Although some American movie studios are making an increased effort to release features simultaneously across the globe, there’s still a substantial “tape delay” when it comes to book releases. It’s frustrating to read an alleged John Ajvide Lindqvist tweet about turning Let Me In into a book series, while knowing that his well-received 2010 novel Little Star still hasn’t reached American shores. On Tuesday, October 2, Little Star finally gets the American hardcover release it deserves, and with this, his fourth novel, Lindqvist truly establishes himself as a horror heavyweight. Intermittently touching, disturbing, and horrifying, it’s as good a horror novel as I’ve read all year. And don’t get me started on his corker of an ending. The full review follows.
Whenever a horror author from outside the U.S. sees some measure of success, it becomes all too easy to label that person “[Foreign Country]’s answer to Stephen King”. It’s a lazily common blurb that undoubtedly sells books (4 out the 11 pull-quotes on the cover of Little Star reference King), but in the case of John Ajvide Lindqvist, it’s a comparison that’s not crazy far off the mark. Both King and Lindqvist create rich, memorable characters that quickly endear themselves to the reader––which only serves to heighten the tension when those characters encounter violence or heartbreak later in the novel. It’s a tightrope act involving loads of author/reader trust, and Lindqvist walks the line masterfully. Not to say that Lindqvist is as good as King, even on his best day, but it makes you wonder why a completely mediocre series of Swedish novels by Stieg Larsson has taken this country by storm, while a true talent like Lindqvist lingers in relative obscurity.
With Little Star, Lindqvist explores the chemistry that develops between two female outcasts. The first is an abandoned baby, found in the woods and raised by adoptive parents. At age 14 (and after a first act twist that left me slack-jawed), she competes in the Swedish version of American Idol. The second outcast is a 14-year-old female fan of Idol, and once the two connect over the internet, sparks fly. Sparks of friendship, sparks of obsession, sparks of violence. The plot of Little Star is almost indescribable without divulging the good stuff, and I’m not even sure I want to try.
Keep in mind, Lindqvist isn’t some cheesy mass-market author methodically parsing out his moments of violence in the name of pacing. Oh no. Linqvist’s shocks are as unpredictable and organic as life itself, to the point where you feel that divulging even the barest plotline to others would betray the wicked-sweet moments that he’s so carefully orchestrated. On this particular subject, I will speak no further. But readers can rest assured that Lindquist’s Little Star retains the same sick, twisted, yet strangely affectionate storytelling talent he established with Let Me In*. And that ending. Oh my.
4.5 Out of 5 Skulls
*Originally published in Sweden under the title Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In), St. Martin’s re-titled the novel Let Me In for American publication. So quit blaming poor Matty Reeves for the lost Morrissey reference.