From John Ajvide Lindqvist comes yet another terrifying novel. “Let me in” told the story of dark nights in Sweeden where two predators were out for blood. One was a paedophile, the other a vampyre. You’ll have to read to see who was deadlier.
“Handling the undead” was another hit, dealing with the drama of having your deceased brought back to life after a freak electrical accident. Or was it not an accident?
Now read the story of an island in the seas of Sweeden, an island with a dark past involving human sacrifices to the sea and a more troubling present with people disappearing never to be seen again.
Harbor is about several different people whose lives are intertwined on a small archipelago outside of Stockholm. A little girl vanishes right in front of her parents eyes, a couple whose love still burns as strong as the day they fell in love still live in separate houses next door to one another, a father keeps a tiny insect wormlike creature called a spiritus (spertus Norse mythology) in a box that requires a daily feeding or the consequences are dire and oddly, people just disappear ever so often, without a trace and without rhyme or reason.
I have just put the book down. 639 pages of pure terror, suspense, and not a few mysteries to be uncovered. The stories are about a generation living on present day island of Domaro, the story of a magician with a drug-addict wife, the story of a spirits smuggler, the supernatural story of a water insect that gives its owner water powers and most moving, the desperate story of a father who lost his daughter.
“Who can really say how decisions are made, how emotions change, how ideas arise? We talk about inspiration; about a bolt of lightning from a clear sky, but perhaps everything is just as simple and just as infinitely complex as the processes that make a particular leaf fall at a particular moment. That point has been reached, that’s all. It has to happen, and it does happen.”
When the father starts investigating his daughter’s disappearance and does not find anything, he turns to the bottle. He does little things like make a painting with beads, reminisce about his life with Cecilia, how they got together, their teenage years and all among the stories you see a painting of a remote village with a close knit community who did not like outsiders very much. 50 – years in, Simon, the magician, was still consider a summer-visitor.
It reminded me of the movie “The Village” a lot. So much, that half way through the book, I was convinced that the people on the island were devil-worshippers. I wasn’t too far off, they were worshipping the sea. They looked at it as a palpable being and they offered it a human sacrifice, chosen by voting, each year. All the troublesome people were picked. At first, only men were included in the vote, then the circle was extended to women and children. They were rich, they had nice houses, able to compete with the ones on land, but they carried a heavy burden and they were never happy anymore.
“Land and sea.
We may think of them as opposites; as complements. But there is a difference in how we think of them; the sea, and the land.
If we are walking around in a forest, a meadow or a town, we see our surroundings as being made up of individual elements. There are many different kinds of trees in varying sizes, those buildings, these streets. The meadow, the flowers, the bushes. Our gaze lingers on details, and if we are standing in a forest in the autumn, we become tongue-tied if we try to describe the richness around us. All this exists on land.
But the sea. The sea is something completely different. The sea is one.
We may note the shifting moods of the sea. What the sea looks like when the wind is blowing, how the sea plays with the light, how it rises and falls. But still it is always the sea we are talking about. We have given different parts of the sea different names for navigation and identification, but if we are standing before the sea, there is only one whole. The Sea.
If we are taken so far out in a small boat that no land is visible in any direction, we may catch sight of the sea. It is not a pleasant experience. The sea is a god, an unseeing, unhearing deity that does not even know we exist. We mean less than a grain of sand on an elephant’s back, and if the sea wants us, it will take us. That’s just the way it is. The sea knows no limits, makes no concessions. It has given us everything and it can take everything away from us.
To other gods we send our prayer: Protect us from the sea.”
The God of the sea is revealed in the last few pages of the book (much like he did in Handling the Undead) and I’m not going to spoil it for whomever wants to read the book, but beware, there are such things as monsters!
Favourite parts of the book:
Seeing the love story between Anna and Simon. Such a couple is absolutely lovely to watch and even though she has a secret, so does he.
Loved the way the dad hid from himself the things that his daughter did that were less love-eable and how he looked for her even with his own life at stake.
Intense way the breakup between Simon and his drug-addict wife happened. Loved Anna with the shot-gun and the way she fought them off.
Less favourite parts:
When the two sea-cucumbers Hubba and Bubba catch tranced-up Elis and shove the end of a sword up her V-gg… I got squirmish at that and skipped ahead.
There is a carotid slashing in the book and a few others that end up in spurts of blood. Do not read if you are faint of heart!
Only Stephen King can take over and stretch my imagination like this author just did — in their quite different stories and literary styles! I recommend this book very enthusiastically.