John Ajvide Lindqvist
Handling the Undead (Hanteringen av odöda; translated from the original Swedish into English by Ebba Segerberg)
Penguin Text (AU: 2nd March 2009); Quercus (UK: March 2009)
The author of the wonderfully bleak vampiric Let the Right One In explores zombies in Handling the Undead.
In the Swedish summer, it’s not just coincidence that citizens’ heads are aching. The power surges…and then nothing. But life has changed for some of the dead: they have risen.
The sudden death of author/illustrator Eva is a shock, but even more startling is her reliving – she can even speak. But as her case is so different, Eva is being kept away from her comedian husband David and their son. It’s a bad time to have a birthday, but rabbit Balthazar makes things better for Magnus – and us readers.
Grandmother Elvy and granddaughter Flora both have the Sense, but only Elvy receives a vision of the Holy Mother telling her to spread word that the End of Days is near.
When journalist Mahler hears of the reliving, he unearths grandson Elias from his grave. Mahler tries to train him to become more human, but Elias’s mother Anna is at her wits’ end.
The novel is character-driven, rather than plot-driven, and it results in a somewhat incoherent read. The characters’s reactions and emotions are believable, the Heath is delightfully creepy, and I certainly wanted my own Balthazar. But I don’t quite understand how the reliving happened, what set off the power surge, why it affected everyone, and why telepathic abilities suddenly abounded.
It’s confusing, but also a brilliant study of how humans cope in extraordinary circumstances.
P.S. A few years ago the author visited Melbourne to promote Let the Right One In. Here‘s photographic evidence that we met.