leedock’s CBR-III Review #49-“Handling The Undead” – John Ajvide Lindqvist

I admire Lindqvist for tackling horror in a very unromantic way. What with all the sparkly vampires, lovesick werewolves and sexed up sweaty folks running from zombies, a little more gore and little less glamour are refreshing.

The basics of the plot are fairly simple. After a bizarre energy surge during a heat wave, the recently dead come back to life. What follows is how to handle that situation. Your Aunt Agnes doesn’t want to eat your brains, she just wants to get back home and carry on as she did when she was living. It is harder to vilify something that means you no harm, so how do you handle that on a personal level? When it is magnified by the thousands, how does the government handle it? How does the medical community handle the potential biohazard? A much more interesting dilemma than a mindless vessel hell-bent on munching on your cerebellum.

Lindqvist gives us three families as test studies. We get a peek at their struggle to come to terms with the impossible. Elvy is confronted with her husband who has recently died after a long illness and dementia. After years of caring for him, her burden is back on the doorstep knocking to come in. David, ironically a stand up comedian, thinks that he cannot possibly live without his wife but now finds out that it may be impossible to live with her. Mahler, a semi-retired journalist, digs his 7-year-old grandson out of his grave with his bare hands and attempts to restore him, rebuilding him like a Lego set.

An interesting premise. A new angle to an old tale. The problem is all of the things  that Lindqvist throws out there and never bothers to explain. I don’t have to have everything all tied up with a nice bow, but there are major plot points that are never addressed or dismissed in an offhanded way. Why did the dead awaken? What was the power surge, weird headache thing that happened preceding the “resurrection” and off and on afterward? A heavenly power station went on the fritz and the souls collected in the last several months were the collateral damage? That is as good a guess as any, but I shouldn’t have to guess. Also bothersome is the Armageddon angle that Lindqvist flirts with, but never fully commits to.

And the ending was ridiculous. I was sort of insulted by it.

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