survived. It was, jokingly, something we might one day have to face, and here were some detailed ways to protect yourself. S. G. Browne, author of the bestselling Breathers – a book about how zombies would be treated as members of society – has this to say about our contemporary zombies:

“In addition to running like Olympic sprinters and making us laugh, modern zombies are domesticated as pets (Fido), write poetry (Zombie Haiku), and have invaded classic literature (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). They can also be found on the Internet going to marriage counseling, falling in love, and singing to their former co-workers (Jonathan Coulton’s “Re: Your Brains.”) In short, they’ve expanded their range, become more versatile. More well-rounded. And who doesn’t enjoy a more well-rounded zombie? Plus, zombies are tragically comical. Shuffling along, losing their hair and teeth and nails and the occasional appendage. Add the fact that they used to be us and we can’t help but relate to them.”

And what is it about these undead that fascinates us so? Browne’s last sentence does point out an interesting fact that zombies were once people, and when we recognize the person, that is when we have issues in “putting them to rest.” But what is resonating with humanity on a psychological level to want to read and watch and experience the thrill of a living corpse coming for you? Browne continues:

“The prevailing argument I often hear describes the current popularity of zombies as a direct reflection of global fears regarding the economy and terrorism. Horror as catharsis for the fears and anxiety of a society making commentary on itself. I disagree. I believe the current fascination with zombies has less to do with economic angst and more to do with the fact that zombies have been taken out of their proverbial archetypal box. No longer are they just the shambling, mindless, flesh-eating ghouls we’ve known and loved for most of the past four decades. Today’s zombies are faster. Funnier. Sentient.”

This is but one opinion on why we enjoy watching and reading about zombies. Mira Grant, author of the bestselling Feed – set in a techie near future where a virus can turn anyone into a zombie – presents another viewpoint:

“Zombies are, in many ways, a blank slate for our fears — they let us fear illness, fear sublimation, fear the terror of the familiar becoming the alien – without admitting that those fears cannot always be fought in a physical form. And in a time when so many of the classic monsters are being sexualized and humanized, zombies are one of the only things it’s still acceptable to hate and fear on sight.”

Grant brings up an important point. The world of vampires over the last two decades has certainly been revamped (pun intended!) with the likes of Louis (Brad Pitt) and Lestat (Tom Cruise) in the 1994 adaptation of Interview with a Vampire, Angel and Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and – of course – Edward (Robert Pattison) from The Twilight Saga. While there have been a number of stories and books about “likeable” zombie characters, no true hero has been raised from the grave.

And yet zombies continue to pervade every sphere of entertainment, as well as every genre of writing, whether it’s bestselling anthologies like John Joseph Adams’ Living Dead, or Christopher Golden’s New Dead; to original novels like Brian Keene’s The Rising, Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series, or Stephen King’s Cell; to the popular graphic novel series (and now successful TV series) The Walking Dead; to international levels with Swedish author of Let the Right One In, John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Handling the Undead. To say I am barely scratching the tip of the iceberg does not do the list of zombie literature justice. Readers may want to check out the Wikipedia page on a “List of Zombie Novels” for further details.

Living Dead  Cell  Handling the Undead

Jonathan Maberry has even brought the subject of zombies to the popular world of young adult fiction with his first book in the series, Rot & Ruin. Maberry came up with the idea when asked to do a story for the New Dead anthology: “I decided to explore the experience of a teenager dealing with something vastly beyond his control. During the writing of the novella I fell in love with the characters and the world of the Rot & Ruin (which is what everything is called that’s beyond the fence line of the small town in which the characters live).” With the success of the first book, Maberry has three sequels planned, with Dust & Decay coming out in August. Even he has been surprised with the success of the “young adult zombie” novel: “It’s won a number of awards already including the Cybils and Dead Letter Award, and has been nominated for a Stoker, the YASLA and others.”

But will the zombie fascination ever come to an end? As a bookstore employee for the last seven years, I have seen the rise of zombie fiction, and while it does seem to have slowed a little, an end appears nowhere in sight. On this topic, Grant says,

“I don’t think the zombie fascination will die down or cool off until we stop being afraid of going to the doctor, of the man on the subway, of the woman with the pamphlet telling us to repent. They’re the monsters for this modern age. The vampire had a pretty good run as the biggest bad in existence — about five hundred years, give or take. I doubt the zombie will break that record, but it’s going to try.”

