Tag Archives: Sweden

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Author: Jonas Jonasson/Translator: Rod Bradburythe-100-year-old-man-who-climbed-out-the-window-and-disappeared

My rating: 4 of 5

On his one-hundredth birthday, Allan Karlsson finds himself in a nursing home with a big party planned in his honor. If only they had deigned to ask what he wanted! Allan would much rather have a bottle of vodka to enjoy–something that is, in fact, forbidden in the home. In that case, it’s time to stop sitting around. Allan climbs out the window of his room and embarks on quite the adventure, one including murder and elephants and, of course, vodka. Not that it will be the first adventure of his long life.

I first discovered The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared through a review by Paul@The Galaxial Word (which you should check out; it’s excellent). It seems that this is a book which inspires rather polarized opinions in either direction. Personally, I enjoyed it, but I think you have to come at it with the right expectations. Because this book is, essentially, an extended tall tale, a larger than life story that’s meant to be fun and funny but that can’t be taken too seriously. The humor is rather dark, I must warn; there’s some violence (actually, quite a bit) scattered throughout the story as well. I found that, while I didn’t exactly like the characters, they were interesting and they all contributed to the story. As for the plot, it’s a fascinating blend. Half of the time, you get a present-day romp through contemporary Sweden with this old man and the people he picks up along the way sending the police and the papers on a merry chase. The other half, scattered between the present-day chapters, is a historical progression through Karlsson’s long and storied life. It shows his intimate involvement–brought about by his coincidental presence in most circumstances–in numerous high-profile situations throughout the years. Obviously, such involvement is highly improbable and historically unlikely (a common complaint that I’ve heard). Duh. It’s a tall tale; it’s meant to be improbable and unlikely. I did enjoy the close-up walkthrough of those historical events though. I guess what I’m getting at is that, while it’s not for everyone, I personally found The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared to be enjoyable, and I’m planning to check out others of the author’s books (which all seem to be just as ridiculously titled!).

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Let the Right One In

Author: John Ajvide LindqvistLet the Right One In

Translator: Ebba Segerberg

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Warning: Mature audience

If you had to define Oskar in one word, you’d probably pick something like “pathetic”. Even he knows it; the other kids at his school definitely know it and take full advantage. Mostly, Oskar keeps to himself, making believe he’s someone with more power, more skill than he really has. Until one night, out at the jungle gym, he meets an intriguing girl by the name of Eli. She’s like no one he’s ever met before: smart, mysterious, making him want to be more than he is. And knowing Eli changes Oskar in ways he never expected. Meanwhile, the entire, well-ordered community is abuzz with horror at some “ritual killer” who’s been going around committing macabre, unexplained murders. And Oskar’s view of the world begins to unravel as he gains suspicions that this ritual murderer is somehow linked to the girl he’s coming to care about and rely upon.

Wow. I have to say that Let the Right One In is a pretty incredible book. First, let me get this out there: this book contains sexually explicit content, attempted rape, pedophilia, alcoholism, drugs, language, violence, murder–it’s solidly an R-rated story, so don’t read it unless you’re an adult and you’re prepared for that. But . . . it was a great story in spite of all that. I have to admit that, for maybe the first chapter, I totally wasn’t sold. I didn’t like the characters, and I really didn’t see where the story was going. But once I pushed past that and got to where things started moving, I was utterly sucked in. The balance of horror and pathos is perfect–a minuscule step to either side, and it would collapse, but as-is, it works beautifully. The pacing is a little slower than I’m used to for a “horror” or “thriller” story; it reminds me more of, say, Stephen King’s writing in that regard, like the build-up in Carrie, for instance. And even though this is a “vampire story”, it totally doesn’t swing into the realms of contemporary vampire writing at all–it holds the classic Dracula mythos while adding its own set of unique details to the blend. This book’s use of multiple different perspectives, while it can get a bit old, actually works quite well, showing the interlinking of various individuals’ stories in the bigger picture to great effect. But I have to admit, the part I was most drawn to was definitely Oskar and Eli’s story, particularly the way these two grew together and grew as individuals after meeting each other. Which isn’t to say their relationship is a goody-goody “be a better person” sort of relationship at all; they’re neither of them great examples of morality. But maybe that is also a part of their draw to the reader. . . . In any case, for those mature readers who enjoy a chilling, detailed story with a bit of a fantasy/horror flair, Let the Right One In would be an excellent choice to try.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Author: Stieg Larsson

Translator: Reg Keeland

Reeling from his conviction of libel (which he is convinced was a setup), journalist Carl Blomkvist makes a temporary retreat from the public eye. But that doesn’t mean he’s given up, by any means. He’s been offered a job by wealthy industrialist Henrik Vanger to research and ghost write the Vanger’s family history–with a significant financial reward at the end in addition to the promise of information that will prove Blomkvist was right about Wennerström (the man he was accused of libeling). But there’s a catch: Blomkvist also has to promise to investigate the disappearance of Vanger’s niece–a disappearance that occurred over 40 years before!  Joined by Lisbeth Salander (a hacker who Vanger had originally hired to investigate him, but who dug up secret information so well that Blomkvist was convinced to bring her on board), Carl digs through old photographs, police reports, and notes, never actually expecting to discover anything. . . .

While not my usual style, I found The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to be quite an interesting read. It’s a blend of journalistic intrigue, corporate corruption, murder mystery, and thriller that is intricately developed yet moves well, never becoming bogged down. It was interesting for me to read a book set in Sweden by a Swedish author–I honestly have never read much Scandinavian literature at all, so the experience was neat. The Blomkvist/Salander pairing was unexpected and unusual–in a good way. I think they complemented each other and worked together well–and really one of the parts of the story I enjoyed most was Salander’s gradually being able to trust him. I also respect the author’s emphasis on bringing the abuse of women to light–that’s something that seems to be too often brushed under the carpet for someone else to deal with. I think The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an interesting and refreshing mystery/thriller that would be enjoyable for most adult readers (just be aware of mature content: violence and sex).

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