I have just finished reading “Handling The Undead” by John Ajvide Lindqvist.
In the city of Stockholm, the dead are coming back to life. The novel questions: how to handle the restless Reliving, who just want to come back home?
As can be expected, this plot throws up all sorts of issues, from the human rights of the Reliving, to questioning people’s religious beliefs, to trying to interact with the Reliving. The various characters we meet all have a connection to the Reliving and their relationships are all very different. These characters are all processing some kind of grief as they confront the return of their loved ones whom they had recently buried. They are all fleshed out really well, with their stories being unique but connected by this one event. One character story is a little chilling, with the grandfather, Mahler, who digs up his Reliving grandson and hides him from the government. My favourite character is Flora, a teenager who has a special power of being able to sense things which others can’t.
You may call them zombies, but they are not the stereotypical idea of zombies which we all know: the groaning, half-decomposed, flesh-eating, walking bodies. They are simply bodies in varying states of decomposition (depending on the nature of the cause of death) which walk and, in one case, talk. Yes, this novel explores the dead themselves, but it mainly focuses on the reactions of the living. There are some interesting thoughts about death, what counts as death, and questions what happens to the soul after death, if such a thing really exists. It makes you think about the lengths people will go to to protect their deceased loved ones, and how people really cope when the laws of nature are turned upside down. This is the sort of novel which explores and pushes the boundaries of subjects which we actually know little about. It basically just shows us ways in which humans cope with the unexpected.
The book is really well written, with great description of the people, places and events. It focuses on the emotional aspect of the story, and develops the characters’ stories by telling us about their pasts as well as showing their emotional reaction to the Reliving.
My only problem with the novel is that it doesn’t answer WHY the dead suddenly rise, or why its only those who died within the last few months who come back. Just as we start getting answers about how their souls can escape the body, the novel ends (rather abruptly i thought).
I give it 8/10 because it is a very good novel and its great to read something which more than just another zombie story. It is really thought-provoking and disturbing.
It might have been a 10/10, but the ending is not really up to the standard of the rest of it. I was disappointed how suddenly it ended, without answering the vital questions. Nevertheless, i would still recommend it, as Linqvist is a brilliant writer!
Note: I read this on my Kindle, and it was a different experience to reading a print book, but i quite enjoyed it! My only issue with the ebook of this novel is that there seemed to be a few mistakes within the text, with dialogue of different characters getting mixed up on the same line, which got confusing, and a few other little niggles.