Across Stockholm, the power grid goes crazy and everyone in the city develops a blinding headache. When it all abruptly ends, the recently deceased—in hospitals, morgues and graveyards—suddenly awaken. So begins John Lindqvist’s superb, horror novel, Handling the Undead.
The story follows three different families that must learn to “handle” their now “reliving” loved ones.
- David Zetterberg’s adoring wife, Eva, is killed in a horrendous accident and her mangled body comes back to life in the hospital. But is she still his wife and loving mother of his young son, or something else?
- Gustav Mahler, upon hearing the dead live again, digs up his grandson from his grave. He steals the child away and then goes on the run from the authorities with the boy’s mother (his daughter). Despite using autism training, the reliving child is slow to respond and clearly not quite human.
- Elvy’s dead husband, Tore, appears at her front door and immediately walks to their bedroom. He starts shuffling through papers on a desk, “pretending to be alive”. After the authorities take Tore away, Elvy has an epiphany and finds her religious calling. But it is not what she expects.
Like Lindqvist’s debut novel, Let the Right One In, Handling the Undead breaks many molds. If you’re expecting brain-munching zombies and fast-moving, bloody carnage, this book may not be for you. While there are plenty of gruesome, creepy scenes (and a particularly disturbing sequence involving a pet rabbit), the horror here is deeply emotional, often heart wrenching. In fact, the core theme of the novel is the love for family and what extreme measures we would take to preserve that love. This is sophisticated horror that takes the genre to new and exciting levels.
(This review was also published in the January 2011 issue of Suspense Magazine. The magazine also includes my interview with Jeremy Schipp, which appeared earlier on my blog--check it out!)