Vampires – but not as we know them

We all know the typical Twilight-esque vampire, all yearning, suppressed sexuality and teenage angst – oh and a little blood lust thrown in.

Then there’s the TV series True Blood, based on the  Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris (which I love) but its sexuality is not at all repressed,  and the blood quota is pretty much up there with Carrie.

I have just discovered (ok, I’m a bit slow sometimes), a whole new twist and I loved it. Let The Right One In is by Swedish novelist John Ajvide Lindqvist. Oskar lives with his mum in a high rise building in the western suburbs of Stockholm. It’s the early eighties and he likes listening to Kiss on his Walkman, solving puzzles – including the Rubik’s cube – and pasting grisly murder stories from the newspaper into his scrapbook.

A young girl his age, Eli, moves in next door and offers him a compelling friendship and help in dealing with school bullies. But Eli is not your typical 12 year old waif, and the story grips you as it is slowly revealed Eli is a vampire. But there is no full-on sexuality, just intensity and not a fang in sight.

Some of the classic concepts of life as a vampire are there: aversion to sunlight, needing to be invited into a home and not just walk in, and the never ending quest for, shall we say, ‘food sources’, but being a vampire is almost a side issue to the emotion and intensity between these two young people, trying to make sense of their worlds as they are. The community around them is horrified by the sudden increase in murders and disapearances that start around the time of Eli’s arrival.

4 thoughts on “Vampires – but not as we know them

  1. Lila Richards 20 January 2011 / 1:54 pm

    I really like this different view of vampires. It’s what I tried to do in my recently published novel, A Different Hunger (available from A lot of the traditional vampire qualities stem from religious beliefs in good and evil, i.e. vampires dislike sunlight because they are evil and will be destroyed by the light, which is, of course, synonymous with good.
    I wanted to dispense with this sort of idea, and to look at things from a vampire’s point of view – if there really were vampires, what would life (or unlife) be like for them, and how would they manage to survive in a world where what they must do for sustenance is regarded as evil?
    In the course of thinking this through, I dispensed with quite a bit of ‘tradition’. I didn’t see any reason why vampires would need to be invited in, and I ascribe their dislike of sunlight to their being hunting creatures who operate by night and sleep by day – much like cats, and other hunting animals.
    I’m always interested in discovering how other writers see vampires, so I enjoyed reading the account of Lindkvist’s book, which I will now hunt down and read. I saw the film, and found it rather difficult, so it’s interesting to know it was based on a book – some books don’t translate so well to the screen, so it’ll be good to see the original.

  2. valerienl 25 January 2011 / 5:12 pm

    If you are sick of Twilight-ish, teenage vanpires, give Bram Stoker’s Dracula a go.I first encountered it in high school and it scared me you-know-what-less.

  3. Blaise 12 February 2011 / 12:27 pm

    I loved this book completely, beautifully written, original, complex, terrifying. Even though I’d seen the movie first, there is so much more in the book (as usual) although the movie is absolutely worth a look too.

    Lindqvest’s other books are fantastic as well. Handling the Undead is the most bittersweet take on zombies I have ever read.

  4. Jacqui 14 February 2011 / 11:36 am

    yes, Bram Stoker is the first and the best!!! I loved it when I read it as a teen, and have read it several times since then

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