I’ve just finished two great books. Both completely different from each other, but both excellent in their own way.
Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist is the best vampire novel that I’ve read since Salem’s Lot. Set in Stockholm in the 80′s, it explores a number of dark issues: bullying, paedophilia, drugs and murder, and wraps them all about the supernatural theme. The main character, 12-year-old Oskar is brilliantly imagined, as is his new friend, Eli, the 200-year-old vampire of indeterminate sex that he meets outside his block of flats. Oskar is the kid at school that everyone likes to beat. He’s an easy target, and Lindqvist hits all the right notes when he explores the terrible world of fear and isolation that the youngster experiences on a daily basis. Eli appears to be a girl of about the same age as Oskar, she’s been trapped inside her body for a very long time, and the two form a close bond that neither has experienced before.
Lindqvist writes in a beautifully relaxed style, giving the reader every opportunity to explore the characters, and pulling the various story strands together as each life becomes entwined with the next. It would be too easy to give things away that might spoil somebody’s future enjoyment of this book, so I’ll just finish with this: buy this book – it really is something quite special.
Something completely different is A Gaijin’s Guide To Japan by Ben Stevens. As a japanophile that worked for a Japanese company for fifteen years, I was keen to see if my own experiences of the people and culture were going to be reflected in this book. Far too often books like this come across as a means of poking fun at societies with cultures that are so different to our own, but Stevens love of Japan comes through in every page, and he handles the eccentricities and unusual customs of the country in a playful, but respectful way. There were some great entries in the book and I had immense fun jumping backwards and forwards through it. It is certainly not meant to be some definitive guide to Japan, but as a fun, simple exploration of the culture it works well.