I Always Find You by John Ajvide Lindqvist
In Stockholm in 1985, a nineteen year old John Ajvide Lindqvist has moved into his own place for the first time. It’s not much to look at, a dilapidated building out of the sunlight, but it’s his own personal space and he falls for it. His neighbours are a varied lot. A married couple who seem manufactured, an old grandmother tired of life, an obese younger woman and a further assortment of individuals who all seem to be suffering from severe psychological problems. It’s a bleak picture.
Lindqvist passes his time shoplifting, dreaming and practicing his magic act which he hopes will take him into the big time. As he spends time in the mundane flat, his thoughts are dragged back to an episode from his troubled childhood when he encountered a strange and very badly abused young boy who had sought sanctuary in John’s tree-house. He decides that the best way to deal with this troubling memory is to write it down, but his emotions begin to run riot as he struggles to make sense of what he witnessed back then.
His predicament is not helped when he notices that there are strange goings-on in the shower room at the back of the laundry room attached to the courtyard in which he lives. When he investigates, he is brought into a group secret shared by all of the residents. It’s one that has unsettling connections to Lindqvist’s childhood memory. It’s also one that has terrifying consequences for all concerned.
In I Always Find You, Lindqvist has managed to paint a gory, drab and unwelcoming portrait of both Stockholm and Sweden. Rebel Voice is certain that the Swedish tourist board is not going to be recruiting him any time soon. The settings of the beautiful capital city of Sweden should be glorious, even in winter. Instead they drain all enthusiasm from the reader who is catapulted into a nightmarish rendition of existence in Scandinavia. In Lindqvist’s extremely popular book, Let The Right One In, which is a vampire story set in Sweden, Lindqvist also portrays Stockholm as a cold and empty place. It seems as if, on the basis of those two stories, the author does not have a very high opinion of his native land. Or perhaps he understands that there is, unfortunately, a market for such dystopian tales. Rebel Voice feels that penning one is OK, especially if it’s as good as Let The Right One In, but to continue this vein is a tad too much, too heavy.
Speaking of veins, I Always Find You is one of the most blood-soaked thrillers you will encounter. There are scenes that will churn your stomach and this book is not for the faint of heart. It references Stephen King’s The Shining, and there are similarities. The story is, in some ways, a psychological thriller. But in others it is a straightforward horror. It mirrors King’s Dark Tower series in that a different, strange and disturbing world is created. It’s this world that the lead protagonist, a youthful Lindqvist, embraces. The price of entry is blood. Cue abundant bloodletting.
As a backdrop to all the gory mayhem, we have the public perception of Olof Palme, Social Democratic Prime Minister of Sweden at the time of the tale. The author keeps Palme in view as we enter the imbalance that is Lindqvist’s life. The story is, in some ways, a metaphor for the disillusion felt by the Swedish public at the failures of their government. Lindqvist needs escape from the tedium of existence, a drab path he walks through a moribund land where New Wave music provides him with a pathetic lifeline.
The other residents are in the same boat, drawn by an unknown and unspeakable force to the houses that surround the shower room where they worship their own disturbing idols and seek release in their disturbing ways. If you feel that the word ‘disturb’ is being used a lot in this review, it’s because this book is exactly that. Is that a good thing? It’s difficult to say and will depend on the reader. It could be viewed as successful if a book sticks in your mind. However, if the reason is one of disgust, or discomfort, then it might not be so desirable.
The story-line in I Always Find You is confusing. The memories from Lindqvist’s childhood are never fully explained. The reasons for the boy’s suffering and disappearance are not made clear. Why the connection is made with the author’s teenage life is also not explained. There are so many loose ends in this novel as to make it look like a Persian carpet that has been hit with a bomb. It’s a pity as Lindqvist is clearly a very talented writer. However, on this occasion he has failed to present a solid, tightly-written book.
It’s interesting that Lindqvist has chosen to use himself as the central character, perhaps to raise much discussion and speculation among his fan base. He speaks in this book of his experiences of writing previous novels, likely to establish greater credibility for the tale. However, unless the reader believes that he was entirely under the influence of hallucinogenics throughout, then no one is going to believe that the incidents in I Always Find You really took place. In that, Lindqvist has failed.
To summarize. It’s gory, confusing, stretched, unusual and very disturbing. It doesn’t put Rebel Voice off other Lindqvist books, but nor does it entice this site to search out more from him. From Let The Right One In to I Always Find You is one hell of a slide. Hopefully Lindqvist will do better in future.
Sult scale rating: 5 out of 10. The book will get under your skin which, coincidentally, is what happens a lot in the story in blood-soaked detail. If you suffer from a dodgy stomach, then give this book a miss. If you want a good night’s sleep, then give this book a miss. If you enjoy psychological, gory horrors in the vein of The Shining, then this might be right up your street.
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