While John Joseph Adams, editor of the successful Living Dead anthologies, has this to say:

“I think it’s safe to say that zombies will continue to be popular for the foreseeable future. In literature, everything zombie-related has so much competition right now, however, it’s become really hard to stand out. But I think there’s a core fan-base for zombie fiction that will buy up every zombie book they get their hands on, so it’s a safe bet from a publishing point of view–i.e., put zombies in it, and it’ll sell. (The art director corollary is “Put an airship on it, and it’ll sell.) It’ll be interesting to see how things develop; if the zombie genre is going to continue to thrive, its practitioners will have to figure out ways to innovate while keeping things traditional enough so as not to alienate the existing and loyal core fan-base. Fortunately for the genre, zombies work well as a blank canvas and can be easily made to do the writer’s bidding.”

The Age of the Zombie is still alive, undead, and well, because the archetype of the zombie has been so drastically altered. Zombies are like superheroes now, in that there is little limitation to what they may be capable of. Writers are constantly coming up with new and different ways to present the living dead, whether it’s decaying family members we feel the need to aid in Handling the Undead, or the concept of a zombie prostitute in S. G. Browne’s short story “Zombie Gigolo” from Living Dead 2, or even zombie Stormtroopers in Joe Schreiber’s Star Wars: Death Troopers. Anthologies, on the other hand, help to reveal zombie stories known authors have written, but also pose a challenge of writing a zombie story by a writer not know for this genre. In fact, in five years time it is far more likely that the remaining bookstores will have an individual zombie section, separate from their horror section. It really boils down to a relatively simple concept, which Adams pointed out above: as long as there are people buying and reading zombie stories, publishers will continue to publish it, and writers will therefore continue to write it, as well as parody it. Think of it as a never ending cycle, if you will, or perhaps an undead cycle that cannot be put to rest.

Living Dead 2  Death Troopers

Author’s note: The zombie works mentioned above are just a smattering of the whole body of zombie work, covering all mediums. As a reader and movie watcher, I know I have only been exposed to a small amount. I invite readers to post comments on their favorite zombie stories, or perhaps rare ones that not many are familiar, as well as anything else they might want to mention about the living dead.

“Little Star” by John Ajvide Lindqvist (Thomas Dunne Books, 2012)

Little Star

From the international bestselling author of the chilling and horrific Let the Right One, Handling the Undead and Harbor comes a new novel that appears innocent and charming at first, but eventually leads the reader down a long dark path, covered in blood and filled with bodies.  Little Star will lull you into enjoyment and then terrify you all the way to the end.

Lennart finds an abandoned baby in the woods, left for dead.  He brings it home, feeds and looks after it, much to the reluctance of his wife, Laila.  A musical duo who have essentially disappeared into obscurity, Lennart finds a new lease of life with this baby who grows to become a beautiful young girl with a unique singing voice.  Jerry, the son, eventually looks after the girl, moving to Stockholm, after his parents suffer a gruesome end, and the child enters a national singing contest and becomes a celebrity, renowned throughout Sweden.  But she also has plans of her own, viewed through her fractured, distorted lens of a psyche, with an idea of what is good and right not shared by many others.

Lindqvist’s novel is an addictive read, much like his others, with a seemingly simple story that turns into something dark and sinister, combined with the harsh geology of Sweden, and his own unusual characters.  Little Star will keep you up late, and by then you’ll be too scared to go to bed.

Originally written on November 10, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Little Star from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“A Book of Horrors” Edited by Stephen Jones (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2012)

A Book of Horrorsstarstarstarstar

When British author Stephen Jones set out to bring the anthology that would become A Book of Horrors together, his goal was to make the world realize that the concept of the horror story and the ability to frighten and terrify readers in a number of ways is still alive and well, contrary to what the likes of sparkling vampires, hunky werewolves, and all the other former denizens of the world of terror that have now been romanticized have shown.  Jones does just this in A Book of Horrors.

The collection opens with a new story from Stephen King, “The Little Green God of Agony,” about a man who has suffered much and continues to be in constant agony from a debilitating accident he had some time ago and is still recovering from.  His physical therapist believes he just isn’t working hard enough to recover fully.  But another man believes otherwise, and he plans to bring this little green god of agony out of him.  “The Man in the Ditch” from Lisa Tuttle begins with a woman in a car sighting a dead man by the side of the road and goes from there.  The book also features a new and original tale from John Ajvide Lindqvist , bestselling Swedish horror author of Let the Right One In.  “The Music of Bengt Karlsson, Murderer” has the same feel of many of his other works, with the hard, cold landscape of Sweden, the importance of family and how it deals with loss, and what it means to live in the house where a murderer killed himself.

