Sweden’s emerging mästare of horror John Ajvide Lindqvist’s sophomore book, Handling the Undead is bound to be compared to his first book, Let the Right One In, so let’s get that comparison out of the way right off. In comparison, I enjoyed Let the Right One In more. But I would venture out onto a limb and say that the reason I enjoyed it more than Handling the Undead was because I read the latter stupidly expecting a transplant of the former, with zombies instead of vampires. Such are the perils of commercial success: people build up certain expectations. Sophomore efforts that haven’t lived up to consumer expectations have cut more than one promising career short.
But wait! I have good news! That’s totally on me, not because of any shortcomings in Lindqvist’s second book.
Handling the Undead is a great book, one that will have you turning the pages at the same breakneck pace the story moves at.
Between the covers, you’ll get Lindqvist’s signature blending of character and situation. With the recent deluge of zombie fiction focusing on the survivors or patient zero origins, Lindqvist limits the phenomenon of the “reliving” to just over a thousand. This is a story about far more than reanimated corpses lumbering after panicked humans. This is a love story for the three groups of main characters who try to cope with their loved ones returning from the dead. It’s an allegory about what we do with those denizens of the fringes of society who we don’t understand and don’t know what to do with. Other than a couple gore scenes, this is subtle horror at its best, one which makes us confront the fragility of human life and the ultimate horror of what lies beyond it.
With Handling the Undead, John Ajvide Lindqvist proves that he can do anything, and do it well, even when everyone around him is doing it to death.