(WARNING: slight spoilers ahead for “Let The Right One In”.)
If you’ve been following this blog, read my reviews on other platforms, or have even met me in person more than once, you’ll know I love John Ajvide Lindqvist. I think he writes beautiful, dark fiction, quietly subverting genre tropes (like his zombie novel being about grieving families, rather than blood and gore), while bringing that cold, bleak feel that a lot of Swedish writers are known for. So, when I was thinking about which story to review for this Short Story Sunday, I thought writing about “Let The Old Dreams Die” would be really interesting, as it’s a sequel to “Let The Right One In”...my favourite book of all time.
“Let The Old Dreams Die” was the big marketing point for the short story collection of the same name (available here), because it was touted as a sequel to Lindqvist’s most famous work. “Find out what happened to Oskar and Eli!!!” the promotional material squealed. I went into this story with quiet reservations, having loved the mix of ambiguity and inevitability of the novel’s ending - Oskar could have became Eli’s new helper, Renfield-style, or he could have become a vampire like her. Either way, his old life was over, forever. I thought spelling it out in a whole short story about the duo would be overegging the pudding, to use a British phrase. Luckily, while it is made clear what happened once the novel finished, I was delighted to find that the main characters barely feature in their own sequel. Instead, the story focuses on two characters who met because of Oskar’s disappearance - a policewoman investigating the case, and the last man to see him - and fell in love. The story chronicles their relationship; they lead a quiet but happy life together, and are wholly devoted to each other...until age begins to catch up to them, and their lives intertwine with Oskar and Eli’s one final time.
Lindqvist is at his best when he’s writing about love and death, and this story is a beautiful example of the two subjects blending - but I wonder what a reader who was picking this up as their first ever experience of a Lindqvist story would think. Part of the reason I loved “Let The Old Dreams Die” is the subtle way that Oskar and Eli are woven into the narrative; we see them through snatched, secretive moments (it’s rare that a writer can make you feel as if what he’s describing is something you were never really meant to see), culminating in a punch-to-the-gut ending that reveals their fate for certain...but part of that enjoyment stemmed from my love of the original book. I came to this story knowing some of the characters already, and wanting, despite my better judgement, to find out what happened to them. I can’t comment on whether this story would work as a solo piece, because my love of the novel has influenced my opinion so much. But, if you enjoyed the novel, this is well worth a read. The rest of the stories are amazing, too - and some will probably pop up on this blog at a later date.
I’d really like to find someone who read “Let The Old Dreams Die” before “Let The Right One In”, to see what they think. Are you this mythical beast? Get in touch!
Musings on my life as a writer.