A Book of Horrors will be enjoyed by any horror fan, and by anyone looking to give the genre a try, as the stories range from monster to ghost to psychological; all kinds of horror are available for the reader in this collection.

Originally written on September 27, 2012 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of A Book of Horrors from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

Halloween Recommended Reads

We’re coming up on Halloween once again when everything goes spooky and dark, and we like to get scared by things.. Well, here’s a Halloween story I wrote and a list of recommended reads for kids and adults of books that will really give you some shivers . . .

Click on the image below to read the free Halloween Story

A Halloween Story


And now some recommended Halloween reads to chill your bones and make your blood freeze . . .


Among the Ghosts Coraline The Graveyard Book

Halloween Tree Rot and Ruin


Neverland I am Not a Serial Killer Feed Horns
Death Troopers
The Strain The Terror The Living Dead
Living Dead 2
World War Z Full Dark No Stars Handling the Undead
Illustrated Man Handling the Undead Handling the Undead Handling the Undead

“Harbor” by John Ajvide Lindqvist (Thomas Dunne Books, 2011)


From the international bestselling author of Let the Right One in and Handling the Undead comes another unique and moving tale.  Readers will wonder what Sweden is truly like during the winter, as Lindqvist sets this story on a remote island in the Swedish archipelago.  John Ajvide Lindqvist has created a thrilling, psychological horror novel in Harbor.

It seems at first that Harbor is an ordinary tale of loss, as the book opens with Anders and Cecilia living in a cute little cottage on the small island of Domarö with their adorable six-year-old daughter, Maja.  One winter afternoon, before dinner, they go on a walk across the snow onto the frozen channel.  There they discover an old lighthouse and go in to explore; they travel to the very top, looking out across the ice.  Maja says she is bored and goes back down, venturing out onto the frozen channel . . . then she disappears.  Anders and Cecilia looked away for just a second and Maja vanished.  They begin searching the ice and the area around, looking for her, calling for her, become more panicked by the minute.  A search is done over a number of days, but the little girl is never found.

The loss of Maja destroys the family and Anders and Cecilia separate.  Anders has problems getting back to any sort of normal life and spends more and more time in the cottage on the island, getting to know the people better and slowly lose his mind.  He begins to hear weird sounds and feels that the spirit of Maja is close by, but at the same time knows this cannot be true.  While it seems like Anders is just losing his mind over the loss of his daughter, and then the end of his marriage, it turns into something else as he learns more about the island of Domarö and the payment it has exacted from its inhabitants for many decades . . .

Harbor proves Lindqvist deserves to be added to the great horror writers of today, with his unique stories; normal, realistic characters; and his unforgettable depictions of the dark and terrifying places throughout Sweden that would be considered normal and quite beautiful, until he inserts one of his terrifying tales.

Originally written on November 20, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Harbor from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

10/13 On the Bookshelf . . . “Red Phoenix,” “Harbor,” & “The Phantom Limb”

Red Phoenix  Harbor  Phantom Limb

Looking forward to all these: we have the second book in the Dark Heavens trilogy, the new one from John Ajvide Lindqvist, Harbor, and William Sleator’s last — completed shortly before his death — The Phantom Limb.

“Handling the Undead” by John Ajvide Lindqvist (Thomas Dunne Books, 2010)

Handling the Undead

These days, with zombie media invading, attacking, and overriding the TV, big screen, and printed page like the very armies of living dead they are talking about; to make a zombie story stand out and seem original and interesting is not an easy thing to do.  Maybe it takes setting your zombie stage somewhere different and foreign, and perhaps changing the entire dynamic of how zombies are created.  Enter Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist, author of the internationally bestselling Let the Right One In, who turns to the living dead in a totally new way in Handling the Undead.

Lindqvist doesn’t waste any time setting the scene, throwing the reader straight into the story.  We’re in Stockholm and something very weird is going on: a power surge, making it impossible to turn off electronic devices, while the lights keep getting brighter.  As the minutes tick by on this hot summer night in Sweden, everyone has a splitting headache which isn’t being helped by the heat or the bright lights; nerves are frayed and anger is rising.  When it seems like one’s head might just explode, there is a final surge and then it goes black and everything returns to normal.

