Friday, 26 February 2016

My last 5 books: Horror, sci-fi, and French

The first five books of the year. My promise to myself to use every bit of commuting time to read has payed off somewhat. So here are the last 5 books I've read, starting with the oldest first:

1. Låt den rätte komma in, by John Ajvide Lindqvist.
Known abroad as Let the right one in. I'm generally sceptical towards Swedish writers, but this guy has proven me wrong. I couldn't put this book down. It was incredibly gripping. I didn't like that he made so many of the characters sexually or psychologically deviant, though, I guess that has something to do with him trying to make the characters more interesting. Sexual deviance is not necessary for a character to be interesting! I liked Eli a lot more than Oskar, and especially the flashbacks were interesting. The author's take on vampirism was inventive. I have not yet seen the movie, and I'm not sure I will. Movies have a tendency to be bad compared to the book.

2. Himmelstrand, by John Ajvide Lindqvist.
Same author. This book was a lot better than Låt den rätte komma in, and it's obvious that his writing has evolved during the years between his first novel (Låt den rätte komma in) and this one. Himmelstrand was haunting and scary in the cosy creepy way. Without actually saying much until the last 150 pages, there's this overwhelming feeling that something is incredibly, terribly wrong. But just as the characters have no idea what has happened, neither do you. I love how the characters span every single version of horror movie characters: The scared ones who completely break down, the ones who become violent in the face of screaming stress, the idiot ones who think they can solve the problem by hunting it, and the ones who just resign themselves to the end and don't really care. I particularly love that the most "evil" character (if you want to use that word) is a 6-year-old. Awesome book! If this is how good his writing has become, I can't wait to read more from him!

3. Andra vägar, by Karin Tidbeck (red).
This is something as rare as a modern-day Swedish anthology of sci-fi. Ten short stories by more or less known Swedish writers fill these pages. Some of them were outrageous and weird, some of them I really liked, and some were just boring - the way things normally are with anthologies. My personal favourites were numbers 5 and 8. Number 5 is Vomb by Jessica Schiefauer about a couple who decides to have a family, by using the new technology called a vomb. The vomb makes it possible for the parents to shift carrying the baby during the pregnancy. Number 8 is Dykplats Lund by Kristina Hård about an evolved human who works in diving beneath the surface of the ocean, which in this distant year of the future has covered much of the ground we live on today.

4. Night Terrors: The Ghost Stories of E.F. Benson.
This author was active during the same years as H.P. Lovecraft, both in the horror/supernatural genre. Unlike Lovecraft Benson didn't create his own mythology of Elder Gods, and his stories mostly concerned the supernatural we know: ghosts, spritis, demons, witches and magic. Another difference is that while Lovecraft was American and most of his stories took place in New England, Benson was British and most of his stories take place in Britain. I originally started reading this book in October 2014, but you have to be in a certain mood to read anthologies and I just wasn't. Now I can't imagine why, because this book was glorious. A few of my favourites were: Caterpillars, The Cat, The Other Bed, The Temple, The Wishing-Well, The Step, The Bath-Chair, and The Sanctuary.

5. Pas si fous, ces Français! by Jean-Benoît Nadeau & Julie Barlow
This book was part of the course literature when I studied French at the university, but we only read snippets from it. I thought it seemed interesting back then and I still do. So when I needed to get into French again to prepare for Cologne, I decided to pick it up again and read it from back to back. Unfortunately I hardly had time to read while in Cologne (20 pages in total during the whole week we were there). I was very relieved when I started reading it and realised I understood practically everything, despite the fact that I had hardly used French for 3 years! So this book is written by two French-Canadians who decide to understand France. They spend 2½ years in France and this book describes what they found. They write through the perspective of North Americans and some of the time I was gaping at the book for something they did in France that I found really weird,  and some of the time I was shrugging like what the hell that's not strange, for something the authors thought was strange, but that we do in Sweden too. It's been a ride, an although this book tried to disprove the notion that France is an elitist country/community I still think it is, but I have gained more of an understanding towards their system. Unfortunately, this book is getting on in years. It was published in 2003 and is thus now more than 10 years old. I'd like to know what the authors would say to everything that has happened in France since 2010.

And that's it for now! Five books, three languages, and three genres.

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