Then the dead come back to life.

No one knows what to do, including the zombies.  They have risen from the cold slabs in the morgue; dug themselves out of their graves; and pulled themselves up from their final resting place, looking for their home, a place of familiarity, unable to communicate and appear to be just walking corpses that shouldn’t be alive.  The families and friends of these zombies are just as confused, not knowing whether to help or run away.  The Swedish government steps in, rounding up the living dead and quarantining them until more can be found out; fears of a virus or contagion run rampant.  But this is a socialist state and the government is going to do its job and protect its people.  Rosters are created of all the dead to ensure every last one is collected.

One young boy remains unaccounted for, as his mother – who never recovered from his death – and his grandfather secret him away to a Swedish countryside cottage in the archipelago and attempt to halt the state of his decomposition and make him look more . . . human, with the use of saline and glucose solutions and lots of moisturizing cream.  Meanwhile it seems that the very recently deceased zombies do possess some faculties of communication.  It also appears that when the zombies are grouped together, people are somehow able to read each others’ thoughts, as well as the zombies presumably reading theirs.  When bad thoughts are created, the zombies turn violent.

While the ending of Handling the Undead leaves a lot to be satisfied – failing in ways that many horror books do – Lindqvist has created an interesting and different zombie story that doesn’t just seek to scare the reader, but to make them think and question what it means to be alive.  Fans of Lindqvist will enjoy this book and look for what’s to come next.

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy from Bookshop Santa Cruz and help support BookBanter.

Originally written on October 29, 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

10/2 On the Bookshelf . . . “Handling the Undead,” “Lord of Emperors” & “Sailing to Sarantium”

Handling the Undead Lord of Emperors Sailing to Sarantium

And we have the next book from John Ajvide Lindqvist after Let the Right One In, a zombie novel set in Stockholm which I simply couldn’t resist.  And the two books to the Sarantine Mosaic, in my opinion Guy Gavriel Kay’s best work, in this beautiful new quality paperback editions.

“Let the Right One In” by John Ajvide Lindqvist, translated by Ebba Segerberg (Thomas Dunne, 2007)

Let the Right One Instarstarstar

Let the Right One In is a vampire novel unlike any other, from Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist.  Fans of the movie may wish to be hesitant when reading the book, as it is far more gruesome, twisted, and disturbing than the screen version.  Let the Right One In is a story about a dead-end Swedish town, Blackeberg, set in the early ‘80s, during the Cold War, where the inhabitants go about their daily, hopeless lives.  Then there’s the subplot involving vampires.

Oskar is a twelve-year-old boy who is very disturbed.  His mother pays little attention to him, doing her best to raise him while she works everyday; as for his laid-back, hippie father, Oskar sees him all but rarely, but when he does, they are his favorite moments.  He is a chubby boy who is constantly bullied at school.  In the evenings, he spends his time in the icy-cold wooded park near to his home, stabbing the trunks of trees with his knife, imagining them as the bullies faces.  Then he meets Eli.

Eli is young girl, about his age, who moves into his apartment block with a man who isn’t her father, but has an unhealthy relationship with her that Oskar isn’t exactly clear about.  Eli is very pale, with big eyes, and never seems to be wearing enough clothing, always cold, and is confused about simple things in life that any normal person would understand easily.

Håkan is the very strange man who lives with Eli, doing absolutely everything he can to make her look at him, to touch him; for those rare moments when he gets to see her naked, they are a delight.  In return, when she is hungry, he goes out with his instruments and hunts for an unassuming subject who likely won’t be missed.  With his tank of gas, he renders the victim unconscious, hanging them upside down, slits their throat, and collects their blood.  To feed Eli.  So she will like him and perhaps touch him.

But sometimes he doesn’t bring her the blood quick enough, and she can’t wait any longer, and heads out to hunt on her own, killing, and drinking.  The bodies are discovered and the police are investigating.  Then  Håkan is caught trying to take another victim.  Meanwhile Oskar is still dealing with the bullies, wanting to fight back, to hurt them, maybe even kill them.

What makes Let the Right One In so disturbing is Lindqvist’s ordinary portrayal of everyday life activities in a doomed town, coupled with scenes of shock and depravity.  While the book ends on an unclear note and little resolution for the hopeless town off Blackeberg, dark thoughts and eerie images unavoidably continue to swirl in the mind of the reader.  It is a book that will stay with you longer after you have finished it, whether you want it to or not.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on March 19th 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.